Drama Contemporary

"Don’t you remember? Mum, just last week you were telling me how bad it was. I told you stop complaining because it was ages ago, but you wouldn’t. And now this. Why?"

I was flabbergasted. What does she mean she can’t remember it? This was not a fun street party or a nice walk in the zoo. Nor was it a one-time thing. It happened so many times that we lost count. Dad spent the day in the pub, then came home and beat us all up with his slipper or belt. He was angry when he was drunk, which pretty much meant all the time. Loud noises were so common in our house that the neighbors stopped caring. Oh, it’s just the Krutts, you can ignore them dear, they do it every single day. Now how was that gingerbread recipe of yours?

I was also flabbergasted because I had never heard my mother lie until then. She was obsessed with being frank, taking responsibility for her deeds, looking straight in the eyes of people, and telling it like it was. She wore her heart on her sleeve and was proud of it. Yet here she was, standing at the kitchen table opposite to me, stating firmly that these things never happened.

"I know how you feel about him’"I said to her, trying to sound empathetic. "You loved him, but he made our life hell. Right, mum?"

"What are you talking about?" she asked, with her face turning into a pale mesh of wrinkles. Her eyes were narrowed, her brows frowned so much they almost touched each other above her thin nose. She looked genuinely startled, which in turn startled me. Can she truly not remember the worst years of our lives? No, that’s not possible. Maybe she wants to forget it all, but it just doesn’t work like that – you can’t deny something that you talked about ever since you got away from it. She was adamant about constantly reminding me and my brother of what kind of men she didn’t want us to become. It was an obsession she gladly admitted having. Raising her sons to be better than their father, that was her biggest goal in life. And now she claimed the beatings never happened! She didn’t seem drunk, nor high. Was she perhaps having a psychotic episode, some strange fit that erased all bad memories from her mind for a while? I couldn’t tell.

"Mum, look at me. You are wrong, it did happen" I told her solemnly, looking straight into her watery green eyes. The crow’s feet around her eyelids looked oddly realistic, as if a monstrous bird had taken over the control of her battered face. "Dad beat us when he was drunk, which happened all the time. You know that it happened, right?"

"Why are you talking like that? Your father was the most amazing person I ever knew. We had so much fun together as you were growing up! We went on hikes, played board games, he played basketball with you boys in the garden. Are you really saying you can’t remember any of this? Poor little thing."

She stopped talking and caressed my face with the back of her trembling hand.

"Believe me, me were a picture-perfect family. People wished they could swap their lives with ours, just for a day. Honey, there was no beating, never ever. You father loved you and your little brother from the bottom of his heart."

"But he was also drunk most of the time, right?"

"Not at all. He was proud to be abstinent, it was one of the biggest achievements in his life after growing up on a street where every second mand was a drunkard. He used to say, 'Life’s brighter when you’re sober’.  You remember him saying this, don’t you? Honey?"

Her voice was fading away behind me as I was leaving the place. I was just not ready for this. The pain and the constant fear were so inherent to our past as the shabby gray street where we grew up. And our mother was taking this away from us.

‘"t sure is easier to live with happy memories" I thought as I was trotting the steps down to the ground floor. "But you can’t throw reality away as it was a piece of trash, right? It never is only your own reality but shared with others. You can’t just escape from it by believing it never happened, unless you make everyone else believe the same. But you won’t do that to me, no way mum. I need those memories, otherwise I can’t hate my father up until my last breath."

By the time I got to the street, I made up my mind: I won’t talk to mum until she stops her ridiculous game. I was sure it wouldn’t last long. I asked Neil from time to time if she had stopped negating our past and his answer was always "no". But not just that; this two-letter word was invariably wrapped into a long reproach about me ignoring our mother when she was so old and fragile.  At the end I stopped calling. He also didn’t call me, but this was not a surprise; it was always me who kept our relationship alive.

Two years passed. I went on with my life; got promoted in my job and was now a shop manager, played football each Sunday with the best pals in the world, and got myself a girlfriend whom I was preparing to marry and start a family with. I was also preparing to become a proper father to my future child, which made me think about my own family again. I was hating my dad, despising my mum, and ignoring my brother. Didn’t look like a good foundation to build on.

"Hi’" I said into the phone, clearing my dry throat.

"Hi man" Neil replied in a distant voice.

"How’re you guys doing?"

"We’re alive, thanks for asking. How are you?"

"I am doing great, better than ever. How’s mum?"

"She’s okay. Still knows who I am when I am visiting her, which is great. Well, considering to the circumstances."

"What circumstances?"

"Advanced dementia. No more remembering, no more talking about our beautiful past. About anything, in fact."

This was the moment when dad stopped being the worst person in the world in my eyes. That trophy now went to someone else, someone I must live with up until my last breath.

July 27, 2022 16:15

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Prish L
22:52 Aug 04, 2022

I think a lot of people recognize this story, unfortunately. It certainly resonates with me. Great writing!


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Lily Finch
16:39 Aug 01, 2022

Sounds like the mother in this family is a classic abused victim whose mind won't allow her to remember anything bad that went on because somehow her mind cannot handle the truth. Now in an advanced dementia state, she will only remember those bad moments, unfortunately before she stops talking altogether. Well done! LF6


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Aditi Bhowmick
15:53 Aug 01, 2022

Growing up in an abusive household I can assure you that the way the mom tried to discard all those nasty things the husband did was so accurate. I don’t know if it was love or just an attachment feeling or the fear of abandonment but whatever messes up the abused person’s mind let them choose to stick with their abusers even when deep inside their heart they know they shouldn’t. This was such a good read. Nice job :)


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