In Retrospect

I must have been the only child in the world who wanted her parents to divorce. It was the eighties and all around us marriages were crumbling and children were pleading with their parents to stay together. Every night I prayed that my own parents wouldn’t.

I found it almost impossible to cope with the violence that could erupt at any moment in the house I called ‘home’. Especially when my father came home drunk and, shouting and smashing things. On these nights my stomach twisted itself into knots of fear. There was also anger there too. On those nights I hated him. On those nights I wanted to kill him. I live with the memory that I wished my own father dead. That is a painful admission to have to make.

I have forgiven but not forgotten. When I was very young my father was the best parent you could hope for. Our house was brimming over with books (ooh, get that, a cultured working class household) and I was taken to museums and art galleries. I never travelled abroad until I was eleven but I was taken to almost every ‘historic city’ in the UK. We visited historic monuments, great cathedrals and National Trust Houses. I was never deprived. There was those who would say that I had been somewhat spoilt.

When I was seven my father seemed to take on a whole new personality. He was distant and morose and for the first time he slapped me. His father had died and my brother had just been born. He seemed to fall apart. He came home from his father’s funeral and threw the Christmas presents my mother had thoughtfully hidden in the wardrobe down the stairs. He also attacked my mother: an unforgivable act without the context.

I see it through different coloured lenses now. I am convinced that my father had an undiagnosed nervous breakdown. A new son and a deceased father were a heavy burden to bear in the space of a few months. And he couldn’t tell us what was going on inside of him because men of his class simply did not to that. And yet women of that class spoke about their emotional problems. They may have received little help – a trip to the doctors and a prescription for ‘mothers little helpers’ but they had one another to confide in. My father had nothing. No one thought to ask how he was feeling because he was a man and a man is supposed to be ‘in control’. Permanently. Now how fair is that?


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2 Responses to “In Retrospect”

  1. Pole to Polar: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive Says:

    I was desperate for my parents to divorce. We begged them to. It is awful to go through. x


  2. Louise Says:

    It’s nuts – I think my parents were motivated by the myth that it’s best to stay together for the sake of the kids.

    My dad sometimes kicked in doors when he came home drunk.

    Those images never leave you.


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