Broken Family Portrait

By davewriter


All right, I have a secret to tell you, a deep, dark secret. It's a secret so shocking, you may never look at me the same way again. But I feel I need to get this out, because if I don't, you may not want to listen to the story following this, that which I have to tell you. All right, now that you're prepared, here is the secret.

I don't believe that family is all that sacred.

You heard me: I don't believe that family is all that sacred.

This may sound sad and ironic, considering that I am a father of twin boys. But to fully understand my poor attitude towards family, you need to understand everything that I have been through with family up until this point. Now, I hope you're planning to stay with me all day and night and into the next morning, because this is a long story I have to tell you.

Much of what I went through centred around my eldest sister, Abilene. She always believed that family was the most important thing in the world, like it was everything that ever mattered, and would put it on the highest mountain, never mind a pedestal. She loved it when her family was always together, and when she lost part of it forever, she gave up everything she had for a much older man – a military soldier – who gave her the family, the children, she desired. Her, and my other older sister, Olivia, but Abilene was more obsessive. Unfortunately, this had both of them into abusive marriages in which the husbands would physically, verbally and emotionally assault both them and the children. I remember it well. I would never associate with these men much because of their use of military status to act almighty and powerful, like my father did with me. I can't tell you how much I hate stereotypes like that. The only difference was that one would get out alive, while the other one would pay for it with her life.

Oh, you probably want to know some things about me, don't you? Well, first off, my name – my birth name, anyway – is Robin Marchland. Or if you want to be formal, Robert Raymond Michael Marchland. But that's not the name I have right now – that would be Robin Callbeck. I officially changed it to my stepfather's name when my mother got remarried. More on that later, I promise, but let's get back to me and my influence on family. Anyway, Abilene has always been passionate about family the whole time I knew her. As small children, she, Olivia, and sometimes my youngest older sister, Susan, would watch these movies that Disney put out mostly in the 1960's and early 1970's, both animated and non-animated. She especially liked the non-animated ones, because they did a better job in getting across the importance of family togetherness. Movies like Mary Poppins, Swiss Family Robinson and I think Pete's Dragon, too. That's the only logical explanation I can come up with. We're not Catholic, we never grew up in the South, and Marchland isn't an Irish or Italian name. Now, I don't want to bash the talents of a company that's entertained innocent children for so many years, but I can't stand these kinds of movies. I would never allow my sons to watch them. If you ask me, they give people a very unrealistic view of the classic family model, and I strongly believe it's very dangerous to lose yourself in this kind of fantasy.

Another reason why Abilene felt so strongly about family was because of the relationship she had with our father, Sergeant Raymond Marchland, who doted on all my sisters. He was in the Canadian Armed Forces base in Winnipeg, and while he was supposed to be all tough, running his home like military barracks, I have never seen him yell at or spank any of them – especially not Abilene or Olivia. For starters, that was my mother's department. Of course, those two would do anything he would tell them the first time, and literally bend over backwards for him, like little Stepford children. Meantime, he would always use whatever he could pick up on me whenever I – often – made mistakes. Marion, my mother, would never understand this. But for the many mistakes I made, you can blame my cerebral palsy.

I guess I forgot to tell you that. I have lived with a pretty serious form of cerebral palsy since birth. Perhaps I can label my birthdate – June 18th, 1970 – as the day my parents' marriage "jumped the shark," so to speak. I was almost a month premature; I was supposed to be born thirteen days after Canada Day, not thirteen days before. I was in the hospital for the first two weeks of my life, but there was very little the doctors could do with me. As a result, I have gone through life with an underdeveloped brain. Now, many biologists would argue that the brain is the first thing that develops when the child is in the womb, but that's not true for all babies. My brain was certainly developing at different stages. Because of its unfinished business, I have had some serious problems with learning and development, including problems with walking, running and balance. People have said that I trot like a horse. I could never play any sports, nor could I do an obstacle course balance beam without guidance. I am the most non-athletic person in the world. I have a pretty weak left side and slow reflexes, and I can only stand still for the length equivalent of our national anthem and maybe the Lord's Prayer – after that, I just have to move around. I can't do very much heavy lifting before my arms tire out. And until I was around seven, I had horrible problems with sitting still. When my parents were together, the whole family would attend church every Sunday. Every week, I would squirm around in those bloody uncomfortable pews, sitting in positions other than on my bottom. This infuriated my father to no end, and I would get belted for acting up in church when we got home. It took a few weeks, but Mom got the hint that I never could sit still in church, and they started leaving me with a sitter every Sunday morning.

What's worse is that I have worse problems with learning and comprehension in certain school subjects. Math and Science have always been my worst – and my least favourite, no less – while I was surprisingly great with Language Arts and high school English. Which is one of the reasons why I'm a successful radio personality. But most importantly, as a result of my brain development, I had a brain filter that never worked for me. I believe that's the part that censors your thoughts, so you don't say them aloud. As a result, I have this knack for saying whatever comes to my mind, whenever, without thinking about it first; as well as talking back to people, and saying some pretty shocking and offensive things. I've gotten better with the timing of my thoughts as I got older, but what I say and the backtalk to others has pretty much stayed the same.

My mother has always blamed herself for this, and still does to this day. One thing you should know about her is that she used to be quite a smoker, smoked during all her pregnancies. She forced herself to cut it out after I was born. I don't remember her nicotine withdrawals, but she told me she spent much of it cursing God, asking Him why my sisters came out healthy and normal, and I came out the way I was. Abilene was even overdue, born on December 21st, 1964, instead of December 13th. Olivia and Susan came right when they were supposed to; Olivia on April 23rd, 1966 and Susan on February 4th, 1968. She eventually came around and realized that she didn't take very good care of herself when she was pregnant with me. Because of this, she never could find the heart to use forceful discipline with me.

My problems, however, did not stop my father from doing so. I can remember being six months old and having my father spank my diaper hard open palm, or forcefully holding me down in my crib, for crying too loud during the night. Whenever he whacked me, I would cry really loudly, and he would whack me harder until I stop crying and be quiet, which I would never do. Finally, Mom had to snatch me from my Dad's forceful hands and rock me for a long time until I went to sleep, then feed me. This annoyed Dad to great lengths.

"For the love of Christ, Marion!" he would scream. "Are you going to come to his rescue every time I try to set him straight? He needs to understand that he can't be noisy in this household!"

"You simmer down right now, Ray!" Mom would shout back. "He's only a baby. He wouldn't understand. And I don't think he will understand for a long time."

"He's just a baby," Dad mimicked back. "That's no excuse at all! He needs to learn order! Do you think Abilene, Olivia or Susan acted like that when they were babies?! No, they didn't!"

Oh, right, like she had to believe that Abilene, Olivia and Susan were all quiet and sleeping through the night, never needing nightly feedings, at six months old. What a bloody crock!

From then on, my father would use his hands, fists and belts on me whenever my sisters told my parents about things I shouldn't be doing, or he caught me going into various rooms and touching things that did not belong to me. And I did a lot of both. For one thing, getting things the first time was not exactly my strong point, so I would repeatedly do things like write on the walls, bang on tables and floors and scream, and jump on beds and couches. And I was always the type to go exploring, especially when we were in other people's houses. I would be wandering in and out of bedrooms looking at things, touching things to see how they felt, climbing up onto beds and getting comfortable.

I remember this one time during Victoria Day weekend, when I was almost four. We were visiting my Uncle Walter and Auntie Ellen's house, and my parents were endlessly talking with them after dinner. When I got bored playing with my sisters and cousins, I went downstairs into the basement and looked around at everything in the den. I turned on the TV, but I couldn't hear it very well, so I turned it up about five notches. Seconds later, the evening movie came on, and without warning, I saw the famed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion in one of those logos they used in the late 1940's, early 1950's. It was one of the scarier lions, trust me. Anyway, the roar was so loud to me, I screamed in such bloody terror, loud enough for everyone to hear upstairs. They all came down to see me and everyone looked quite concerned, me being as white as fresh linens.

"Mommy, Mommy!" I cried. "That lion on the TV scared me!"

My father was very angry with this. He took a strong grip on my arm, stormed over to the television to shut it off, then screamed at me, "You DO NOT go wandering around other people's house touching stuff, do you understand me?! That goddamn TV did NOT say, 'Robin play with me!'"

And before I could say anything, he positioned me on the coffee table, took off his belt and whipped me hard on and alongside my head. It made me cry, which prompted Dad to spank me harder to make me stop. At one point, I overheard Susan plead with him, "Daddy, stop! He didn't mean to! He was only finding something else to do!"

Oh, did I say that my father doted on all my sisters? Sorry, I take that back. You see, Susan was the only sister who doted over me and protected me from things harmful. My father hated this with everything. I was somehow relieved when he stopped whipping me, but was horrified when I saw him position Susan against a wall and whip her bare bottom with his belt. He screamed at her, "How dare you defend your brother like that?! He's a bad boy, and you know it! I'm only trying to get him to smarten the hell up!" It was around twenty whacks before he was done with her, then went right back to me. Finally, Mom had enough, snatched Susan and me away, then handed us both to our aunt and uncle. Walter and Ellen took us into a spare room upstairs to hold us and quiet us down, while we could clearly hear our parents screaming at each other. Now, much of what they said, I can't repeat on radio airwaves, but let me share this small part of the argument.

"I believe Susan when she said he was bored!" Mom barked at Dad. "Perhaps he shouldn't have had the TV up so loud, but I'm sure he never knew what was going to be on it!"

"Quit making excuses, Marion!" Dad shouted. "He needs to understand that he can't go wandering through other people's houses, touching things that don't belong to him! And Susan needs to understand that she can't stick up for her brother when he does bad things!" Then afterwards, "He is going to get it when we get home!" Which I did, the way he tossed me on my bed on my stomach and whipped my bottom five more times.

In all this arguing, I would overhear Abilene and Olivia pleading for them to stop fighting, crying so loudly. They would then plead for Mom to stay with Dad and not leave him. "Please, Mom!" Abilene would especially cry. "Our family wouldn't be complete if Daddy wasn't here!" I think Mom had been contemplating divorce since I was around two. The only thing that ever kept her back was the constant begging from my obsessive sisters.

I guess I should break from this for a bit to tell you another obsessive memory with Abilene. Every year at Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad would go around the table and ask us kids what we were thankful for. At first, I would never think of anything, but as I got a little older, I would say, "I'm thankful that Mom decided to keep me with us, no matter the learning problems I have and may have in years to come." (That after a little prompting from Mom.) Abilene, however, would say the same thing: "I'm thankful that my Mommy and Daddy are still in love, and that we're all here together as a family, because 'family' is the nicest word in the English language." Every year, without fail. And Olivia would say nothing, just smile in agreement. I never minded that at first, but it started to make me sick at around age four. But I digress.

Many of the whippings and beatings I got came courtesy of Abilene and Olivia, but mostly Abilene. I swear to God, she had to be the worst sister I ever had. One time, when I was five, I was in my parent's bedroom, looking at all the pretty colours of Mom's makeup kit, all the eyeshadow and lipstick. I wanted to see how it looked on me. So I took some purple eyeshadow and covered my eyelids and eyebrows with it. I put rouge on my cheeks until they were fully red, then covered my lips and the napes of my nose and chin with the lipstick. Actually, I looked like a goof. But then, I saw Abilene and Olivia in the mirror's reflection, standing at the doorway. They looked like they couldn't believe what I did. So they ran off yelling, "Mom! Dad! You won't believe what Robin did!"

Moments later, Dad stormed into the bedroom and looked just as shocked as the girls. He threw me on the bed, slapped me alongside the head a few times, then took off his belt and whipped my face until his arms got tired. I think he got some of the makeup on his belt, but I don't think he cared. When he was through, he pointed at the makeup and said, "Why did you go through your mother's makeup like that?! Do you know how much you wasted?! Did it say, 'Robin, touch!'"

I can't tell you how much I hated that question. It made me feel like I should label everything if I wanted to touch it. However, I was just starting with the smart remarks at this time. So I said, "Gee, Dad, I see Mom put it on all the time. Maybe I wanted to see how it looked on me!" Maybe it was the tone I used, but that got me spanked hard for a pretty long time. When he was done, he physically threw me in the bedroom I shared with Susan, landing on my bed and yelled at me to stay in there without dinner.

That night, Abilene and Olivia came into my room looking concerned. I could tell they heard what went on because Abilene started to lecture me on the spanking I got. She said, "What you did was really wrong, you know that, right? You know, Daddy only spanks you hard like that because he loves you, and he wants to see you grow up to be a well-adjusted young man with good values." As if she was so smart.

Except I have never heard Dad say he loved me and meant it after any spankings and beatings. I don't remember him saying he loved me or showing it ever. He never gave me anything for Christmas or my birthday. He never gave me a hug when I needed one. But I chose to ignore that. I replied, "What about you? I've never seen Dad hit you or Olivia – only Mom doing that. And Mom should've spanked you for tattling."

"We don't do half of the things you do," Olivia replied. Mind you, Olivia was a bit more reasonable, but she would go along with whatever Abilene said, because they were closer in age. "Abbie and I listen to Daddy very well, and we do what he tells us the first time. Not because we fear him, but because we love him too much to make him unhappy."

Ugh! Abbie! That was the one thing I never did with Abilene, was call her "Abbie." I never felt she did a thing to deserve it coming from me.

Shortly after the makeup incident, I was in the living room with my sisters, finger-painting. My fingers were really gooey with paint, and when I looked at Abilene, I can tell she had some evil plan. Without warning, she picked me up, took me to the nearest wall and proceeded to smear my paint all over it. I was screaming for her to stop, which attracted my parents' attention. To say they were horrified at this was an understatement.

"Abilene Marion Marchland, now that was not very nice!" Dad ordered. That was pretty much all the reprimand she got from him. Of course, my father's response with me was to take me into a private area of the kitchen, bare my rear and give me a good spanking. This time, I never sensed my mother coming to rescue me, because she knew that what I did was very wrong. When she took me into the living room, I saw she had a hairbrush in hand, and I seriously thought she would whack me, too.

To my surprise, she didn't. Instead, she sat me in the easychair and made me watch as she spanked Abilene long and hard. She spanked Abilene about twenty-five times before the hairbrush snapped and broke. She then removed her belt and proceeded to whip her just as hard. In this duration, I had never seen Abilene cry or scream, which I think made Mom even madder. I've never known Abilene to cry after a spanking. Anyway, when she was done, she yelled at her, "Now you get a cloth and clean up the mess!"

I could tell Abilene was furious with me. Just as I got out of the easychair, she shoved me on the footrest and began to beat me up, this instead of what she was asked to. Fortunately for me, Mom caught her, and guess who was spanked again? Meanwhile, Dad felt that I wasn't punished enough, so he dragged me into my bedroom. He called me a screwed-up kid, like he'd sometimes do. Then he yelled, "You will stay in this room for the rest of the damn weekend. If I catch you coming out of here once, you're going to get it harder." He slammed the door before I could ask what if I had to go to the bathroom. I know he'd hit me if I wet my pants and bed.

Maybe you would agree with what Dad was doing to me in all this, but I truly felt he needed to be harder on Abilene, and not leave such a burden on Mom. I spent much of my bedroom time thinking, wondering why my father would always be heavy on me and not my two oldest sisters, especially not Abilene. "Why me and not her?" I asked myself. "He knows Abilene is the oldest." But I had several possible theories.

One theory was that he was very disappointed in me and my limitations, and the fact that I'd never follow in his footsteps into the military. Especially since I was his only son. Now, I know what you're probably thinking: Robin, why should you let your cerebral palsy stop you from having a career in something so respectable as the military? Well, maybe I wouldn't if this were a perfect world. But careers such as law enforcement, fire-fighting and military are very demanding, both physically and mentally. With my poor running skills and inability to do Math and Science, being a police officer and firefighter were both out for me. And the best I'd do in the military would be a desk job writing up correspondence and serving coffee to soldiers. I know Dad would expect more than that from me. Every father would want their son to be just like them, and Dad was probably upset that this wouldn't be true for me. However, if this were true, Dad would've probably left when I was younger, despite all of my sisters' begging.

Another theory was he had this "old world" mentality that the daughter was the fruit of her father's eye, while the son could do no right. Now, that has to be the most outdated, clichéd way of thinking I'd ever heard of. I certainly know of no modern father who would think this way. You would agree with me that this would lead to a lot of spoiled girls who want everything in the whole world, and a lot of rifts in marriages that would cause the wife to leave. Of course, Dad was the oldest, like Abilene, and he had two younger sisters. Whenever he wasn't whipping me or Susan, I would overhear him tell his friends stories of his childhood, how Grandpa Marchland would spank him with hands, belts, paddles, birches, wooden spoons, beat him with a rolling pin, even broke a few glass bottles over his head, for his own frequent scrapes. Grandpa would dote over the daughters for their good behaviour, and leave the physical punishments on them to Grandma Marchland. Both of my paternal grandparents died before I was born, and I never really asked Dad about them. He would have never told me anything if I did, given his lack of affection towards me.

Finally – and this was what scared me the most – there was the theory that he never wanted a son, that he was happy with just daughters. I shook my head and said to myself, "No, this can't be true. Why wouldn't he want a son?" After all, show me a father who doesn't want a son, and I'll do something weird like eat my shoes. I know that every father wants a little boy to play ball with, and help him through problems growing up, and to explain the facts of life to him. But, "What if he never really wanted me?" I felt like crying. I shook my head rapidly, telling me to kill that thought. "It's not true!" I told myself. "Maybe he'd love you better if you came out strong and healthy." Yes, it had to be my cerebral palsy.

My thoughts were interrupted when Dad slammed the door open and brought Susan in. He threw down on her bed and on her stomach, and spanked her hard for a minute. I'd never heard her cry so loudly. He screamed at her, "You be quiet!" then he glared at both of us.

"You both will stay in this damn room for the rest of this weekend!" he yelled. "If I ever catch you even tiptoeing out of here to use the restroom, you will be spanked harder, is that understood?!" He slammed the door before we could answer. Susan turned to me, her face soaked by crying.

"Did you tell him the fingerpaint on the walls wasn't all my fault?" I asked.

She nodded miserably and started crying again. "And I asked him why Mom had to spank Abilene instead of him!" she wailed. "He treats her and Olivia like little princesses, like they would never think of that on their own! But I saw Abilene's look, too. She is so spoiled by him. If it weren't for Mom, she'd have everything she wants!"

I sighed. I had to agree with her. Seriously, if Mom hadn't been the one spanking Abilene when she needed it, she would be brattier than ever.

Where my learning was concerned, it was quite a chore at first. If I can backtrack to when I was four, it was this time when Mom brought a learning specialist to our house. She would come on a weekly basis, bringing with her things like flash cards for vocabulary and arithmetic, and paper and pencils for drawing. I wouldn't have any of it. It wasn't that I didn't want to learn how to draw and read and print letters and count, it's just that I would rather play games with Susan and perhaps Olivia.

The first time the learning specialist came, she and Mom decided to wait at the dining table until I finished playing a game of Chutes and Ladders with Susan. When I lost that one, Mom told me, "All right, Robin, now it's time to come to the table and work with the lady here."

I looked up at her and asked, "Aw, Mom, can't I play one more game with Susan?"

"No, it's time for you to work," Mom answered. "You need to get as much of a head start as you can before starting school. Please come sit at the table."

"But I wanna play another game!" I protested. "I need to win!"

"Now, Robin!" She looked pretty peeved with me.

Here, Susan decided to be my "child whisperer." She took my hand and said, "Robin, if I were to sit at the table with you, do you think you would be able to cooperate with Mom and the nice lady?" She brought me to the table and sat down next to me, and I would do whatever lessons were handed out to me. It took about twenty minutes, and when I was all done, Susan would smile with Mom for doing a good job, and give me a hug. So, whenever the learning specialist came, Susan would sit down at the table with me while I worked. She was a great support system.

Unfortunately for me, school was a different experience. At the elementary school I went to, (a short walk from my home) they had a waiver that parents would sign, allowing teachers to spank and strap students if the need called for it. Though my mother taught at a junior high school in the city, and therefore couldn't keep watch on me, I know she tried to refuse, explaining my cerebral palsy and limitations. But my father overrode her, telling the staff that if I ever acted up, not listened or got spanked in class, that they could jerk me up and haul me to the principal for the strap, then he'd take care of it when I got home. How was I supposed to know his exact words; I was never there with my parents.

I wish I could say I enjoyed kindergarten. It sure would've been a lot more fun if it weren't for the teacher, Mrs. Simpson. Now, picture your typical nightmare teacher from hell, the one old lady dressed all in black, with the wire-framed glasses and her hair in a bun, ready to whack your knuckles at the slightest infraction. That's exactly what Mrs. Simpson was and more. She had little patience for small children if I knew her, frustrated very easily, and seemed to thrive on yelling and punishments. In my opinion, these types of people should not get into teaching in the first place.

Mrs. Simpson would tell you that I was the worst because I could never sit still at my desk or during story time, and my malfunctioning brain filter always caused me to interrupt her with so many questions and comments. But mainly, it was because of some of the work I had to do. I enjoyed painting pictures in art class, and learning how to print and write letters, but I remember we also had to do word problems and geography maps, which I found boring. I had the same attitude at home; I would much rather play than do this kind of work. Whenever she caught me out of my seat with my worksheets incomplete, she would turn around and give me a hard spanking, that and for my numerous outbursts and interrupting her during reading and lectures. I think I got a spanking from her about once every two weeks, plus a trip to the principal's office once every month. When I got home those days, Dad would carry out his promises to spank me with a belt. Mom would attempt to stop him, saying, "That damn teacher is too strict with him! Maybe he needs to learn how to work faster, but he can't help the outbursts."

"Marion, you aren't helping him to prepare for the real world with those excuses!" Dad shouted back. "How's he going to learn if I don't whip him?" Then he would proceed with his thing. If Susan got involved to stop him, he would whip her, too. When he sent me or both of us to our room, we would then hear Abilene and Olivia pleading for the fighting to stop, and for Mom not to divorce Dad. Same old routine every two weeks.

First grade wasn't all that better. My teacher that year was Mrs. Kalember. She was a little younger than Mrs. Simpson, with light brown hair just starting to turn grey. There wasn't very much playtime this time around, but there was storytime some afternoons, and we did get into writing complete sentences and double-digit addition and subtraction. The subtraction was a lot harder, because I couldn't understand carrying – or borrowing, whatever it was called – In a quiz we had to do, the only questions I got right were the ones I which I didn't have assume the second digit for the top number had a one on it, as Mrs. Kalember tried to teach me. Questions like 17 subtracted from 48. I got a score of 28 on that one, and I cried like a goof – not because I failed, but because I was afraid at how my parents would react.

At the start of first grade, Mrs. Kalember said that if you fail a test or quiz, you had to take it home to get it signed by your parents. When I showed this to my parents, my father literally flew in to a rage. I can't tell you much of what he said, but one of the cleaner things was, "I can't believe I'm paying to put you through school, and these are the marks you are bringing home!" He proceeded to remove his belt, but Mom stopped him just in time.

"He clearly doesn't understand this kind of material!" she cried. "And I never really expected him to the first time. We can go to the teacher tomorrow and request practice worksheets for him to take home! We can hire a tutor in this and other subjects for him! I think that would be a better idea."

"We can't afford to hire a tutor!" Dad bellowed. "And that's just a cop-out to not whip him into shape. He needs to knows that as long as I pay the bills and taxes in this damn house, I expect better results!"

Oh, yeah right! What a load of trash that they couldn't hire a tutor for me. I know that sergeant is one of the higher ranks in the military, and officers in Dad's position are paid more than privates and corporals. If my father were able to feed, shelter, clothe and educate four children with his salary, then he could bloody well hire a tutor to help me in problem areas. But no, he felt it was easier to tear my butt up good for bringing home poorly-graded tests. Naturally, Mom gave in to this refusal. I think it was because she feared he'd walk out on the family if she didn't.

And he continued to punish me the same whenever I got spanked in school. In Science class, Mrs. Kalember decided to teach us about rock formations and different types of clouds, and in Social Studies; British Kings, famous Canadian explorers, and how Canadian settlers lived. I thought these were too advanced for first grade. I mean, Susan was telling us that she learned the same things in her third-grade Science class, and about the settlers in her Social Studies class. Same with Olivia learning about explorers in her fifth-grade Social Studies class. But it was in Social Studies during the settlers lesson that I got so bored, I fell asleep. Mrs. Kalember's response was to whack my desk with her yardstick and scream, "Pay attention, Robert!"

I was both surprised and livid at her. Here was where I really started using my malfunctioning brain filter. I screamed at her, "First of all, don't you ever do that to me again! Secondly, if only you'd make this a little more interesting, I wouldn't be falling asleep, now would I?"

Mrs. Kalember got so angry with me, she yanked me from my desk and took me out into the hall for a good spanking. I guess she didn't like doing it in front of other students. Then she hauled me off to the principal for the strap. This was one of eight spankings I got that entire year. Now, take this as a lesson that teachers do not like being told what to do in their jobs. That and being called hurtful, offensive names like "stupid," which I also did. Naturally, when Dad read the report I got that day, he decided to spare me the belt. Instead, he pounded me on the head, trying to "pound some sense into me," so to speak. He pounded me so hard, I cried louder than I did that time at Uncle Walter and Auntie Ellen's house. He also sent me to my room for the rest of that night.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – I also failed a couple of tests in the aforementioned Science and Social Studies classes. I got a mark of 35 in the rock formations, and a 41 in Canadian settlers. You could probably guess what Dad did to me then.

That whole year, I got less stellar grades on my report card than my sisters. Abilene, Olivia and Susan managed to keep up the all A's and B's they maintained throughout school. On the last day of school, we received the final report cards of the year. It was eleven days after I turned seven. When I got my report card, I saw A's in Art, Music and reading and speaking in Language Arts; B's in writing, Math and French; and C's in Science and Social Studies. The latter grades never really improved over the year, and I fully blamed my cerebral palsy for that. I know my mother would, too. I guess I couldn't really be jealous of my sisters. Both of my parents marvelled when they read my sisters' report cards. But with my report card, it was different. Mom was a lot more understanding at the C's than Dad was, especially since she blamed the refusal to have me tutored. Dad, on the other hand, became enraged. He grabbed my report card and backed me into a corner of the dining room, his face only two inches away from mine.

"Robin, what the hell are the grades you continue to bring home?!" he screamed at me. "C's in Science and Social Studies?"

"Ray!" my mother cried. "Stop screaming at him like that! You just be grateful that he's going into the second grade next year!"

"Quiet, Marion, that's not the point!" he barked back, then turned back to me. "I can't believe I'm paying for all your goddamn education, and you're bringing home crap results like this! You know I expect better from you than this! This is disgusting! This is pathetic! I will not have a stupid son! And I'm gonna get that through to you!"

He took off his belt and whacked me harder like never before. I have never lost consciousness as a result of belting, but I sure did that time. The last thing I saw was Mom and Susan's horrified reactions as Dad then hit me over the head, until I fell into a coma.