Through Any Given Door

1.49 Dad, God, and the Holy Ghost

1949 • Sonora ~ Our parents never argued about how to raise their children. They argued about my mother’s smoking and drinking and about her housekeeping, but not about the kids. Mom gave the older ones a swift kick or a snapping backhand when they didn’t move fast enough or do as they were told. When she was too lazy to get up, she’d warn, “You just wait ’til your father gets home!” She often threatened to pack the girls off to the convent, though that hadn’t made a whit of difference in her attitude when she and her sisters were sent there as young girls.

To get Mom to calm down and have some peace and quiet for the night, Dad, slipping his brown leather belt from his pants loops, meted out an occasional token thrashing on Larry and Carleen’s bottoms, ignoring their seldom innocent protests with, “Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, this is for something you probably got away with, or for something you’re planning to do.” Other than that, our father was a soft-spoken man of few words.

As the kids got older, Dad got smarter. Whenever someone misbehaved, he’d get out his black leather bound Bible and line up the kids by age. Starting with Larry, he’d have them raise their left hands, place their right on the good book, and make them swear to God that they’d tell the truth.

“Did you steal the change from cookie jar?” Dad queried them, one at a time.

“No,” was the stock answer down the row.

“Do you know who did?” The questioning started again at the head of the line.

19 Claudia Clemens fair hair


Larry was seldom guilty. Carleen and Betty could lie through their teeth to Dad, God, and the Holy Ghost; it didn’t bother them a bit. Claudia lived in perpetual puzzlement that her dark-haired sisters could lie and not live in the same fear of God she did. Petrified, she believed God and Dad were the same: big, powerful, and all knowing. She never committed any wrongdoing, but more often than not, she knew who did, and Dad knew she’d tell. Carleen was typically the culprit. Betty usually got blamed. Claudia lived in a hell of her own making. First of all, she didn’t want to be singled out or noticed. Second, she didn’t want anyone to think badly of her so she did her best to be good; and third, her sisters constantly retaliated against her for being a little tattletale and goody-two-shoes. Her skinny right arm often hung sore and useless, black and blue from being punched. They didn’t understand their golden-haired sister had no choice. She was answering to a higher power.

to be continued…

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
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  1. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    My dad only spanked me once, when I was about five and it was for something my sister did, but he assumed it was both of us. She, of course, didn’t correct him. Nothing ever after that except to sit me down, quietly, alone and tell me how disappointed he was in me. Broke my heart!! Daddy had the soft heart–and by taking us aside and talking to us, we avoided the hell raising from Mother. She had the fastest arm in the West. She could drop her fork, slap your face, and catch the fork before it hit her plate. Crossing her was just asking for a reason to hope for an atomic bomb to hit! For that reason, I rarely spanked my kids. They got fussed at, or a swat over clothes, but whenever I felt the “need” I could remember the times with her and walk out of the room!!

  2. Oh the good old days of belt whippings. There were many times I didn’t do something that was wrong because I feared dad’s belt.

    • It was not something I experienced. I don’t remember ever being spanked. I also don’t remember ever doing anything that warranted a spanking… oh, except maybe when was 7 or 8 and was the store’s most loyal shoplifter.

  3. Jim Chatfield says:

    Your Dad reminds me of the times my daughters needed discipline and I would take them in the bedroom, close the door, then I would paddle the bed and have them make some noise. Once in a great while they may get a paddling if tthey really did something very wrong, but not real hard.

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