Dead silence followed. I had been telling a friend why I flinched away whenever she raised her voice. It came out rather bluntly, but that's what it all boils down to. I can't deal with certain expressions of anger when all my insides are flinching away in anticipation of a beating.
It was never hard enough to leave a lasting bruise, that I knew of. It was never on the chest, on the hands, on the face. It was just an old-fashioned spanking on the bottom with the palm of his huge hard hands. It was painful, and left us screaming in pain and fear. His temper and strength were fearsome to small children, especially when we saw him just lose control and throw toys in the stove and rip furniture apart. There was the very primal fear that perhaps this time, next time, he'd lose control all the way and rip us apart. Later, we learned that when he'd seen us cowering and shrieking in fear in front of non-members of the family, he'd stopped spanking us entirely, and left his destruction to objects. I don't know what we thought then. Perhaps we thought that we'd just gotten too big to be spanked. We were still afraid when he went into a rage, and that fear lasted a very, very long time. As I learned, I am still shadowed by it today.
We never feared Mama's spankings. Disliked, avoided, cried over, but never feared. I have given high-fives that have left a harder sting than one of Mama's spankings, but they served their purpose. We learned that certain behaviors would earn a well-deserved punishment from Mama. We learned that normal childhood bickering that wouldn't even earn a spanking from Mama might make him descend in wrath upon us without warning. Mama taught us the warning signs of his temper, how to watch for the warning rumblings of earthquakes so we could hide in time from the sudden eruption. Mama taught us that he was a good man, and tried really hard. Mama taught us to not provoke him.
When I was fourteen, I vowed that I would never have children. I recognized his same temper in myself and knew that I did not have the control necessary to keep it from bursting out. I vowed that I would never make his mistake and inflict myself and my temper upon a defenceless child.
When I was sixteen, I stood up to him. I had a temper of my own, a direct copy of his temper in a younger body with less impulse control and more stupid per cubic inch. My sister and I picked a sniping match over a batch of cookies, and he started to erupt. He marched over with the intent of destroying the object of contention, the cookie dough. He has always been a large man, and I was not a large teenager. I ignored this. I stood in front of him, got in his face, and scolded him in full cry like he was a spoiled five-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. I was so angry that I did not care if I got hit, even though he had not raised a hand to us in years. I stood my ground with hackles raised and spurs at the ready. I was younger, stronger, angrier, and absolutely right. I was not about to back down.
He deflated and slunk off to sulk outside somewhere. Since that moment, he never tried to intimidate me with his anger again.
I had hoped that being stood up to and stood down would have made a lasting change. But I later heard that he still used his temper like a bludgeon when I was safely away, after I left for college.
At length, I learned real control of my temper, rather than just temporary lava flow control. It was forced upon me when I became roommates with my heartsister and her small son, my virtual nephew the Little Fayoumis. I feel I could have a child of my own, now. It would be safe. It has ended with this generation.