© 2010 Lynsey

298 – A good man.

He was a good man. A strong man. A hard working man. A loving man. A family man. A man fighting to eke out a living for his wife and ten kids. A man with limited education, limited options, limited support. A man who deserved better, but the times conspired against him – against them all, and nothing better was forthcoming.

The man eased the aches and pains of his heavy physical work and the soul crushing poverty of his circumstances with an occasional visit to the local pub. Easy to do – after a stinking hot day labouring – nothing sweeter than a nice cold beer and a chat with his mates. Easy to have a second beer. Easy to have fun, have a laugh, have a bet.

The man once bet he could carry a sack of coal the length of the main street of the town. A sack of coal weighed one hundredweight – 112 pounds (50 kg). The length of the main street – one mile (1.6 km). What the wager was doesn’t really matter. Yes, the man did walk the mile (up hill) carrying a one hundredweight sack of coal. Whether the wager was for beer or for money the end result was the same – the night ended in mind numbing drunkenness, boastful stories, and little food on the table.

The man’s wife raised the children as best she could. Some things were unchangeable. Food was cooked over a huge open fire, and this also provided any hot water and heating. The house was too small, too drafty, and the earth floor did nothing to improve the health and hygiene of the family. And when the man came home – finally – full of alcohol and bitterness – keeping quiet was the safest option. The kids often slept two in a bed – for warmth, because there was simply no other option, and for a couple of the boys there was some safety in numbers. It was nothing for the man to stagger home having lost his bicycle ‘somewhere down the road’ – and he’d chase the boys out of bed in the early hours of the morning to find the bike. Failure was not an option – out in the freezing dark with a kerosene lantern, no shoes – find the bike and get back home. The kids would grumble about the publican’s kids having shoes – their father bought them for them.

The pattern continued – relentless hard work followed by hard drinking, not enough money, frustration, anger, and eventually the abuse escalated to threats and violence directed towards the kids and his wife. One night, when the boys were aged about 10-12, the man’s inner demons could not be quietened and he set about screaming and beating his wife. He punched and pounded her. His temper and the alcohol took away all control and he attempted to push his wife into the open fire. She fought for her life, but the man’s strength and rage pushed her to the flames. The older of the two boys could take it no more and he punched the man in the jaw with all his force. With the surprise and the force of the blow the man went down, the woman was safe. The boy managed to force the bruised man out of the house, and with a rage fuelled by the years of abuse, gave the man a sound beating. The younger brother comforted his mother.

While he had saved his mother, beating his father was not something the boy was proud of. He was humiliated and hurt by his father’s betrayal. It’s impossible to say he grew up that day – he’d been more than an adult for years, caring for his mother and his younger brother. He left the family home and grew in himself. He met a woman; they fell in love, and raised six kids. He remained close to his mother until her death, and remained very close to his brother until his. He had compassion for his father, but he knew the source of the family’s pain and shame. He never drank alcohol claiming he knew all about it already. In spite of, and in part because of, his childhood experiences he was a hard-working, patient, and considerate man. He was a good man.

20. Every day say thank you.
37. Every day fight for what’s worth fighting for. Pick your battles.
48. Every day there are things you can’t change. You can change the way you think about them and deal with them.

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