This is a true memory spanning a half century or so. Not quite your usual submission, it has already been put up on Experience Project. I do not know if this presents a problem for you or them. I have not been as explicit as you might like because it is painful to write about and much of the details have been forgotten.
In my communications with the local child services bureaucrats trying to get therapy for my autistic daughter I had the bright idea of including in the email list of recipients my sister who was a journalist in one of the national newspapers. Since she kept her maiden name and the newspaper name appeared in the email, it could have an effect even without anything being done by my sister. In no time I got a reply from my sister with an obscenity filled letter threatening me never to include her in my personal problems, even implicitly. I saw the chance for some revenge.
My mother was of the old school that never used obscenities and I wondered if she would even know what they meant. I took the opportunity to show her the letter, and I soon discovered her education was broader than I thought. She was hopping mad and called up my older sister and read it out to her. My journalist sister was called for an explanation. My mother explained that I was only trying to get therapy for her granddaughter and how could she write such an obscene letter to anyone.
It was just great. I had achieved two goals with just one email. I had used my sister to show the petty bureaucrats I had family connections in big time media, and I had made my sister look bad with her mother and sister.his thirst for revenge went back to our childhood. It was realized my sister was different from the rest of us in behaviour but she was smart and always did well in school, being able to skip a grade at my father’s insistence. In our family the two girls would never get any kind of punishment for anything, and I only got corporal punishment for everything. My father was only violent with me, and it was unclear why I was selected for this special treatment. The most likely reason was that girls were perceived as in need of protection and boys required discipline. This opened up possibilities for favourable treatment that my older sister never bothered to take advantage of but my younger sister soon found most rewarding.
This meant that if my younger sister cried and complained to her father about me, I would get a beating. She could cry for no reason and make up a complaint against me and watch me being beaten by our father. This became a frequent occurrence and went on throughout our childhood. I don’t know if she did it because she enjoyed watching the beating, wanted her father’s affection, or because she was mentally ill, but it happened so often it became the bane of my existence.
My father naturally assumed because she was younger and weaker than me that it must be my fault, with my tormenting her only being stoppable with more beatings. Since the complaints had nothing to do with what I did the beatings just depended on when my sister decided to make a scene about me. Since no one ever saw anything happening between us, it was just her words and tears against my protests of innocence. I was never believed and all that was required was my sister’s complaint against me for my guilt to be assumed. The punishment was done immediately and over quickly so there was no time to dwell on what was coming, which reduced the dread, but it was done when father was at the peak of his rage. I thought if I locked myself in the bathroom this might buy some time till his rage receded. I locked myself in but my father smashed in the door and the memory of his hand coming through the hole and unlocking the knob from the inside is one of the most enduring in my life. I was dragged out with my father angrier than ever and I never tried that again. Even protesting my innocence by claiming my sister was lying only got him angrier so I learned not to put up any defence at all.
Once my father’s younger brother in the ICS dropped by for a few days after an assignment in Washington and saw an incident. Normally I was beaten in front of everyone but with my uncle there I was sent to my room for a private beating. Instead my uncle came and took me to his room. My father could not very well break down the door and beat me in front of his brother so I was spared. My uncle asked if this happened often but I was too embarrassed to answer or discuss anything about it. My uncle told my parents my sister was lying and I was being framed. Perhaps because he had previously judged cases as part of his work he could spot this or maybe it would have been obvious to any neutral outside observer not committed to one side, but it was the first time anyone had ever accepted my version of events. That was the best last chance for the issue to be resolved. My parents never believed him, he left and the beatings continued until a time they decided I was too old for it any more.
This corporal punishment was ubiquitous in our town with both the schools and parents participating in it, and rarely were alternative punishments utilized. I never even heard of things like grounding and time out until I was an adult. Some beatings were more severe than others. One of my classmates was expected to tell his parents any time he got the strap in school so he could be beaten at home because what the school did would not be punishment enough. The worst case in our class was a kid who claimed how much a whip hurt, and he had the scars to prove it. By contrast I was dealt with by someone who had memorized Grey’s Anatomy, so I had professional beatings with only welts resulting and never suffered any broken bones or permanent scars. However he didn’t implement his medical knowledge since, though he claimed the bottom was not a good place for beating because of the numerous blood vessels, for some inexplicable reason it was still his favourite spot so tradition trumped medical science even for him. The difference between professional and amateur beatings seems therefore to have been non-existent.
I was personally responsible for one girl getting beaten by her father. His hands were full carrying something so he asked his daughter to open the door, but I was a lot closer to the door so trying to be helpful I opened it. The father then told her to come with him into their house for a licking. The girl, all flushed and clearly bothered, said to me: “See what you have done,” as she followed him upstairs. She was obviously used to being beaten and I waited to hear what would happen. Her howling went on far longer than I had ever heard from school strapping but I have no idea what he used on her. I sat outside her bedroom window listening to her howling and felt so guilty that I never told anyone about the incident. My own beatings were frequent enough that I no longer remember every individual one and the complaint that caused each one, but this incident remains fresh in my mind in every detail as if it were yesterday.
It turned out the father was an alcoholic who not only beat his children but his wife as well. My father had to fire him for not doing his job as hospital administrator. In those days firing a government employee was not easy and for someone in his position would have required the approval of head office. The man got a new job at a bill collection agency.
Compared with him my parents were perfectly rational in their enforcement of discipline. They would never have given a second thought about the door opening incident let alone punished it, which was why it never occurred to me in the seconds I did it that it would be a punishable offense in another family. From my parents perspective they had a serious problem on their hands with a son who was bullying and tormenting their youngest daughter. When the corporal punishment didn’t stop it they could only double down on the punishment and kept it going. Had I been doing the bullying this would have been perfectly justified. I could have stopped it or at least accepted the punishment as deserved, but I was helpless to do anything about it as it was fictitious. For my parents to accept my version that it wasn’t happening would have meant their daughter had a serious mental problem. She was smart, talented, and at worst slightly eccentric, so blaming the bullying older brother was the most logical conclusion to be reached. In not looking deeper into the matter they missed out on the first signs of what would be my sister’s lifelong struggle with mental illness. Not that they could have done anything about it at that time and place. Even today it remains unresolved despite the best big city treatment now being given to her.
When I wasn’t destroying Soviet tanks in the forest as part of childhood war games, I could entertain myself in the back yard by torturing worms and caterpillars by focusing the suns rays on them with a magnifying glass. I would have preferred torturing more advanced life forms but these could either run or fly away so I was left to satisfy myself with worms who were not nearly so nimble. They would squirm and wriggle just like I did when getting a beating, and the resemblance between them and me under torture didn’t stop me enjoying it. One doctor who spotted the activity admonished me for it, but that was the height of hypocrisy since why was it alright for slightly higher life forms like myself and other kids to be beaten but not okay to torture worms. Even then judicial corporal punishment of adults had been abolished in the Western world but 19 states of the USA still allow it in schools. One would have thought that the beating of children would have been stopped long before adults, rather than the other way around.
Diagnosing my sister’s problem would have stopped the beatings. But the uncertainly of when the next beating would happen and the inevitability of another one took its toll. As I got old enough to handle guns I would load one and put it in my mouth. I could never somehow find the courage to push the trigger. Perhaps it was lack of faith in an afterlife or an eternal optimism, but it always seemed that another beating was easier to take than killing myself. I was certain that if I did it my parents would never guess that they had a role in my suicide. At the time I could not know that was to be the best time in my life and things would only get worse. Aside from the difficulties with my sister, I had no other problems or responsibilities.
We had expected that with the passage of time the rift between me and my sister would improve. In college we were still on speaking terms, and the incidents were behind us but things only got worse. In time my sister would get her husband to call my mother before talking to her just in case I was the one who answered the phone. She had years of psychiatric help and medication but only seemed to get worse and more delusional. No doubt her childhood tales may have been accepted as fact by her psychologist, rather than fantasies, but as we were not consulted, we had no way of knowing if she was being treated as having had a traumatic childhood, or the spoiled one she actually experienced. The deterioration in her mental condition became evident to us even in her articles and more importantly started to be noticed by her critics, and we wondered if she could keep her job. Looking back, my mother, and more importantly my older sister with whom the younger sister played frequently as a child, could recall no incident between us that warranted a complaint, and they concluded she was delusional and my sister was lying. My sister’s complaints against my brutality had become so extreme over the years that she had discredited herself. If she had stuck to the original complaints it would have been consistent over time and more plausible but everything had become more exaggerated and unbelievable. Had her condition not worsened they would probably never have reflected enough on the past to realize they had been deceived by her complaints, as these issues were not a major concern in their lives. It was decades too late, however. If they, and particularly my mother, had seen nothing to warrant a beating at the time, they should have spoken up. They just watched the beatings and said nothing. My parents were devoted to each other and the word of my mother would have been enough for my father to stop it.
The fact of the matter was that my mother was equally committed to the punishment and perhaps even more so. As a young child I was toilet trained by my mother by having my face stuck in the excrement and beaten on my bare bottom with a wooden spoon. Even my father objected to that though he did not stop it. I have not idea where my mother picked up this practice for I could not find it in the child rearing books, though it may have been prevalent at that time, but it did work, though it showed an early commitment to corporal punishment by my mother.
I would like to think that all this punishment had a positive impact in some way. My life has been an unmitigated professional and personal failure, and perhaps the childhood punishment toughened me up for what was to come in adulthood. Objectively, however, that is probably wishful thinking. There were probably negative things that developed I will never even be aware of. I have tried to push it back to the furthest recesses of my mind. When I remember it, rage wells up in me, and I try to think of something else as quickly as possible. When my uncle, years later, brought up the incident I was upset he raised it, and walked away so it would not be discussed further. That was probably a mistake as he was the only person who would have understood, but it is too late for that now. He left a small amount for my children in his will, when he could have left it all to his daughter or relatives in India who needed it more. Perhaps it was atonement for how my father treated me, and what he was unable to stop.
By the time my uncle visited I had been beaten for years and the truth of my bullying my sister firmly established in their minds. For my parents to have acknowledged it had all been a mistake and my sister was therefore mentally disturbed was too much for my parents to accept and my uncle must have realized that it was no use. He must have left knowing he had failed to convince my parents and the beatings would continue till I was too old to receive them any more. We would not meet again till I was an adult.
When my father was on his deathbed he complained I had not helped him much when we went camping. It was true enough and I could have explained that using force all the time had its limits in obtaining cooperation. That was not the time to get into such a discussion and he died thinking I was an incorrigible bully who would not stop tormenting his daughter despite all the beatings. He did a lot for the Natives, when all his colleagues headed for the greener pastures of private practice, and he might have been my hero but he became my oppressor.
My younger sister carefully arranged it so I wouldn’t be able to attend the cremation. More distant relations were accommodated in the vehicles, but she had planned it so there was no space for me. I could have called a taxi but would have arrived late, and gate crashing uninvited might have caused an unseemly sibling quarrel. My mother admitted it was inappropriate not to invite me, but she and my older sister were not prepared to raise the issue with the youngest sister. My younger sister had set a trap for me. Everyone knew I was in the city and if I did not show up it would show disrespect for my late father and discredit me with family and friends. Mother had admitted that showing up late in a taxi would embarrass my sister so it gave me the idea that the trap could be sprung on her instead by my just showing up.
I had enough setbacks in life that I no longer cared what friends and relatives thought but my sister still cared for her reputation. Just by showing up I could publicly humiliate her in front of everyone by exposing what she had done. My chance for revenge had come and I would never get another one like it again. Appropriately she had set it up herself for me and now would find herself in the trap of her own making.
From early childhood she had systematically alienated my parents from me and made me an emotional orphan. She had driven me to the verge of suicide on numerous occasions. The beatings had scarred me in ways I will never comprehend. The revenge would not change any of that but at least it would make me feel good. I sat by the phone as the minutes ticked by trying to decide whether to call the cab. In the end I did not make the call. I don’t know why I did not, I just know I let it go. She never found out about my counter plot and on every occasion since has continued to snub and humiliate me.