For many years I thought I had dreamed this scene, until I was talking with my mother about 10 years ago. She confirmed that it had actually happened, and added a couple of things that I had wiped from my memory. When I think about this it still makes me feel ill - and I believe that it is a perfect example of one person driving another person insane. Even if only temporarily.
My parents lived about an hour and a half away from me, as I was living and working in Sydney. They had asked if I wanted to go with them to North Queensland to visit my father's side of the family, and meet up again with cousins I hadn't seen since I was a small child. I was 20 at the time. It seemed like a marvellous opportunity to me, as I was rarely able to have a holiday, so I happily agreed. Foolishly agreed.
|Mt Warning and Canefields|
The morning arrived when they picked me up from my place, and we set off on the long drive to Innisfail. The roads in those days were very poor, even the main highway was full of huge ruts and holes, and was only two lanes wide in total. I want to explain here that my father was an abusive man, not physically, but the verbal abuse was often non-stop. He had an obsessive attachment to his "family" (we were never considered his family!) - at times he bordered on being fanatical about them. He could not wait to get to see them, and was like someone demented at times.
The first morning was unpleasant to say the least, as I had an upset stomach and we kept having to stop at every place with a toilet, for hours! Most of the morning my mother was driving, and my father was loudly cursing her, ordering her about, and generally speaking to her as though she was something stuck on the bottom of his shoe. I kept changing the subject when he started to rant and rave. He wasn't best pleased by this, and would soon start again, calling mum every name under the sun, criticising her driving, and in general being his usual pleasant self. Our afternoon went much the same way, with him raving and raving on. He wouldn't let us stop and set up the pop top van until it was well after dark. We then had to cook a meal. By the time this was over and we had showered it was nearly midnight. We were all exhausted.
Next morning - more of the same dish - We were up at dawn and on the road. There were no stops allowed unless it was for fuel. No side trips. No stops for photos, just endless miles of driving. I had never actually been trapped in the car with him, on a long journey, before this. It was easier when we were at home, as you could walk out and escape his tirade of abuse.
He started on me when I defended mum, and when I politely asked him if he could please please leave her alone, as it was upsetting us. I didn't really mind if he directed it at me, at least it gave mum a break. The afternoon was a repeat, and by this time my nerves were very frayed. He said something particularly disgusting about mum, and I was so angry I told him he was being foul. He turned around from the front seat and slapped me across the face. I had actually forgotten this until mum reminded me.
Now he had hurt me physically as well as shredding mum's and my nerves into strips. Once again we were not allowed to stop until well after dark. Mum walked across the camping ground to the toilet block and I started to help with erecting the pop top. We had a canvas annexe which was tied down with guy ropes, the way a tent is. Dad was STILL ranting and raving and swearing. I was handing him tent pegs etc., when he bellowed at me " Where's the %&%& hatchet?". Something inside me snapped.
To this day I cannot remember what happened for the next minute or two. Suddenly I 'woke' to hear mum quietly calling my name - and to my horror I realised that I had been about to smash the hatchet down into dad's head. I was standing behind him with the hatchet raised ready to slam it down into his brain. Mum quietly said for me to go and wash and take a break, that she would take over for me. I shook from head to toe, and all I could feel was sheer horror. If she hadn't come back at that precise moment - I would have murdered my father.
Since that night I have felt the utmost sympathy for people who murder "in the heat of the moment" and who truly cannot remember what happened. I believe them! I have been in their shoes, and if not for my mum the outcome would have been unthinkable. The one person who managed to stop my father was actually my cousin. When dad was saying revolting things about mum, my cousin only stood it for a very short while, and he then said quietly "uncle, if you don't stop I am going to lay you out". And do you know what? My father stopped.