But it was hard to pretend after I witnessed one of those brutal beatings, the first and only time I actually saw, and not just heard, the brutality that my father was capable of.
As my grandma used to say, “Ain’t that just the saddest thing? My father never beat us, but sometimes I think a beating would have been less hurtful than hearing the sounds of him using my mother as his punching bag. Usually I just shook like a damn leaf trying to hold on during a brisk fall breeze. Her legs were splayed wide open and my father was straddling her, pummeling her with clenched fists.
The monster would appear, wreaking havoc on our lives, and then the rumbling would stop and we’d hear our mother’s muffled cries. The sound of the silence was the worst because that’s when Deanna and I would wonder if our mother were alive or dead and if we would be next.
Over the years, I managed to collect facts and figures — where his mother and father were born, important dates and some highlights of his life.
But I knew little of his family's financial struggles during the Great Depression and almost nothing about his older brother's death.
Robert and Damian joined our Dad Kyle Spence knows how to entertain his two-year-old son Michael for hours.
Kyle tied a rope to a laundry basket, set Michael inside, then pulled the basket around the yard.
Helping Dad Write His Memoir But I got a chance to learn some of that singular information when we wrote his memoir together.
Although my father's recollection of some events was sketchy, he was able to share feelings he'd had as a teenager and thrill his grandsons and me with tales of growing up in the 1920s and ‘30s.
When I overheard my father reminiscing with his old Army buddy about how desperate they felt as kids having to do menial tasks to earn money that would help their families — even plucking chickens — I realized I hadn’t heard much about his emotional life growing up.
In fact, other than the few stories he told about his two brothers, he didn’t talk about his childhood.
Our family still shares his memoir, even though Dad is no longer around.