How does a child recover from repeated violent betrayal by its mother? That is a question I don’t have an answer to. The harm this brutal mistreatment would do to a person is very easy to see, the science and art of brain and soul plasticity, and the ability to heal from trauma is a much more complicated story. I think of my father, from his earliest memory, experiencing the violent hatred of his mother. His father was afraid of his tiny wife’s rage and powerless to protect his young son, who found out early that he was on his own in a very cruel world. How does that kid ever trust anybody after that start in life?
That’s why my father told me, in the middle of the last night of his life, in that wavering dying man’s voice, that his life was basically over by the time he was two. He doesn’t remember being shaken, left cold, roughly changed, harshly wiped, ignored and the rest of what a helpless young baby must simply take. The first things he can consciously remember is the mother who gave him life, glaring at him with open hatred and slashing him in the face with a thick, rough length of cord.
It’s hard to imagine this kid growing up to have a sense of humor, and a certain charisma, and being an idealist and a friend of the underdog. He was also sometimes subject to spells of uncontrollable laughter, spells I am also subject to, every ten years or so. Or maybe that’s all predictable, I don’t know. These things lend themselves to discussion, not pronouncements. We don’t, any of us, know what would become of us if we had the start in life that someone like my father had. Any echo of that shit in our own lives is enough to stop us in our tracks.