Shame and Punishment – scars that never heal

Dear Mum

This letter is hard to write, but it was the first time I had ever seen you lose control totally and it scared the crap out of me.

I can now understand the turmoil of your mind at this time, but there is no guide book for kids dealing with an exploding family situation.

I don’t really know the year this occurred; but it would have been when I was about six or seven, I know Chloe was away at Boarding School and Terry was not yet at school.  I also know to my detriment, that it was at the time the Martins had the general store opposite the school.

I was in the habit of nicking the small change lying around the house and using this money to buy loose biscuits at the store during lunch time.

Instead of Mr Martin telling me he was aware of my scheming and it should stop, he called you while I was at school.

I rode home in the heat, unaware of what lay in store but the moment I stepped in the back door, I knew something was dreadfully wrong.

“You are a thief, you are a thief and you have embarrassed the family!”

The words were spat at me and your face turned an ugly shade of purple, suffused with rage

You grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, all the while whacking me around the bum and the legs with the wooden spoon.

I was dragged across the kitchen floor and thrust into the cupboard next to the slow combustion stove, the cupboard also housed the hot water service which ran off the stove.

It was already hot outside but it was a furnace inside that cupboard. Every time I tried to get out, you would push the door shut with the end of the hair broom, it was like you could not bring yourself to touch me.

I don’t know how long this went on, but finally I escaped; a tear and sweat sodden rag of a kid sent off to my bedroom with the screaming rage still ringing in my ears.

We did have a nanny at home at the time, I can’t remember which one, but I do remember running past her, across the dining room to my bedroom and the look of horror on her face.

I lay on my bed, shaking, listening to your screaming rage and dreading the time when Dad would come home and I would be punished again.

When he did get in, I listened from the safety of the bedroom, as the whole story of my thievery was recounted and I heard the steps as he came storming into the room.

Sheer dread could only barely describe my thoughts as I prepared myself for another belting, but he saw me laying on the bed and something changed.

He turned and left the room; I heard him say “I think he has had enough” and the screaming started again; “You never support me”.

I waited for the yelling to stop and, slowly, as I realised he was not coming back, I could fall asleep.

Something changed that day, Mum; I lost the person who would always shield me from the excesses of my father; I lost my haven!

I try hard to understand what you were going through at the time and I know this was not the mother I loved, but when you are that age and love is torn away by furious rage, there is a loss that can never be truly restored.

The shame of that thieving, little boy has never truly left me.

I am so sorry.

Love

Bruce

 

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