The fact that I’m writing this first blog is truly a miracle. You see, I was never supposed to make it. “Make what?” you ask. Well… anything of my life. The odds say a person like me is supposed to fail. Fail at what? Well… everything. What do I mean “a person like me”? I mean a high school dropout that tried any drug he could get his hands on. I mean a person who was arrested several times for crimes ranging from disorderly conduct and assault to domestic violence. I mean a kid that was suspended from school more times than I can remember. I mean a person who was a teenage runaway and married a girl he had known less than a year at seventeen years old. I mean a person that had his wife and infant son visit him at lunch …in high school. I mean a person with a father that beat him. I mean a person whose father was also beaten.
That pattern is hard to break and to be quite honest, I’m still trying. It’s the reason that most of my life, I’ve had a chip on my shoulder. It’s the reason I decided in grade school that nobody would ever push me around again. It’s the reason I was repeatedly suspended from school for fighting and why I was arrested several times as a teenager. While I love my father, it’s the reason I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to break the pattern he helped instill in me.
My father could snap at anything; his temper was legendary. If the car wouldn’t start, he would take it out on whoever was closest; many times that was me. Sometimes, that meant I’d be slapped, punched or even kicked. He didn’t like it if anyone wasn’t totally subservient all the time. He felt like he was the boss and you had better know it. He would get drunk and sit outside our apartment yelling, “I’m the meanest SOB that ever walked God’s green earth”.
I remember the first time I really stood up to him. I was in the sixth grade. I don’t remember what I had done wrong (probably fighting at school), but I was getting a whippin. To this day, I can still hear the sound of him unbuckling his belt and pulling it with one jerk out of his pants. I knew that sound: the sound of the belt snapping and popping through each loop on his pants and the sound of the wind as the belt went through the air. I knew what was coming. He told me to bend over my bed like he had done many times before and I obeyed.
He began to repeatedly whip me with that thick leather belt. It hurt badly like it always had, but this time my rage inside had a focus. My dad liked to see that he “won”. Everyone in the family knew this. That’s why my little sister’s whippins weren’t as bad. She had learned to master the fake cry. We all knew it would be easier if you just let him see that he “broke” you. She would scream before it even started. He liked to know, not just that you were sorry, but that he won. So this time, as he began to beat me, I refused to show weakness.
I knew that sound: the sound of the belt snapping and popping through each loop on his pants and the sound of the wind as the belt went through the air.
I had decided that I would “win”. He gave me the usual whippin and I took it and made sure to show no reaction. When he was done I acted like nothing had even happened and asked with a slow calm voice, “are you done, can I go now?” I saw the anger in his eyes. This was now a battle of wills. He said, “Bend back over, no I’m not done yet!” He then proceeded to give me another whippin. This went on several times and each time I repeated the simple phrase, “are you done, can I go now”. He was so angry that I could see the veins pop out in his head and neck. He grit his teeth and looked like he would crush them from the sheer force of his jaw grinding down on them.
He began swinging the belt wildly. He didn’t always hit me in the butt. At one point he was so angry that he grabbed the wrong end of the belt. As he whipped me, the metal buckle came around and struck me in my stomach. It was so painful that I almost passed out. I could feel the strength leave my legs as the wind was knocked out of me. I almost crumbled to my knees. But inside I said, “Keep it together John, if you let him see the pain on your face or you start to cry, he’ll win”. I got an inner strength and kept my legs from failing. I was beginning to “win”. I could see he was actually getting tired! After what seemed like an hour he finally became so tired, that he stopped. He was breathing heavily. I could see by the look in his eyes that he was trying to decide what to do. He stared off for what seemed like twenty minutes, although I’m sure it was only a few seconds. He then told me in a stern voice, “sit down on your bed and think about what you’ve done!”
As he left the room I realized that not only was his arm tired, but I had won! I had finally broken him down. I was so proud of myself, even though I couldn’t actually sit down and think about anything I had done. I couldn’t sit at all. In fact, it was hard to sit for almost a week after that incident. However, the pride inside felt good and I found that I liked “winning”. That day I decided that I would always “win”. From now on nobody would ever tell me what to do! I got in so many fights in school or around my neighborhood just to make sure I would always “win”.
While I did forgive my father later in life, and he apologized and restored our relationship before he passed away, I had already developed many terrible traits. I had always told myself I would never be like my dad. I would never treat my family like he did. I never realized that’s exactly who I was becoming. The pattern was beginning to settle on me and turn me into the very thing I despised. It took a toll on my wife Denise and both of our children.
Those early years of my marriage were not fair to my wife or either of my children in many ways. I would break things and throw things whenever I got mad (which was all the time). I never treated Denise like the treasure she truly is. To this day it still amazes me that she stayed with me. I put her through so much. My children also had it rough because they not only had to watch and listen to all this but I would also scream at them. Were it not for a patient pastor, named Mark Davenport, who would actually get in my face and make me see what I was doing who knows what would have happened?
Who wants to be ‘that guy”? You know … the guy who beat up the pastor?
I remember a time when Denise left and called Pastor Mark. She told him that she and the kids were at my sister’s house and I was acting like a maniac. I remember Mark coming over and knocking on my door after midnight that night. I told him, “Go away it’s none of your business!” He kept telling me to open the door because he wasn’t going anywhere until I did. I was afraid of what would happen if I opened the door. What if he got in my face? Who wants to be ‘that guy”? You know … the guy who beat up the pastor?[CONTINUE READING ON NEXT PAGE]
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