If you missed the last post, you can catch up here.
These years are tough to write about because they overlap stories that aren’t mine to tell. I will try to direct the focus through my lens without encroaching upon my siblings’ privacy.
We lived with this family for years, so the timeline again is jumbled. It’s difficult knowing which story comes first, so I present them as makes sense to me. We left off talking about the strange forms of punishment, so I guess we can pick up there.
Between eating trash, training to be Schwarzenegger, twiddling our thumbs on the floor in the corner, and just not eating at all, Lisa liked to pepper in mental exercise as well. Clearly her children were sinners, so her completely logical response was to make us memorize the Bible. Starting with Genesis 1, we would have to regurgitate books one chapter at a time. Sometimes we’d be given a 4 hour chunk to accomplish the task, sometimes it would be 2. There are 50 chapters, 31,102 verses in Genesis, which is an average of a little more than 26 verses per chapter. For those unfamiliar with the Bible and what the verses are like, let’s take a look at Genesis 10.
1 Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.2 The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.3 And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations. 6 And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan. 7 And the sons of Cush; Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtechah: and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan. 8 And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
Imagine being 10 years old, picturing some guy walking around named “Ham” and someone named “Nimrod” being “begot” and not busting out into laughter. You have no idea how hard that was.
Well anyway, I am the type of person who gets distracted very easily. So I often didn’t meet my memorization deadline. I would have another 30 minutes to finish memorizing my section plus another 10 verses. It went on like that until I was able to memorize my entire assigned section. If I didn’t manage in one day, it carried on into the next and went that way until eventually, she mistook genuine failure for willful rebellion. Each missed deadline translated to another meal of gloop or another meal to skip.
Not to keep harping on it, but manipulating mealtimes was one of their favorite forms of punishment. If you were well behaved (Laurel), you were rewarded with cheese quesadillas, our favorite. If you were bad (me and Shane), you would sit on the edge of your chair, hurriedly shoving cold noodles in your mouth, worriedly glancing from your plate to your timer to your cup of milk, back to your plate, trying to beat the timer without vomiting. One day, Shane missed his deadline 2 or 3 times and he did just that. He stumbled away from the dining room table, trying to make it to the hall bathroom to puke. He couldn’t make it and vomited in the carpet. Furiously, Stan flew across the room, hovering over Shane, who was still heaving, and grabbed him by the nape of his neck, holding his face within centimeters of his still-warm sludge. I don’t remember exactly what words were used, but Stan hissed that if Shane had the audacity to spew his dinner in rebellion ever again, he would smash the boy’s face into it until he ate every last noodle from the carpet fibers. Not one of us in the room that night doubted the solemnity of this threat.
Another dinnertime show starred Laurel. She had been good that day and was sitting down to eat her plate of quesadillas while Shane and I were served our usual gloop. Strolling in smugly, Stan took his seat at the head of the table. We held hands, said our prayers, and were about to take our first bite when Stan said, “stop what you’re doing”. You bet your ass we did just that. Dramatically, silverware clattered to the table and we sat nervously in our seats, not sure of what to expect. “Stand here and line up behind the couch.” Already queasy from the suspense, we took our spots uneasily next to one another. Stan walked SO slowly into the kitchen and emerged with a wooden spoon in hand. “Hands up.” We raised our arms, palms parallel to the floor. “As you know, Laurel is not in trouble tonight, so she has quesadillas. I am SICK (thwack!) and TIRED (thwack!) of how UNPREDICT(thwack!)ABLE you are!” Synchronizing to each word, he brought that wooden spoon down on the backs of our hands like the world’s largest tarantula sat atop our metacarpals. Silently, we bit our lips and tried not to wet ourselves in pain. Hands already bruising, Stan made his way up our ranks again. After the second bout of hand-whoopin’s, I really think I tinkled a little bit. I don’t have words to describe how excruciating such a sissy little punishment really was. Essentially, he punished Laurel because she was “good” that day but not every day prior. May I remind you that “good” to these people meant silent, insignificant, or small. They instilled in us the belief that we were nothing, that no one cared what we thought or felt. We were there to serve, not to have hopes and dreams. Somehow disgusted with US, Stan took his plate and Laurel’s, discarded their contents, and reduced her to gloop with me and Shane. He retired to his room for the rest of the night.
By far the worst dinner we ever had was without Stan. Lisa, Laurel, Shane and I were sitting there, the three children eating cream of mushroom covered noodles. Shane and I had our cheeks so stuffed with gloop, I remember feeling juice dribble down my chin. Laughing incredulously at how stupid we looked, Lisa gleefully heaped another spoonful on our plates as that annoying little *ding* marked that we didn’t make our time. Helplessly, we set our clocks for 5 more minutes and forced the macaroni down one noodle at a time. I think Shane missed his second timer, and of course, Lisa took this as another act of rebellion. She yanked him out of his chair by his shirt and shoved him into the wall. Telling him to wait there, she stormed down the hall for who knew what. She returned with a belt in her hand. Lisa coiled back to strike and Shane raised an arm to defend his face. This image absolutely shreds my heart to this day. My brother, whom I love and admire, was about to be beaten before my eyes and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Or so I thought. I had been so well trained that my feet didn’t even twitch in his direction to come to his aid. My chest seized with anticipation and my tongue screamed silently for mercy behind closed lips. Oblivious to my inner turmoil, Lisa went blind with rage. She began hitting Shane, kicking him on the floor, vowing that if he EVER “raised a hand to her again” she would “beat him to death with a baseball bat”. She would beat him to death with a baseball bat. Those were her exact words. Let that sink in. Laurel and I watched this unfold helplessly from the table, our tummies heavy with foul supper. Shane endured the onslaught silently, not crying out once. I believe wholeheartedly that this was no empty threat and am nauseous just recounting the visual of that night.
I’m going to stop here because I want you to resonate with this image as I have all these years and to grasp just who these “Christians”, these “parents” really were.
To Be Continued…..