My mother was a wee thing. She was about five feet three, maybe four inches tall and she was, um, compliant and a push over. She did what she could to keep things calm and running as smoothly as possible, which wasn’t easy, since my Italian father was demanding and selfish and I was, to use her own words, “A brat.” Anyway, she fed my father, which did absolutely nothing to add a single pound to his lean frame, but it kept him sleepy and contained. Believe me when I say dinner was on the table the second the garage door went up. He came in, washed his hands and sat down to eat.
My father never raised a hand to my mother. I never saw him do anything to her that would even suggest violence. He wouldn’t think of hitting a woman, an animal, or child, other than me. He went for me now and then, because I drove him insane, when he actually recognized that I was there, that is, but my tiny mother (my father was six feet three inches tall), would jump in front of him, hold her arms out to the side, usually in a doorway, and say, “RUN.” I ran. So, he never got me. Came close once, but my mother and his sister stopped him. I stayed away from him, not because I was afraid of him, I wasn’t, I stayed away from him because I couldn’t stand him and he knew it.
But I was cleaning today and thinking about all the women I know who were beaten and hurt by their fathers and I suddenly realized that my mother protected me with her entire being. She never would have let him touch me. She wasn’t afraid of him and she would have done anything to stop him from hitting me. I never understood that. She never stood up to him, never, even when I begged her to do so. But for me, she put her body in front of him and said, “NO!” How could I not have understood that before today? She was so small, compared to him. I could see him standing over her, his face filled with anger, his hands balled into fists and she would not move. She knew he wouldn’t hit her, but it didn’t matter, not really, she would do anything to stop him from hitting me. I never thanked her for that. I just ran out of the house, or upstairs to my grandmother’s and locked the door, until he calmed down. It didn’t happen often, maybe just a few times, over the years, because I wouldn’t even sit in the same room he was in, so I rarely saw him. Yet every single morning, he came into my bedroom, while I was still asleep, and woke me when he kissed me on the cheek before he went to work.
My mother told me that he changed after I was born. He didn’t like having her attention taken away from him, so basically, he was just jealous. Whatever.
But my wee mom, standing in front of my furious father was really something to see, for the two seconds that I saw them, before I ran away. I’ll thank her next time I see her and I’m sure we’ll both laugh about it, because it was funny, at least to me, and then she’ll be on her own, because if she ever comes back with him, I won’t be with her to see it. I told him that when he was dying. I know he heard me, even if he was unconscious. Never coming back with him again.
Anyway, mom was tougher than I thought/remembered and now I see her wearing a superhero cape, pushing big guys around and saving the world. Yeah, I think she could do that. She could save the world. You don’t have to be big to take a stand. You just have to know the right thing to do and then do it.