The summer that I was twelve, my parents rigged up a very clever device with fishing line and PVC pipe to tie my little brother Patrick to one of the support posts in the garage.
We lived in Southern California. It’s a desert. There is no humidity. When it’s hot, you don’t realize how hot it is because even though you’re sweating, the sweat evaporates so quickly that you don’t feel it. It is very easy to get dehydrated, even to the point of heat stroke.
Patrick was 4 years old. At the time that I write this, I have a son who just turned 5. My head is spinning just at the memory of what my parents did to their own little son.
My mom was frustrated and angry. Patrick was giving her “a hard time.” She was angry. No matter how much she “spanked,” .ie. beat him, he still had a big imagination and a short attention span. She told Daddy she didn’t know what to do with him anymore.
The end result was Patrick tied up in the garage in the middle of the Southern California summer for days and days, with heat waves I could see rising six feet in front of my face in the backyard, and it was my job to ration his water intake. They filled a bucket with tap water and gave me a measuring cup, and told me no more than eight measuring cups of water a day… because they didn’t want to untie him so he could use that bathroom more than once each day.
Little four year old Patrick sat on the garage floor perfectly still, in the miserable heat, not a breath of fresh air moving, and hung his head like a whipped dog, for days on end.
When I brought it up to him just a year ago, he didn’t remember any of it… at first. Then he suddenly remembered and it looked like he’d gotten punched in the face. He recovered a little and said, “Oh yeah, that did happen. Huh.” He thought for a minute. Then he laughed and shrugged. “It was good for me,” he said.
This is my brother. These are my parents. This is my life.