AND THE TEARDROP WOULDN’T FALL
From childhood you learn to shield yourself from misfortune, cruelty and any abject encounters that will pull you from this cocoon of innocence. I learnt very early. There are no years in my young life when I can ever recall being happy, although, back in those days I knew no difference. The hellish life was all there was. From my maturity now, I have reasoned, assessed and sadly accepted that my position as a stepson to my mother’s partner was the catalyst for the beatings.
The smell of booze on his breath was the first alarm bell that would be triggered in my young head. The shouting downstairs and the smacking of my mother always preceded the oncoming violence. At that tender age, how was I to understand the frailties of relationships? I always heard my mother’s anguished whimpers, declaring her love for this man, but it did little to quell the onslaught I received. I also learnt another sad fact. The more I cried the more he hit me. It didn’t take long before I built up an immune system to lesson the attacks. No more tears, that was the answer. However severe his hands laid into me, there would be no more tears. In my head I would repeat the words ‘and the teardrop wouldn’t fall.’ over and over again. Faster and faster I would repeat the words to my inner self, until his debauchered assault had finished.
And the teardrop wouldn’t fall…thwack…and the teardrop wouldn’t fall…thwack…and the…
By the time I was eight years old I was well into the routine. I had become hardened to life. His fists were tolerated, and the beatings, although painful, decreased, as he gained less and less satisfaction from striking a seemingly lifeless corpse. In fact I actually drew some pleasure from him when he only kicked out at me like a dog instead of the usual tirade of fists.
The shields I had erected for survival, unfortunately, didn’t benefit me in later years. The scars of childhood stayed with me, even when he had left my life and found pastures new.
The early death of my mother is a good example. I was seventeen when I stood over her coffin in that dreary churchyard. Handfuls of dirt fell haphazardly into the pit. Someone nudged me into joining in the ceremony. My memory gave out visions of her soft blonde hair as she nursed me as a toddler, then memories as she looked on as I was beaten like an animal, then a vision of her deep blue eyes before they had become forever cold in her later life. The emotion welled up inside but then the over-riding protection system fell into place…and the teardrop wouldn’t fall…
By the age of twenty I had been advised to go for counselling from my doctor. My short temper, unsociable behaviour and overall attitude had become worrying. The therapy led to hours of reliving my past with conversations with white-coated do-gooders who thought they could unlock my past with help from a textbook. To no avail, and I wasn’t really bothered.
At twenty-four I was married to a woman who tolerated all my black moods, unruly behaviour and general apathy to life. She didn’t warrant the diagnosis two years later that would put her on life support systems. The days and nights that I sat with her were endless and the constant beeping of the machines at her side were deafening. Yet still I sat there, looking at this wonderful woman who had given her heart to me and all I could respond with would be the coldness of my dark interior and the chilling words stifling my true emotions…and the teardrop wouldn’t fall…
How I deserved the following years I’ll never know. My wife, through the grace of some God, had recovered and also given me a daughter. These were treasures I truly believed shouldn’t have come my way. I watched, nervously, as my fragile child suckled and then stumbled gamely upon its first months of life. Her chubby legs faltered along the path of an unknown future, clearly dependant on me and her mother. And then, that bizarre, never to be forgotten moment when she looked towards me as she opened her arms as if seeking comfort from a strange and bewildering world, the moment that a child looks for help. She mouthed her first words into my inquisitive face.
‘Da, dah… Da,dah.
I picked her up and held her close, so close it was nearly impossible for her to breath. Our cheeks touched, our noses rubbed and two lives became one, and then my life opened up.
‘And the teardrop fell…’