The Clock Tics Back
“Is mommy okay?” I asked my father as I looked up at the small black and white
television on the wall of the hospital.
The television showed a grim picture. There was my mom, lying motionless, on a
table inside the treatment room. A couple of months earlier she had been a vibrant,
young woman, with a promising life in front of her. Now she led a painful existence.
Every waking moment was spent pondering the future that she most likely would not live
to see. Doctors told her that her chances of beating Hodgkin’s disease, a form of
lymphatic cancer, were very slim. Still, she fought on. She wanted nothing more than to
survive long enough to see my three-year-old brother, and I, who was six at the time,
grow up. Survive she did, even though the pain and suffering she went through made her
almost want to die sometimes. The road was far from easy.
My mom had to endure months of radiation treatments. My father was left alone to
care for my brother and I. Most of the days my mom was confined to her bed. She only
rose occasionally to go to the bathroom and eat. When she wasn’t sleeping or eating she
was attending her radiation treatment sessions, which made her very ill. Her hair fell out.
Parts of her lungs and cancerous lymph nodes were removed during some of the many
procedures that followed. My mom’s condition slowly improved. Five months after
being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease my mom walked out of the hospital with her
cancer in remission.
Towards the end of my mom’s stay in the hospital she realized that I had developed an
eye twitch. I was blinking my eyes in an irregular pattern that was much different than
the regular blinking pattern I had done in the past. Up until then, I had been blinking my
eyes about once every twenty or thirty seconds. Now I was blinking them ten to fifteen
times in a row, in rapid succession, every couple of minutes or so. My blinks weren’t
normal blinks either. I was scrunching up my eyes and closing them very tightly, but
quickly, with each blink. I didn’t really pay attention to it, but my mom did.
My mom asked me, “Why are you blinking so much?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “I have to.”
“What do you mean you have to?” my mom asked. “What do you mean you don’t
What is a six year old who doesn’t know why they are doing something supposed to
say? I felt urges to blink my eyes the strange way I did sometimes, but I didn’t know
“I don’t know,” is all that came to mind at the time.
A couple of weeks later, after seeing no change in my blinking pattern, my mom took
me to see an eye doctor. The doctor took eye test after eye test and found nothing wrong.
He figured that the stress of seeing my mom sick made me develop a nervous twitch.
The doctor assured my mom that it would go away after everything settled down. He
was right. The rapid eye blinking disappeared suddenly, just as it had appeared a few
months earlier. I would find out many years later that my eye blinking episodes were the
onset of Tourette’s Syndrome.
Another word for these symptoms is “tics”. A tic is defined as: “An involuntary,
sudden, rapid, recurrent, motor movement or vocalization.” These tics would become
the bane of my existence.
At around the same time as my eye blinking tic began, my behavior at school and
home became very irrational. Most of the kids in Kindergarten had many friends to
choose from. The only friend I had was myself. In class I kicked or hit anyone who
dared venture too close to my desk. I flared up so often that my teacher often asked me if
I took Karate.
At home I was very defiant. I was always hitting and kicking my poor brother and out
pet dog. I was angry, had a short temper, and a smart mouth. I talked back, threw
temper tantrums over nothing, and I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. One minute I
would be fine. The next minute I would be in a rage.
All of these behaviors are common in children with Tourette Syndrome.
My mom had always asked me to say I was sorry whenever I caused trouble in the
past, which I had always done. During this new phase the only word I would ever say
when my mom asked me to apologize was the word “no.”
My mother didn’t know what had come over me. I knew I was sorry each time I had
done something bad. For most people the words “I’m sorry” would be very easy words
to say, but I flat out refused.
“Get in your room!” my mom would yell.
“I’m not going in there!” I would shout back.
“If you don’t get in there right now your father is going to give you a spanking when he
gets home!” my mom would scream.
I lived in fear of my dad’s spankings. I had received them numerous times in the past
and the threat of them was the only thing that was kind of keeping me under control.
Whenever my brother or I did anything that warranted a spanking my dad would let u
know immediately. When my dad first started spanking us he hit us with his open
hand on our bare bottoms. A few years later my dad graduated to the wooden mixing
spoon. There were “special occasions” that called for something a little more drastic.
The first “special occasion” was when my brother and I got lost at my dad’s softball
game. He told us to come back an hour after his game began. I was eight and my brother
was six. We didn’t have watches. We went to play in a creek and lost track of the time.
When my brother and I finally did make it back it was nearly dark and the softball field
was empty. We were worried that we had been left there. We cried our eyes out for about
fifteen minutes. Just then we saw our dad pull into the parking lot. Apparently he had
been just as worried as we had, although he didn’t show it. My brother and I were so
happy to see him that we immediately stopped crying. Our happiness turned to sadness
once more when my dad told us that we were in for “it” when we got home. My brother
and I had gone from sad to happy to sad all in just a few minutes. Now we were crying
uncontrollably again, because we knew something bad would happen to us when we got
home. My dad told us about the “beating of the century” that we would receive when we
got there. We knew we would get severely punished, but we didn’t know how. My dad
stopped at a grocery store on the way home, which prolonged the agony. My brother and
I cried the entire way home. As soon as we got in the door my dad told us to go to our
rooms. He told us that he wanted us to have our pants down when he came in. I heard
my dad go into my brother’s room and tell him that his butt would be so red that he
wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week. Then I heard him cry like a baby with each
smack. The anticipation of waiting for my dad to come into my room was unbearable.
When he did come in I noticed that he had a new spanking tool in his hand. It was a
small, solid, plastic, white rod. It was round, about two feet long and about an inch in
diameter. He called it the “plastic stick”. I thought about how much it was going to hurt.
Boy, did it.
My dad continued using the “plastic stick” for about two years. He probably thought
it was the best spanking tool he’s ever had. I’ll never forget the time he used it on me
one evening when I was nine years old. I had earned horrible grades at school one
quarter. His solution for solving the problem wasn’t to start helping me with my
homework more often. It was to hit me with the “plastic stick”. By then I thought I was
too old to cry. During the previous year the only times I had cried were when my dad hit
me with the “plastic stick. I kept hoping for the day when I would survive a spanking
without crying. I thought that if I did, my dad would think that the “plastic stick” had no
effect on me anymore, and stop using it. That never happened. Usually, after the first
swat I would be hysterical. I’m not sure which was hurt more, my rear-end, or my pride.
I learned to accept my punishments, even though I never agreed with them. I never
thought my actions warranted beatings with the “plastic stick”, but my father felt
otherwise. None of the other kids’ fathers used a “plastic stick” on them, so why did
mine? I thought it might have been because my behavior was worse than the other kids’.
I wasn’t sure. I just knew that the man who hit me was my father, so what choice did I
I didn’t know that during the year I turned ten I would finally get my wish. I went to
my room to wait for the inevitable, just as I had done many times before. I stood
there, bent over, facing the wall adorned with the jungle animal wallpaper. My father
brought his right arm back. He raised it high over his head. Then his arm and hand
lowered with a quick swatting motion. He whacked me once with the “plastic stick”. I
heard it crack as it caught the meaty part of the right side of my rear end flush. The
“plastic stick” was either so worn out, I was too big, or he hit me really hard. Whatever
the reason was, the “plastic stick” snapped in two. I felt like laughing, but I didn’t dare.
If I had laughed, my dad probably would have got something worse to hit me with. I was
lucky that I had gotten away with only one smack. I didn’t even cry. It was the last I
would ever see of the “plastic stick”. I had finally outlasted it. My dad never hit my
brother or I, or spanked either one of us again.