The Very Bad Fight

This was a very bad time for my parents. I think that each of them had suffered some bad luck and setbacks. I just have an image of two bitterly unhappy, frustrated people.

Mum took me with her to the Eric Martin Institute, a local mental hospital or psychiatric care facility. I remember going with her on the bus up Fort Street, and seeing this tall building with many windows. I’m sure that I must have asked her why she had to go there. It would have been the main question on my mind. She must have gone for some kind of therapy session or more likely, to have a prescription filled for lithium or some other medication.


 

victoria_uvic_smFor some reason, Dad was no longer was employed at the University of Victoria. He had been working in the audio-visual department for a while, and had seemed pretty happy about it too.

Perhaps he had only been on a temporary contract there, or perhaps he was laid off for some reason. In any case, he now had no job and was frustrated. Both my parents may have been drinking more frequently.

My image of Dad at this time was of a dark, intense and unshaven face, and dishevelled, uncombed dark silvery hair.
victoria_dad1_sm


One day, they had a huge screaming match. The rest is pretty sketchy. It was mid-day or early afternoon. The front door was open, and Mum was in the front hallway, with her back to the open door. She was yelling at Dad, and he was coming down the hall towards her saying “Dammit Angela!”

There was a fight, and a struggle, and a scuffle. Mum fell backwards down the front steps. Did Dad push her, or did he hit her and did she fall backwards? It has never been clear in my mind.

There were seven or eight cement steps that led down to the little side walk on Poppy’s front lawn. This is what Mum fell down, backwards, and she was now badly hurt.

While they were fighting, I had been standing off to side avoiding the fight, but I had watched my Mother disappear out the front door and had heard a noise outside on the pavement. There was a moment of silence, and then she started slowly coming back up the stairs.

I heard her crying before I saw her. This is one of my saddest images of my mother in one of her worst moments. It was the type of crying that Lucy used to do on “I Love Lucy”. Mum was bawling like a little girl. Blood was pouring from her head and down her face, dripping down onto the front of her ruffly yellow dress. She limped back up the front stairs holding her right arm and crying, crying, crying…

I looked at my Dad with shock. I looked at my Mum and then back at Dad again. His angry face gave way to a look of guilt and regret.

“Why did you do that?” I harped at him. I was shocked and desperately upset at what I had just seen. Why did this have to happen? Mum had a dislocated shoulder, and it never healed properly. She always had a big bony bump on her right shoulder after that.

Minutes, maybe hours later, Dad told me of another time when he had banged Mum’s head into their fridge. I asked him why he would do that to her. He said that sometimes she made him so mad, he just couldn’t help it. He said “I couldn’t help myself”, and whether I like it now or not, he did sound helpless about it. Like he just didn’t know what to do about it.

Why would he hurt her like that? I was so angry with him. It never made sense to me. I would get punished if I hurt Kim (even accidentally), but who punished him for what he did?

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The memoir and family history of E. John Love