A mother’s cruelty

I thought my father was impervious to pain. But I reckoned without his mother.

Mark Anthony

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Photo by Janko Ferlic: https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photography-of-man-in-hoodie-603559/

A firework exploded in my father’s face when he was a child, requiring him to undergo several painful skin grafts. I was with him when he was stung on the tongue by a wasp at the beginning of a five-hour fishing match. He completed the match with barely a word about it. When I was eight years old, my father was involved in a car crash that dislocated both of his knees and propelled him through the windscreen of his vehicle. I distinctly remember him coming home from hospital just a few hours later and casually picking pieces of bloody glass from his scalp.

As a child, I was convinced that he was impervious to pain. But as an adult, I realised that there was one thing almost guaranteed to cause him pain.

And that one thing was his own mother.

She had been married in an age in which husbands placed their wives on a pedestal. Unfortunately, when my grandfather died, she — consciously or otherwise — expected everyone else to treat her in the same way.

Even now that I am the same age as my father was when his mother finally died, I have never figured out whether she was unfeeling or actually cruel.

It was as if she had a limited capacity for affection and lacked both the will and propensity to share that affection equally or equitably. One year, she bought me a brand new bicycle for Christmas while my sister received a small plastic boat to play with in the bath. On another occasion, my sister got a non-brand doll, the kind you might pick up at a low-end street market. I received a heavy and expensive gold neck-chain.

After my grandfather passed away, my father would visit his mother daily at her home in London, often to be berated about one thing or another.

When she began to struggle to cope on her own, he moved her closer to our family home. That should have made my father’s life easier. It didn’t.

Instead of visiting once a day, she now expected him to visit three times per day: before he went to work; during his lunch break; and again after work.

Each visit was accompanied by some form of emotional cruelty: he arrived late; he left…

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Mark Anthony

Mark is a journalist, author, podcaster and daily live-streamer specialising in the field of demolition and construction.