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My father was a brutal man
My father was a brutal man. Although this wasn't the whole of him. He was also super intelligent, refined, handsome, well educated and charming. Sadly, these attributes made him more dangerous because it meant he was very plausible and able to convince anyone who questioned the bruising on my mother's face that she had simply met with an unfortunate accident. That she should have had many unfortunate accidents, all resulting in a black eye and split lip will have been suspicious to some, but did not raise sufficient alarm for anyone to intervene. When he had obviously gone too far, the whole family would be called together, well not us the children, but his parents and older brothers. He would be warned not to be excessive and my mother would be reminded that if she didn't provoke him by not doing what was expected of her, then she wouldn't get hurt. It was her fault you see. Well it wasn't, none of it. She was the most loving, caring and gentle of people - she did everything she could to please. But in time I think even she came to believe that she was not deserving of anything better. She became a classic textbook case of a victim - "I love him and if I am a better wife, he will change"; "he doesn't really mean it, he was upset"; "he cried when he saw the state of my face, he really does mean to change". He never lost an opportunity to let her know that she was worthless - he actually used to say "I brought you out of the gutter" (my mum was from a modest family and hadn't had much of an education - her parents had died while she was young and from the age of 14 she had been virtually alone). There were though other times, when she knew this was nothing to do with her - the advice she gave me was the opposite to what she received from her in-laws - "you never need to put up with this; if he hits you once, there will always be another time; this isn't love, this is control - love doesn't do this; even if you have children, get out of it and stay out of it". She didn't heed her own advice though. One thing I remember, after one particularly violent beating, is her telling me - I was nine or ten years old, "one day your father will kill me". That thought plagued me. Although he didn't kill her, the physical and mental damage he inflicted upon her was to cause her great suffering as she grew older. But then, as a small child, I convinced myself that she was going to die. I used to get up in the night after my father had gone out (he often went out and stayed all night with one of his women 'friends') and creep to her bedside to see if her chest was rising up and down - proof she was still alive. She never knew that I did this and I don't remember how long I did it for but I used to wake up convinced that she was dead, he had killed her - the fear of being abandoned by her - which is how I saw it, was nauseatingly terrifying and I so desperately needed to see that she was still breathing. As an adult I suffer from insomnia and I wonder if this is where my problem with sleeping started - there's a thought. My wonderful mum passed on some years ago and I will never hear her breathing again. But now I've got this off my chest, perhaps I'll sleep tonight.
You're an old man now
You're an old man now, bed-ridden and dying of cancer. You have not the power, strength or inclination to beat a woman... shame though that it took thoughts of meeting your God for you to find the real man inside. The one who knew how to be gentle and loving. The one who doesn't smile from the eyes while hurling abuse and threats from the mouth. I never saw a smile so chilling. Am I convinced though, that would that you could, you wouldn't repeat the violence that you wreaked upon me for so many years? I am not... but I choose to remember you as I now see you - it means I can dispense with the anger that has threatened to engulf me. It means I will remember you in death as you never were in life. This is good. But don't mistake it for forgiveness... let that be the call of some pious religious leader - I have no thoughts of that, I simply need to live in peace. One thing though - as I brush your hair and feed you your favourite foods, as I cream your skin and massage your feet, these acts of love are my gift to you, old husband so that you are sure that you know what love is as you depart this world. I could easily wreak my revenge... you would not be able to defend yourself from any blows I could aim at you, although I am none too young myself. But to hurt you isn't inside of me and I know that abuse of the elderly is domestic violence too - I did not survive it so that I could go on and inflict it. But there is a saying "what goes around comes around" so you should count yourself lucky. Sleep well.