Thursday, September 20, 2007

Raising Your Hands to Your Father (1978)

Excerpt no 6 : Africa Will Always Break Your Heart

One Friday night returning from the pub I found my brother and a girlfriend visiting my folks. They had driven from Pretoria as Bloemfontein University had no medical faculty at the time and Pretoria was the closest. I was in a dark mood because of a situation at work and needed the support of my family.
“Evening all. Boy, did I have a rough day.”

I must have interrupted my brother in mid-sentence. He brushed me off:
“Shut up. We’re busy talking.”
“Go and fuck yourself!”
I retaliated.

I went to the backroom to collect a few belongings before leaving to spend the weekend with a few girlfriends. I was disgusted and hurt as nobody recognised that I needed a patient ear and shoulder to cry on.

My father followed me and started pushing me about.
“You will now explain this conflict between your brother and yourself! You will do it now!”
He shouted at me, acting as if he was not aware that he was largely to blame for the sibling rivalry that existed between us.

I shouted back at him:
“Go and ask your first-born and favourite and fucking leave me alone!”

There was always alcohol in our house and my dad had clearly put quite a lot of it under his belt as my mom was in the middle of yet another affair. She had later left home for a few weeks to be with her lover, and he needed to ease the pain a bit.

“Explain yourself!”
He pushed me in the chest with a stiff finger.

“Don’t do that. It hurts, it’s degrading and I do outrank you.”
I said.

He continued pushing me. I threatened:
“I will fuck you up! Please stop it!”

“Try me!”
He repeatedly responded.

No amount of begging and threatening could make him stop. In his hurt he was clearly looking for a fight, and I was the chosen one to take his hurt out on. Had I known that he was hurt just as badly as I was, things might have turned out differently. He pushed me one time too many before I’d had enough. I lashed out and hit him.

Into that blow went all my pent up longing and frustration accumulated over the years of trying to get his love and attention. He managed to duck in time and I landed a glancing blow on his cheek, splitting the skin and rolling it up all the way to his left ear. He bounced off the wall and charged at me, the white of his jawbone showing. I was ready and hit him with my left hand breaking his jaw in two places.

That took the fight out of him. I was mortified, and when my rage died down I tried to convey my remorse.

“I’m sorry dad! You were looking for it! Please forgive me! I truly am fucking sorry.”

To raise your hands against your father was totally unheard of. He has never forgiven me for this and I have not forgiven myself either. I never can as it’s too deep-rooted a belief.

I took him to the military hospital where we concocted a story about a car accident. They clearly did not believe us as we were reeking of alcohol, my eyes were red from crying and no car accident could have inflicted the type of injuries he had. He got hospitalised for a week and underwent surgery to wire up his jaw.

Even though we lived and worked in the same city I did not visit my parents’ house for over three months after this incident. Notes were left by my father under the windscreen-wipers of my car urging me to meet with him at the golf club for a drink. I ignored them all until he one day confronted me in person, smartly saluted me and officially invited me for a drink.
“Lieutenant, would you do me the honour of joining me for a drink tonight?”

“It will be my pleasure. I will meet you after work.”
I responded.

That night I went to meet with him, and we got drunk together as two adversaries correctly would once the dust had settled.


Anonymous said...

hello again friend, we must get in touch again. good to see your ok. email me

jon said...

One of the saddest stories I've ever read in my life.

jon - a son who has recently lost his father.

Gerrie Hugo said...

And one that still haunts me Jon. Thanks for the comment.