12 May 2013

The Cord

On your next Spring cleaning, don’t throw away unused electric cords. Recycle them: they could always come in handy, whether for personal use for striking children (preferably yours, it’s more discreet) or just as a gift to other parents in need (but only if you can trust them). Don’t worry, its use is no more difficult than a riding crop or a fly swat or a whip (some may already have relevant religious experiences, both in giving and receiving, in which case you can stop reading now) – just be firm on the handle and quick in your strokes. Do not be disconcerted if the child – or your partner – cries upon receiving this gentle punishment: it is a normal reaction subtly trying to make you go more easy on your gesture. Don’t. You wouldn’t want your virility to be put in doubt, your educational principles to be shaken. But do make sure you don’t strike too violently – red body marks should disappear within a few hours – since you don’t want your practices to be meddled with by prude associations or wimpy cops.

Of course, you won’t want to hurt your own manly hands on the actual cord when using it. Dig up a nice piece of wood that will serve as a handle, and strap the cord to it by folding it in its middle and nailing it. That’s it. You have the perfect punishment kit. Don’t be too greedy by trying to sell models online – remember, keep this practice confidential.

My siblings and me, the eldest at the back, on 23rd June 1991

Two short syllables, “the cord”, “le fil” in French: there always was some dread in my two brothers and in me when we pronounced or heard them. What more innocent than a cord, one would think? Yet, as you can read above, anything can become an instrument of fear and violence in the wrong hands. When I was a child and I could not, did not, realise that my “father”’s actions were wrong (I always have a tendency to put “father” between quotes...), the most dreadful was perhaps the fact that blows would come calling unexpectedly, even though he was never drunk: double standards prevailed – and I was sometimes particularly good at avoiding blows, at one of my brother’s expense, when I really was guilty of childish bad behaviour. Or so I remember. Because if I write those words today, it’s mainly due to the fact that I gradually forget the details of what happened – which is maybe for the better. I’m somehow “glad” that my sister, the youngest of my siblings, was at least physically protected from such punishment.

One of my brothers did have the courage to throw the cord away one day. After all, it was quietly and almost sacredly sitting in a kitchen drawer. Everyone in the family knew that we’d better not tamper with the “head” of the family for fear of receiving a “special treatment”. Although criminal, those acts happened too long ago to bear any consequences for him. What proofs would my brothers and I have anyway beyond our word?

There’s no desire for vengeance in me, and I would hope that other children he may have today do not endure what we did. Something must be (have been?) very wrong in his brain for him to have been capable of such actions – while I can’t forgive him, I have a lot of sadness in me to think a man can behave that way, as a “persecutor” (using the word of a psychiatrist he himself paid for when trying to prove we, children, were supposedly manipulated by our mother), a man with a “psychopathic personality” (quoting again another of those court-mandated psychiatrists)... but that’s “luckily” nothing in comparison to the worse things that happen in (some) other families.

The question of forgiveness does not even stand. In the past dozen years or so during which I have not seen him and almost did not hear from him besides a few postcards containing quotes from the Bible (arg), never came from him any hint of a request to be forgiven. Never.

He passed his sixtieth birthday just a couple of weeks ago. It is strange to think that he is breathing somewhere on the planet and that he doesn’t express any visible concern for his four children, or any remorse for that matter – nor have his parents or his brothers tried to support us when they knew this was happening, or ever since. I will pass, for now, on the details, of what he made my mother go through, including during the ten-year long divorce procedure. In fact, I sometimes wonder what new sick thing he’ll attempt next to practise his hatred upon...

Where has his conscience gone? For someone bred as and claiming to be Catholic, how does this make any sense? It may shock but his death will most likely leave me indifferent. I needed a father when I was growing up. It’s too late now. Soon will I be as old as he was when he was forced to leave the family house following the decision of a judge – I was seventeen then. There’s no such thing as respect owed to one’s parents – my “father” in the present case – when one has been hurt that way. I didn’t ask to be born and have nothing to be thankful about if it’s to endure what I described above and what I implied throughout this text.

I am not seeking any pity in writing this post. It’s just part of my story, that’s all; a little part of my life but which can maybe explain a few things here and there. I don’t know. I think we often tend to over-analyse things, especially for oneself, perhaps even ascribing the wrong explanations and causes to specific traits of personality. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of that story. Maybe you can relate to it or not. While I don’t want to have children of my own (aren’t there anyway enough orphans desperate for parental love?), I have at least the perfect counter-example of fatherhood... I am thankful to the few people who helped me, without necessarily knowing it, in particular in forging my own character (including my irrepressible dry humour :-).

So in these times of celebrated mother’s and father’s days, also love your children in return since you decided to have them (there actually seems to be a children’s day as well but I don’t think it’s as well-known nor as celebrated). Give them that one extra hug tonight – or call them to ask for forgiveness if you hurt them in any way, including by not accepting who they are.

PS: my siblings all approved this text prior to publication. I'm happy we all get along extremely well even if we don't necessarily see each other that often. If someone could convince them to use hangouts with me... ;-)