My Dad was a big man with a violent temper. He prided himself in never running away or backing-down from a fight.
I recall as boy being in a bar with him; when something broke out that even resembled a fight he was ready to be involved, even if it wasn’t his quarrel.
Dad was physical at home too.
Physical abuse in a family is what all the experts say it is; it’s a family secret. If ever talked about it is never talked out. Before my two older sisters died I made efforts to engage them in a conversation about how it effected their lives. My sisters did not want me to dredge up the past and I respect that.
Mom Drew a Line in the Sand; With a Ball Bat
When I was about fourteen my Mom and Dad were arguing one day. There were days that year they didn’t argue (March 22 and September 15). It was loud and threatening. Dad slammed his fist on the table a couple of times. The effect was awful. It made me sick. When younger I tearfully and passionately begged Dad to stop. By at this time in my life I was worn down and tired. I walked out to the barnyard and tossed a baseball in the air and hit it with my baseball bat as far as I could.
Things died down as they usually did. Mom stormed out of the house and into the barnyard. She said, “Let me have your bat.” I handed it to her and she walked back to the house like Mickey Mantle walking to the plate with the bases loaded, two outs, down by three, in the bottom of the ninth.
“What’s the bat for, Mom?” I said. Nobody talks to Mantle in a clutch situation and like Mantle she didn’t respond. She was in the “zone.”
After five minutes I became worried and started toward the back door. Before I got there Mom walked out with the bat in her hand and handed it back to me. She walked to the car and drove away. I checked the bat for blood. There was none. I wondered; now that my prints are on the bat was Mom trying to frame me?
I stood the bat next to the back door and walked in. I was really expecting to find Dad on the floor or in bed in a pool of blood; instead he was sitting at the kitchen table. There were no visible signs of physical trauma, but he was noticeably shaken. There was a marked twitch in his left eye. Also I detected his fingers had a slight tremor. He gazed out the window; and said nothing to recognize my presence.
“Are you okay,” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m okay,” Dad said looking very much as if the man who just saw his life flash before his eyes.
“What about Mom?” I said.
“It’s probably best ya leave Mom alone for a while,” Dad said. “Women go through their change and it’s best not to mess with them while they do.” (This was Dads’ only advice to me about women and marriage.)
Peace At Last, Peace At Last
There was a period of about six months when Mom and Dad didn’t even speak to one another. That made for a peaceful household. The sniping and arguing never returned to the level before Mom’s menopause.
I don’t know what Mom did with that bat, but the results were unquestionably effective. Mom probably wondered why she hadn’t grabbed a bat twenty-five years earlier. Dad was probably wondering if the next time she might use it. Nevertheless when I wasn’t using it; I kept it hid.