This is just another snippet of a memory. Sheila was still about four years old (give or take a couple of months).
In the late fifties, early sixties, the only source of heating was the coal fire, which was usually lit in one room. Sheila was asleep on the sofa, probably because it was too cold to go to bed. She had on a long thick nightie which came right down to her toes. It had a belt around the waist which Sheila like to tie in knots, I think it was her version of worry beads. She worried about her mam all of the time.
Sheila’s mam sat on the end of the sofa, by Sheila’s feet, keeping them warm. Sheila’s dad was sitting in the arm-chair. Sheila’s brothers weren’t home often, but this cold November, Bobby was home. He had been out for the night with friends and Sheila woke up as the back door closed, and Bobby entered the room. Sheila opened her eyes and smiled. She loved it when her brother was home. She couldn’t have foreseen what was about to happen.
As Bobby entered the room, Sheila’s dad catapulted out of the chair and started yelling at him like a crazy man. Sheila didn’t move, she felt her mam’s hands on her feet. Her mam probably didn’t even realize she was clutching Sheila’s feet, but she was. Bobby looked stunned, and asked what he had done. “You woke your sister, she was sleeping, you woke her”.
Sheila had made no indication to her dad that she was awake, and she was happy to be awake. He mam didn’t move, but hissed “Bobby, go to bed”. Bobby started to walk up the stairs and his dad stood at the bottom yelling at him. “Leave me alone” Bobby shouted, but it didn’t do any good, just made his dad more angry. Bobby was nineteen and a tall young man. If he had wanted to, he could have turned around and knocked his dad to the floor, but he wasn’t violent and he just wanted to go to bed. Sheila’s mam was crying.
What happened next will be stamped in Sheila’s mind forever. He dad went out into the cold dark back yard and picked up a brick. For a while he threw it from hand to hand, goading Bobby to come outside. Doors open from neighboring houses, but no one dared to come and tackle the angry (and probably drunk) man. After about five minutes there was a loud bang, and the yelling and goading stopped. Sheila’s dad came back inside, grabbed his coat from the hallway and left. He was probably going to the ‘Workingmans club’ to top up the alcohol in his bloodstream.
Bobby came downstairs to make sure we were OK and then everyone went to bed and if they weren’t asleep when the drunken man returned, they pretended to be.
The next morning Sheila’s mam was hanging out washing in the back yard. Sheila was watching out of the window, and she saw her mam drop the washing basket on the floor and go over to something on the ground, although Sheila has tried to block it out of her mind, she saw what her mam found. Sheila’s brother went outside, he was going to the corner shop, but instead he knelt down by his mam. They were out there for a little while. When they came back in they looked very sad and told Sheila what she already knew, that her kitten was dead, they said a ladder had fallen on top of it while it was playing in the yard.
Sheila knew different. The stepladder was in the shed and her mam had found the fluffy mangled bundle on the ground in the corner of the back yard, with a brick on top of it. She knew because she had been watching out of the window.
Sheila stopped loving her dad for good!