When their father began drinking, upright and authoritative, she placed herself between them and his violence. He raged and threatened: she was his. No one could take her away.
She took them away. He would never raise a fist against her.
Nightmares wet their beds, terrors kept them from school. Safe and surrounding, she kept him at bay. Beyond blunders at university, around relationship sorrows, through career disenchantments, she steered their paths. Fetching and feeding grandchildren, supervising homework, still strong and sturdy in middle-age, she stood solidly behind their constructed careers.
That day he pressed past her, pushed his way into the kitchen, pointed a gun at the oldest, and crunched the youngest under his arm. Little Thomas, only three, bundled into the boot of the car.
‘Why did you open the door?’ they asked her.
‘I didn’t recognise him after all these years.’
Which made them wonder, had she ever really seen him? How had she given them a father like that? And why had she visited him in prison every month, year after year and been with him at the end, grey-haired and shrivelled, weeping through his execution.
By Joy Manné
Painting by Mariana Amorim