My Father Repented of “Christian Spanking” Too Late

My father’s old-fashioned discipline was rooted in the advice and example of his community, his parents, and his church.

For me, the photos of the injuries Adrian Peterson inflicted on his young son stirred a particularly difficult memory: In it, I stand at the foot of my parent’s bed, frail and blond. Behind me, my father utters yet another masculine grunt of exertion. The belt licks my bare skin, and the pain is alarmingly severe — something of a surprise for a preschooler who’d grown accustomed to losing count after forty lashes. The edge of the belt rips a gash, and a slick of wetness forms on my back. I plead: “Daddy, stop! I’m bleeding!” He goes on chopping, not missing a beat. With each lash, I grow more certain that this is the time that he will go on long enough to kill me.

Thirty-four years later, that memory remains as vivid as if it had happened this morning. The images loop through my mind; I shake and pant like a wounded beast, my ears ringing and my heart racing.

The horrific beatings didn’t begin until my parents joined the Baptist church and gave up drinking.

My parents were not stereotypical child abusers. Sure, both were reared in what many would now consider abusive homes, and when they met they were both alcoholics. But the horrific beatings didn’t begin until my parents joined the Baptist church and gave up drinking.

Prior to becoming born-again, my father would whip my brother and me much the way his father had beaten him: snatching his belt from his slacks in a fit of pique and then raining lashes until his tension was relieved. It was a pastor who taught him the “right” way, which involved beating his children for the tiniest transgressions, reading scripture before, during, and after punishment, and the necessity of continuing and escalating until his children were reduced to submissive, plaintively whimpering heaps.

My parents divorced and my father left the state when I was fifteen.

As an adult, I didn’t speak to my abuser for more than ten years. I spent my late teens and early twenties in intensive group and individual psychotherapy. By my mid-twenties, I’d hit my stride; it seemed that I’d finally found a way to work around the emotional and psychological scars of abuse. But a chance encounter with a secondary trauma caused the flashbacks and nightmares to return — this time, so severely that I couldn’t function personally or professionally. Clawing my way back to normal would cost me six more years.

My thoughts turned from contemplating suicide to plotting to murder my dad.

Before reaching that point, I despaired. In the grip of a terrifying madness, my thoughts turned from contemplating suicide to plotting to murder my dad. Sometimes, I pictured it quick and bloody; I’d pulverize his skull, splashing brains and bits of bone on the ceiling.  Other times, I’d imagine revenge served with frosty deliberation: I’d keep him chained up somewhere, so I could return each moment of pain and humiliation that he’d burned into me.

I tracked him down by calling companies that sold supplies related to his trade. When I’d located him, I drove for hours to sit in my car, observing his habits. He worked for himself, out of an isolated woodshop in the back corner of a mostly unoccupied industrial park. He was by himself all day, every day. There were power tools. It would be perfect.

When I entered his shop, my father was hunched over a sawhorse. I could have pounced, but for the first time it dawned on me that my father was much smaller than I was. In high school, he’d been a competitive swimmer and for years he’d maintained the swimmer’s muscular physique. But since I’d last seen him, he’d shriveled to the size of a scrawny lad of thirteen. Hearing a sound, he turned, his face registering surprise when he set eyes on me. He wore magnifying glasses, like an old man.

Pinching a smoldering cigarette from his lips, he started to speak.

My father resembled Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. His eyes were sunken, his cheeks hollow. There were blackened stumps where he should have had teeth. His black hair was baby-fine with scalp showing through. Grubby with sawdust, his clothes hung as if draped on a skeleton.

Later, I would work out a map of his pathetic transformation: he’d splattered a testicle by hot-dogging a dirt bike into a tree and, over decades, the resulting diminishment of testosterone caused his temperament and his body to change gradually. He lost his facial hair, then his muscle mass, and finally the entirety of his libido. Self-employed and without health insurance, he neglected himself until his teeth rotted away. Unable to eat, he lived on nicotine, Pepsi, and coffee, supplemented with Ensure. Once, he described how he’d used a mirror and woodworking tools to extract the broken shards of several of his own teeth.

He’d gone from being my mortal enemy to being just an old woodworker whom I could trust with the terrible truth about my dad.

Seeing his condition, the fire drained out of me: there was simply nothing tempting about the thought of battering such a withered, miserable thing. We had a brief, awkward conversation, during which he mumbled a vague, unasked-for apology. His “sorry” seemed sincere, but it meant nothing to me. I wasn’t pining for reconciliation; we had no relationship, and we never had. The thought that we might had never even occurred to me.

Over the next several years, whenever the flashbacks or depression became especially severe, I would go visit my father at his shop. It was soothing to see him hungry, lonely, all but destitute, and in constant physical pain. We talked like a couple of strangers. Over months and years, I shared each memory of abuse and explained how it continued to have a constant daily effect on me.

My father never defended himself. “I remember something like that,” he’d say; or “I don’t recall, but it sounds like me.” Sometimes he’d relate my experiences to a memory of his own childhood: “I remember that feeling of just giving up. Being so defeated you can’t even cry anymore.”

I began the slow, painful process of translating my memories of abuse into print. My father was the first person to read every chapter and article. While smoking and sipping coffee, he would pore through each small sheaf of paper three or four times then fax the pages back to me with circles on the typos and notes in the margins. Like me, he had an analytical mind with a deep appreciation for symbol and nuance. We both hoped that my writing could spare other families the tragedies that had befallen ours.

He was free of any need to justify, defend, or minimize the wrong that he’d done.

My abuser proved the depth of his repentance over the five years that it took to finish my first novel. He was free of any need to justify, defend, or minimize the wrong that he’d done. He never asked me to lie by omission on his behalf. He’d become a better person — so much better that he was ready to stand up and publicly condemn his own former actions and beliefs. He kept the cover of my book on the wall in his shop, so he could brag to his occasional visitors about it.

His willingness to change was an incredible accomplishment.

In the last year of his life, we spoke on the telephone every day. I called him by his first name, never hugged him, and avoided him completely on Father’s Day. I didn’t love him, but he didn’t expect that I would. There was too much pain and too little good in our shared past. Yet, at some point, he’d gone from being my mortal enemy to being an old woodworker whom I could trust with the terrible truth about my father. I no longer felt any need to punish him.

That was also his accomplishment.

At some point, he got a hernia that required a minor surgery that he could not pay for. I dug up his service records and enrolled him for the VA benefits that he’d earned through his service during Vietnam. During his first doctor visit, he listed me as his medical surrogate and detailed his wishes: he didn’t love his life, though he was in no hurry to die. He’d lived as a hermit, and he hoped to die at home, alone. His greatest concern was that his passing not cause anyone any trouble or inconvenience. He didn’t care what became of his body, which he referred to as a husk.

He died of a sudden heart attack last September. Ironically, he passed away on the morning that I wrote the final words of the final chapter of my novel. I’d rushed to fax the pages to him before he left for work, but it was already too late. At the time, another article about my upcoming book was going viral. He bought a smart phone and signed up for email for the first time in his life. When he didn’t answer his phone for a couple of days, I assumed he was having a problem figuring out the new equipment.

A friend told me, “Feelings will bubble up.” They didn’t.

His body went undiscovered for days, finally bursting open. A grown nephew and I had the job of hauling the gore-soaked foam rubber mattress out of his apartment. The stench was unbelievable, and hordes of fat, black flies buzzed everywhere. Later, my brother and I arranged a cremation and paid our father’s final bills. We sold his tools and put the rest of his belongings on the curb. There was nothing in his household of sentimental value.

As we finished emptying the deceased’s tiny two-room apartment, I asked my brother, “How are you doing?” He shrugged, an expression of woeful indifference that mirrored my own feelings on the matter.

A friend told me, “Feelings will bubble up.” They didn’t.

My father was born in a holler, down in Tennessee, and he spent his later childhood in a predominantly black neighborhood in Detroit. He raised his own kids with what he considered to be old fashioned, tried-and-true discipline, following the advice and example of his community, his parents, and his church. Ultimately, he came to recognize and own that whipping his children had been a terrible mistake. Unfortunately for our family, the realization came far too late.

Image via anieto2k.

This article has been updated to reflect the author’s consideration of reader comments on his essay.

M. Dolon Hickmon
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  • Hope Ferguson

    What a powerful, and terrible story. I am so sorry for your experience — truly, and for your dad’s sad end. People surely misunderstand scripture and God when they make terrible mistakes like this, which your dad surely paid for over and over. I hope you continue to heal well.

  • Cindy Jackson

    Sounds familiar. I feared my dad. Devised plots. Later, I saw him small and white haired. Felt nothing. He began to say..sorry if I was, ya know, mean to ya and stuff. I just stared at him. And stuff? Yea, whatever, dad.
    I feel ya, brother

  • nwcolorist

    Thanks for telling your story, Mr. Hickmon. I hope it has helped you in healing those deep wounds of the past.

  • Joyce Swonger

    unbelievably cruel and I am so sorry for your past. I pray you heal .. good for you for hunting him down before it was too late.

  • Jenna Lynn Adam

    I want to read everything you write—you tell the story as if I’m there, and, having had many stories with gruesome detail, this resonates so deeply. I’m quite thankful for your writing. I need to get my hands on a copy of your BOOK!

    thanks again for writing.

  • http://technomusings.tumblr.com/ Tapper

    Your story is horrifying and sickening. You were abused and I struggle with the language. I was spanked by a father who practiced what I call Christian Spanking. It involved a talk, opportunity to respond and a belt or paddle on my butt. Only a few wacks, only on the butt. Never welted or bled. Each one was followed by hugs and reassurance of love. Into my 30s, 40s & 50s I loved my Dad like a best friend. I held his hand as he died last year.
    Not all spankers are monsters and I am truly sorry that you endured that as a child.

    • M Dolon Hickmon

      I don’t think that all spankers are monsters; but I do think that it is time for Christians to stop doing what you are doing, which is pointing fingers and pretending that physical abuse is a problem of ‘other’ groups.

      My parents were in a church and actively seeking counsel from the pastor on child discipline. I never doubted that my father loved me; he hugged me after whippings, and his ‘spankings’ overflowed with scripture verses and explanations. His attitude was not anger, but steadfast determination. He’d been told that ‘the rod’ was guaranteed to work and that the only time it didn’t was when parents were too tenderhearted to do it hard enough and often enough.

      If you doubt that this message has been–and still is!–coming from the Christian church, go and read some of the comments on the pictures of Adrian Peterson’s kid. Those discussions make it crystal clear that toddlers being bruised and bloodied is still not considered abuse in many Christians circles.

      Physical abuse is not a new problem, and it is not a problem of decades ago; it’s not a problem of poor people, or black people, or drunk people. It is going on in YOUR church today.

      People generally gain a basic grasp of the stages of child development, what behaviors are normal for a child of a particular age, and what would constitute a reasonable parental request from watching interactions in their own families as they are growing up. By being treated with common human dignity, they develop a sense of empathy that tells them not to injure or demean others, and especially their own kids. But just because these things are common does not mean that it is safe to assume.

      My father did not know that he was asking a four-year-old to have the self control of a teenager. He never developed anything remotely like a sense of empathy that would make him take pity on a screaming, bleeding kid. Then he was told that he was an extension of God’s authority and any command he conceived could be compelled if he were willing to trust God enough to continue beating in spite of his conscience. My dad was never angry; he was numb to the suffering of children, and ignorant of their needs and limitations. That was how he was taught, and how he had been treated.

      Telling people ‘Discipline in love, and not in anger; tell your kids what they did wrong and hug them afterwards’ does NOTHING to address the problem. Its a cop out, and adult survivors have been pointing this out to the church for generations. But instead of listening, the non-abused keep on telling survivors that they are mistaken. And they win the argument, not because they are right, but because they have the numbers and they agree with one another.

      There is no solution until Christians and spankers gain enough insight to realize WHY adult survivors keep telling them that they are part of the problem.

      • http://technomusings.tumblr.com/ Tapper

        I don’t write long posts like yours and in my brevity, my meaning is lost. I am sorry that I mislead you. I was born & raised in a Fundamentalist church. I have no doubt that abuses were going on. Only recently I found out about a sexual abuse that occurred in that church I attended way back when I was a kid there. I’ve seen video’s and read many articles of men abusing their kids ‘in the name of God’. You do not need to convince me that Christians abuse kids. Christian abuse kids and spouses, they are bigots, they steal and divorces are no different among Christians than anywhere else.
        I was attempting to say that I believe the Bible teaches that spanking may be proper at times and that there is a proper way to do it. It can be done in love. It can be done in a non-abusive way, I saw it first hand and that was my point. I loved my Dad as a best friend until the day he died. He never abused me. We took vacations together with my parents until last year when he left this earth. I respect no man higher than him. That is not the attitude of a victim or a victim in denial. There was never any numbness in my Dad. I’m really sorry to think you had to endure that.
        I am not condoning violence or abuse in the name of Christianity.

        • Linda Lee Davidson

          Wanted to first question your assertion that the Bible says it is OK to spank – if you go past specific verses in Proverbs, then you also need to consider the type of man Solomon’s son King Rhehoboam also grew up to be and ask yourself does the Bible say it is really okay? Or is knowing how his son turned out the postscript to Solomon’s advice on child rearing. Furthermore in terms of adhering, the verses themselves are not prescriptive – why, when and to what degree is a child spanked.

          I was also subject to the same discipline (with a belt) you experienced until my parents realized that my behaviour was the result of being in a class where my peers were up to 2 years older and I was a social misfit trying (and failing) to fit in. Time spent in family counselling with a child psychiatrist ended almost all corporal discipline for me. However, I also preferred to be spanked than talked to because I was willing to have punishment over and done with rather than being forced to consider the impact of my behaviour on others. And in spite of this apparent reasonableness in approach to spanking, I was the lucky one of 4 kids – each got a less coherent and rational approach depending on which parent, gender and birth order. My youngest sibling still begrudges my mother for how she was treated. And I always was thankful I was not my brother. And I know that my parents loved us all but spanking – which was a changing/different experience for each – left a long lasting and differing stamp shaping the type of relationships each of us had with our parents when adults. I think the changes were also a direct outcome of believing it is ok to spank/hit a child without boundaries as to where, when and why as well as to what degree.

          Desensitization to the use and impact of physical discipline is too easy (and predictable). If one spank is okay then what makes 5, 10, 20 or 60 not okay? I will say I have found that it takes much more effort to develop and use alternatives to spanking but there is never the risk of violating the parent/child relationship through unintended force or violence.

        • TealRose

          Please … for your own sake .. and that of any children … read the Bible yourself. Find the verses where Christ tells us when and how to hit children……. and then weep, because you will NEVER find that verse. For yourself and for the others who have been fooled into believing that hitting children is Biblical when it is anything but. The devil comes in many guises .. and teaches us many lies … and I believe he laughs his filthy head off every time a little one is hurt in God’s name.

          • http://technomusings.tumblr.com/ Tapper

            The Devil laughs every time we think that a “timeout” is biblical discipline. You should be the one weeping.

            I hate doing bulk pastes, but you asked me to. Christ quotes the O.T. and it is foolish to think that Christ disagrees with any of the wisdom given in the OT.

            Prov 13.24 – Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

            Prov 22.15 – Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

            Prov 23.13-14 – Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

            Prov 29.15-16 – The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.

            Hebrews 12.6-7 – “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”

            Hebrews 12.11 – Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

            The Bible talks about discipline in love, and points to God the Father as the example of loving discipline.
            Loving discipline may include spanking but spanking done properly is not abuse.

          • Rushia W

            I noticed that you say “spanking done properly is not abuse”…and then you *never* mention just how you would enforce the “done properly”. When abusive parents are allowed to define that line, they almost always protest that they did not go too far. And any parent who thinks they will never react in anger or punish an innocent party is a fool (who makes the devil laugh…love your imagery there). Grownups even get angry and blame innocent peers! The difference is that a peer can get away from them…and press charges if things got physical. One last word, a pastor/minister/preacher is allowed to “chasten you”, but that does not give him the right to physically hit you or someone less physically fit than he is. That sir, is called physical assault.

          • Rushia W

            Oh and I couldn’t resist!
            Tapper: “Christ quotes the O.T. and it is foolish to think that Christ disagrees with any of the wisdom given in the OT”
            Lev. 19:27: 27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
            I am glad to see that Tapper takes this OT verse as seriously as Christ Himself.

          • Hope Ferguson

            I agree. But we are to NEVER hit a child in anger or rage. I was spanked as a child. It was with the hand, by my mother. She would later come in and tuck us in and tell us how much she loved us and was sorry she had had to spank us. I was NOT abused. She never spanked in rage or because of her own need to let off steam. The spankings stopped way before the age of 11 when she passed away from cancer. There’s a BIG difference between child abuse and controlled spanking.

          • TealRose

            Just read what you wrote. ‘Controlled spanking’ ie controlled hitting… of a child. A small person who cannot protect themselves from being hit and abused and yes, I do believe hitting is child abuse. I live in a country where it has been banned for a few years now ..and as a grandmother know that hitting is wrong period. I didn’t use fear and hitting to teach my children right from wrong, I used my words, and demonstrated it …

            Most normal people who don’t believe in hitting anyone, do believe that hitting a child is abuse, and they also know that many adults don’t feel they were abused at the hands of their parents as it is a very painful thing to admit even to oneself.

            As a child, my parents tried the post hitting nonsense of ‘oh by the way we love you .. ‘ and attempted hug. It meant nothing to me then … just as it wouldn’t if my husband hit me now and then told me he loved me ! I don’t love, respect or trust anyone who hits me, never have .. and never will. You deserved better.

          • TealRose

            There is NO ‘proper’ way to hit someone. Especially a child.

            Chasten means to reproof .. ie humble with words.
            Discipline means to teach not to hit. Look to the word disciple .. same root. The disciples were as children to Christ . .but he never hit them .. he never laid a hand on them to hurt them, he taugh them with words and demonstrations.
            Proverbs is a book of poems not of Law.
            The rod was either a rod of law ie a set of laws written out and you need to teach your children the laws .. not hit them OR it was the Shepherds crook .. a shepherd’s crook is used to protect the sheep and lambs, it is a heavy and hard piece of wood capable of killing a woof and hooked so as to pull a lamb to safety .. not to hit it or hurt it.
            And still I wait for Christ’s words telling us to hit a child. I will wait until doomsday .. as it isn’t there.
            If you want to quote so much from the OT and ignore Jesus .. then please .. tell me why you are still wearing a polycotton shirt, after all it is against the laws in the OT? Do you stone men or women in your town if they are adulterers … ? Do you marry raped women to their rapists ? No .. I would hope not !!!

          • PinxEngrayz

            And we definitely haven’t learned anything in the thousands of years since the bible was written, cobbled together, selectively edited and mis-translated by countless hands.

            If Jesus says hit the kid, by golly, let’s do it!

  • Heidi

    I am so sorry. Thanks for sharing. I hope you continue to heal. It seems you are on the right path.

  • http://createdmemories.smugmug.com/ FKCole

    You’re not alone. I forgave my mother and even befriended her when she had no other friends until one day I heard her. I heard her yelling and belittling my grandmother like she had me. I was instantaneously 11 again. I can’t forgive her again. I am only hoorifed that I can’t protect my grandmother from the beast.

    • http://avengah.wordpress.com Matt Davis

      You can – call the police or domestic violence hotline. You owe your mother nothing. Do it now! You’ll regret it if you don’t.

    • http://avengah.wordpress.com Matt Davis

      You can – call the police or domestic violence hotline. You owe your mother nothing. Do it now! You’ll regret it if you don’t.

  • Tat45

    I think spanking has Biblical sanction, but I have a difficult time with that, and I would never spank my girl. In my house the abuser was my mom. She never broke the skin, but whenever she hit us it was always in anger. I was routinely slapped across the face and verbally belittled. Partly as a result of that, I have low self-confidence and self-esteem, am afraid of failure, and have suffered with anxiety and depression for the past 25 years. Whenever someone treats me in a demeaning way, it accesses that innermost place of hurt and I’m left wondering how I caused that person to treat me thus. Cognitively I know that’s garbage thinking but I can’t stop the visceral gut reaction and cold sweats when I’m in any sort of conflict.

    • TealRose

      Tat45, please ….you never deserved to be hit, and neither does any other child. There really is NO Biblical sanction whatsoever…. Christ never ever told us to hit children. He warned us to not to hurt them and make them stumble. Just look what it has done to you. You would have found that if she had hit you cold ie calmly … you would have been even more frightened perhaps as I was. I reckoned if someone could hit you when they were calm .. then .. they could hit you any time at all. Christ died for our sins, ALL of us .. not just adults, grace is for us all .. adults and children alike. I am so sorry you were treated so sadly …

      • Tat45

        I appreciate the kind words.

  • daggerz

    Thank you for having the courage to post such an honest story! What a great lesson! Namely: That resentment is so hard to let go of and will be the death of your character – because I don’t really know what part of the story was more disturbing – your dad for abusing you or you for, in turn abusing your dad. Your (admittedly awful) dad had far more courage than any of us will ever see – in that instead of defending or denying his sins, he owned up to them.I mean, he GREW. REALLY – who does that?? Who has the courage to look back on the WHOLE OF THEIR LIFE and say, “yeah, I made huge, horrible mistakes and probably caused more pain than I provided good.”? It must be pretty satisfying to announce to the world that your attacker died alone and unloved especially with the extraspecial visual of the bloated body with flies and stuff. Go you. I’m pretty sure your dad suffered his own consequences so I’m not quite sure how your detailed reporting about his lonely death helps anyone at all. What I DO KNOW is that…had your VERY FLAWED father (who admitted he was wrong) knew you would degrade him so much after his death for the hope of of social media hits/clicks – when he already admitted he was wrong…he probably would not have welcomed those daily phone calls of yours. But this, too, is excellent info! When I am dying, I will be sure to monitor the “daily phone calls” from people I have harmed so that they don’t write such a horrific obit about me. In closing,I might be completely wrong, but from what I can see… you, dear sir. HAVE LEARNED NOTHING.

    • M Dolon Hickmon

      I’ve been sharing my personal story in print for many years now. When my father was alive, he was the first person to read every chapter and article. Had he been alive when I’d written this, he would have pored over it as he did all the rest–reading it through three or four times while smoking and sipping coffee, then faxing the sheets back to me with circles on the typos and notes in the margins. Before I went to work on the second draft, he and I would have talked about it for a few hours. Like me, he had an analytical mind with a deep appreciation for symbol and nuance. I have no doubt that he would have loved everything about this piece–including the flies. Were he alive, my father would have insisted that I publish this. He’d repented; which means that he was free of any need to justify, rationalize, or defend the wrong that he’d done. He did not need to hide and would never have asked me to lie by omission on his behalf. He’d become a better person–so much better that he was willing to stand up and publicly condemn his former actions and beliefs. That kind of growth is a real accomplishment. I am certain that there is nothing in this article that he would have been ashamed for the world to see.

      As for my own part, I am also not ashamed.

      Healthy emotional responses depend on proper function in our ‘feeling’ organ, which is the brain. Like a heart or a kidney, this organ’s function can be severely impaired by exposure to adverse conditions during the years when it us under physical development. Long-term child abuse results in chronic exposure to high levels of stress hormones–chemicals including epiniphrine, endorphines and cortisol–which act on the same receptors as street drugs like methamphetamine and heroin. Such exposure leads to predictable changes, including physical abnormalities that can be photographed, and measurable chemical and electrical dysregulation. Depression, anxiety, self-loathing, hopelessness, helplessness, despair and resentment are the symptoms of a diseased organ’s malfunction. Your expressions of contempt are no less foolish and inappropriate than if you had chosen to insult the low-intelligence a person who had suffered cognitive impairment from eating lead-based paint chips during childhood. The emotional devastations of child abuse are consequences, not moral failings.

      To clarify another of your points, I will offer some further detail about his death. A year or so before, he’d had a hernia that required surgery. Knowing that he would not do anything to spare himself pain or even to save his own life, I dug up his service records and enrolled him for the VA benefits that he’d earned through his service during Vietnam. During his first doctor visit, he listed me as his medical surrogate. He told me that he didn’t wish to die, but neither did he love his life. He said he’d lived as a hermit, and his wish was to die that way–at home, alone. His biggest wish was that his passing not cause anyone any trouble or inconvenience. He didn’t care what became of his body, which he referred to as a husk. He would have chuckled at the supposed impropriety of my detailing the manner of his death and the disposition of his body.

      My father died of sudden heart attack, most likely while getting dressed for work in the morning. Over the previous several years, we’d spent hour upon hour day after day plotting the details of a novel that we both hoped would spare other families from the heartache that had befallen ours. He was extremely proud of my book, as he was of all my other efforts to advocate for abused children. He kept the cover on the wall in his shop, so he could brag to his occasional visitors about it. Ironically, I wrote the final words of the final chapter on the morning of my father’s death. Knowing that he would be leaving for work shortly, I rushed to fax the pages to him before he left his house. Unfortunately, when that fax arrived he was already dead. At the time, another article I’d written about my childhood was going viral on the web, and he was so excited that he finally broke down and bought a smart phone and signed up for an email address for the first time in his life. When he didn’t answer his phone for a couple of days, I assumed he was having a problem with his new phone. I found the final pages of the novel we’d written together, unread on the fax machine in his garage.

      Anyone who thinks that this article is a final swipe at my dead father, either didn’t read it or didn’t understand a bit of what they read. I am proud of my dad, and he was proud of me. He would have been proud of this article. And we were both proud of our relationship, which although limited, was one-hundred percent genuine.

      • Rianya

        Mr.Hickmon, congratulations on surviving. Kudos on being able to confront your abuser with what it did to you. Nothing makes it go away but at least you got some closure. Ignore daggerz, if you haven’t already blocked him. People like him have the mistaken notion that abuse survivors actually owe their abusers something rather than the other way around.

        • Nn Ss

          I have read the stories of all sides and, being an abused child going through corporal punishment myself, I can understand their feelings and experiences, all deserving sympathy just the same. Therefore, I wouldn’t be too hard on daggerz, though, because, besides his way with words in the peppery comment, his fault would be mainly about a lack of true understanding about the ongoing trauma of an adult with severely abusive childhood. He assumes that Mr Hickmon is now the stronger one, with all the power and strength to forgive. Deep down, I think, perhaps daggerz spoke for the love for his own dad and also in defense of a defenseless repenting old man, in general. Despite the reader’s negative impression that the image of the father was unsympathetically painted with deterioration and gore [ultimately], the credit goes back to Mr. Hickmon that his dad, supposedly the evil character, was painted in a very sympathetic light so effectively as we can tell from the rage and sympathetic reaction for the old man from daggerz,

          • Rianya

            An interesting observation. Thank you.

    • Rianya

      Mr. Peterson, congratulations on surviving. Kudos on being able to confront your abuser with what it did to you. Nothing makes it go away but at least you got some closure. Ignore daggerz, if you haven’t already blocked him. People like him have the mistaken notion that abuse survivors actually owe their abusers something rather than the other way around.

    • http://wateringgoodseeds.tumblr.com/ Shira Coffee

      You are right to give recognition to the progress Mr. Hickmon’s father made. It’s good that he came to understand his actions and their consequences before his death.
      That said, you have no warrant to condemn Mr. Hickmon’s response to the man who stole his childhood and fractured his mental health. Healing comes at its own pace, and to try to push someone toward complete healing — or worse, toward papering over still-suppurating wounds with pretend forgiveness — is utter cruelty. You, dear sir, need to examine your need to push other people’s pain into hiding to spare your own sensibilities.

  • P. Mills

    There is a huge difference between spanking and beatings. My sympathies to you and your brother for what you endured. Please remember not all Christians, or Baptist beat their children if and when they spank or discipline their children.
    There are many forms of abuse physical, mental and emotional. Do not let yourself become so zealous in ending corporal punishments that you yourself become an abuser. Bigotry is also a form of abuse. Compassion and understanding I can see in your writing style , your passions are strong.
    May you find peace in God, and learn that true biblical doctrine does not abuse, ignorance and misinformation breeds abuse.