I don’t think that my mother ever saw my dad as a person; he was only ever a provider and a “handy man” to her and she would often scream at him to “do this” or “fix that.” She used him as a lever to assert her matriarchal dominance over the extended family, and even though I was too young to understand, I sensed that there was something wrong on an emotional level.
I know that my father didn’t get much support from his side of the family, even though it would have been blatantly obvious to everyone how much my mother tormented him. Eventually he left my mother, and he was seen within my family as the one who broke the marriage rather than my mother, who always portrayed herself as having been wronged.
At the time, I was told that he had gone off with another woman, and I was to believe that for another 20 years or so, although it was never true. He had actually left penniless, a broken wreck, and went into a mental institution with manic depression. Although he recovered somewhat, he never got off the pills. Later, he married a White woman and her colour was seen within my family as a particular affront to my mother.
Looking back, and considering my own experiences of my mother in adulthood, I can now see how she must have made my father’s life a living hell. As a child, however, I was brainwashed into hating him without realising it. For example, my mother would relay her fantasies to me about how I would take revenge against my father on her behalf when I was older, including one scenario where I was to slap him across the face in front of an imaginary audience. If you ever try to tell anybody this kind of thing, they think you’re an immoral misfit because you just don’t say things like this about your mother. I carried on hating my father into my forties. To my great shame, my heart was so closed that I may never have known my father or ever got to see what kind of man he really was.
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