…we made him a little crazy ourselves.
I’m not sure what posessed him to do it, but one afternoon we went to the mall. I don’t think I knew then how much he hates shopping, but he absolutely does hate it.
On this particular day, he took my brother (age 8), my sister (age 10), the next-door neighbor (age 10), and me (age 13) with him to the mall. I am certain that some of his gray (and missing) hairs were earned on that day. The goal of the mall trip was to buy a birthday present for my step-mother. The gift was purchased at some point during the afternoon. Then things started looking like a sitcom episode. This was in the decade when malls had arcades. I’m not sure how all the kids ended up in separate areas of the mall, but we did. My father would gather up one or two of us and tell us firmly not to move on inch. He then went out in search of the missing kids. When he would return, the original ones had disobeyed the “not moving” directive. I think this happened more than once. Whichever kid had been given the duty of holding the gift, did not manage to follow through. Either the gift was stolen when someone was playing a video game, or the kid simply walked off without picking it back up. My sister walked out to the parking lot at some point and did not find the car. (She was not in the right are of the parking lot.) She decided that we had left her behind and walked home (around 2 1/2 miles not on side streets). As this was in the days long before cell phones, my mother had no way to notify my father when she arrived safely. He eventually went to a pay phone and called my mother and got this information. Eventually, the neighbor, my brother and I were corralled and taken home. My father did not scream, yell, or cuss, but I think this was the most frustrated and angry he has ever been.
The neighbor kid got off without any repercussions she skipped merrily home. My sister, brother and I were not so lucky. We each got “bashes” equal in number to our age. Bashes were the name we had for spankings, and we didn’t get them often. The number was always determined ahead of time, and they were delivered calmly…we were placed over his knee, and “bashed” with an open hand over our clothes. Bashes were actually not so bad, it was more the knowledge that we had disappointed him to the point that he felt we needed them. What was bad was the sentences. One hundred lines per year we had been alive. That meant 1300 for me. “I will obey my father.” It’s a short sentence, but I still remember writing it forever.
Now that I think about it, maybe we made my father crazy before he made us crazy.