No matter how harsh a disciplinarian my mother was, my father had full control over our family unit. Like so many other children, we lived in constant fear of the phrase: “Don’t make me call your father.” It was as though he were a Kraken, being summoned as a vessel of vengeance to reap destruction upon any children who’d dared to act in disobedience.
“Don’t make me….” The words were always spoken as though she truly believed she had no choice. It was a poorly spun facade, and the idea that somehow, I was capable of controlling her actions allowed her to accept their result and detach completely from any and all sense of responsibility.
“Don’t make me….” They were words I’ve heard often from both of my parents, but where my mother likely embraced the delusion of her innocence, my father, with his narcissistic tendencies, was far more cunning. He took great pride in his ability to evoke fear amongst his children.
This was never more evident than when I was 10 years old. Sami and I had committed an unforgivable act; we disobeyed our mother. True to form, she summoned my father to punish us. My father maintained his composure that evening, and never raised his voice. He simply walked over to a closet near the foyer of the house, quietly retrieved an instrument of punishment, and commanded me to bend over the wide arm of the living room sofa. He stood silently for several minutes over my shaking and expectant frame. The longer he waited, the more I shook. Then suddenly, just as I was beginning to hope that he would show mercy and stand down, he struck.
His weapon of choice that day was a thick line of insulated wire that had recently framed the exterior of my mother’s car. Not unlike the structure of a whip, it delivered a similar effect, each lash preceded by a hollow warning pitch as it cut through the air and cracked against my body. Minutes later he stopped. I rose, quietly sobbing as I walked over to replace my brother as the observer, and he assumed my position over the wide arm of the sofa. As we passed each other I saw the terror in his eyes and knew immediately that I had gotten off easy. I knew that by forcing Sami to watch my punishment in anticipation of his own, my father would deliver a more potent dose of terror to Sami. My ordeal was over for the night, but the black and blue bruises remained for weeks, as a painful reminder of our disobedience.