My father was very unhappy most of the time. He seemed frustrated that he could not provide as much as he wanted for our family. There were times when he could be very nice; there were also times when he was physically and verbally abusive. He drank quite a bit of rum and coke during my childhood.
These are some of the most vivid memories I have of my father during my childhood:
His punishments were severe. He braided together thin leather straps (the size if shoelaces) for a handle, and left about 10 – 12 inches out (to form a whip). Whenever my siblings and I were in trouble, he would “soak” the whip in boiling water. When we were struck with the whip, it would leave welts on our skin that would sometimes bleed. There were times when I would wear pants to hide the sores. Once, he tied my older sister to a radiator and beat her until her nose bled because she invited a neighbor (boy) into our apartment to watch TV while babysitting us.
Other times, we would be placed on punishment for long periods of time. One summer, I decided to “make it snow” from our 17th story apartment in Manhattan. I ripped numerous sheets of paper into small sections, and dumped the paper out of my bedroom window. I remember watching the paper fly all over the playground below, and thinking it looked pretty. Soon after, the apartment manager came to our apartment to report that the litter was coming from our residence; I was grounded for the entire summer. I had to stay in my room, except to go to the bathroom and eat, from June (when we were released from school) until September (when we returned to school).
My father also counted the food in our house to make sure no one ate food that he (or my mother) hadn’t given to us. I believe I was in the 4th grade when a raisin was missing during his count. He asked me and my siblings who had eaten the raisin. No one admitted to eating it, so he kept us home from school and starved us for a week. During that week, we were not allowed any food, only water, unless one of us admitted to taking the raisin. He also promised that the person who eventually admitted to the theft would receive a severe punishment for not telling the truth sooner. When he went to work, my mother gave us a slice of bread to share, and promised she would “talk” to him. The punishment ended after a week because the school contacted my parents to investigate our absence from school for such a long time.
One night, when I wouldn’t go to sleep after being sent to bed, my father made me stand on one foot at the foot of his bed for the entire night. I remember waiting for him to fall asleep and putting my foot down, and rebalancing myself each time he woke up to check on me. The next day, I was exhausted; he then made me stay awake and work around the house to ensure I would be tired enough to go straight to bed at bedtime that evening.
One Christmas, I fell asleep on the window sill waiting for Santa (I wanted to SEE him). I remember being worried that Santa would not be able to deliver our toys because we didn’t have a chimney. My father decided not to place any of my toys under the tree. He made me stay in the Livingroom while presents were being opened; I was not allowed to play with any of my siblings’ gifts. I received my presents the next day.