Why Would You Do This to a Kid?

… in which Mr. John talks about the formative influence of mental abuse

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.” This adage, popularized in the mid-1800s and enforced on boomers and late boomers like me, was supposed to help steel you from verbal abuse and bullying. Verbal and mental abuse is like death by one thousand papercuts. It changes you, twists you into something you barely recognize.

John at Five
John at Five

Here I am at 5, enjoying a pretty care-free life. I didn’t know I was being abused. I was innocent and just thought that this was normal. My abuse at this age was “knowledge.” Knowing things that no little person should know.

The freak. The strange kid.

Pee Wee
Pee Wee. My First Great Love.

As a youngster, I knew the word “suicide” and that my Mommy tried it twice. It makes for some fascinating playground talk until a parent gets wind of it and tells their child to avoid “the weird kid.” I had a puppy! I loved to play with bugs and snakes and climb trees! I wasn’t weird!


When the Librium bottle was out, all bets were off.

As early as I could remember, my mother would wake me up in the “middle of the night,” which as a kid, could have been 9 pm or 3 am; the result was the same. We would have a “Party.” Sleepy eyed, I was greeted at the kitchen table with cookies and milk. Then I would listen to “tales from my mother,” otherwise known as “how to mind fuck a little boy.”


She shared all sorts of things that a little boy shouldn’t know; how my sister died, how my “real father” was a dick and did all kinds of horrible things to her, stories of her childhood and how her parents beat her.

Betrayal and Anger.

As an adult, I know now that she was stoned, drunk, mentally ill, and venting to a captive audience. I wish my father had stepped in and put an end to it at the time. He had his issues and drowned himself in his job, so he either couldn’t see what was around him or could pretend he didn’t.  I do not doubt that she made his life hell too.


The Pennsylvania Hotel
The Pennsylvania Hotel Hellertown, PA, My Mother’s Childhood Home.

One gruesome and scarring story was about a pet puppy she had. Supposedly it was a dachshund puppy, and her parents made her keep it in the cellar when she wasn’t playing with it. According to the tale, one night, the little puppy was nosing around behind a large refrigerator. It stuck its nose through a grate and had the tip cut off by the compressor fan. She woke up in the morning to find the pup dead, having bled out from its wound. The story continued that she was beaten for the incident and denied pets moving forward.

An epilogue to the story was that she later found a lost kitten. Her mother made her put it in a sack and drowned it in a well.

She talked of cutting the heads off of chickens, being raped, and more things that I successfully pushed from memory over the years.

Unwanted Accident. Anger and Guilt.

4th of July 1970. I still remember that red and white check shirt. I need to go back in time and tell me to get that hand off hip

One revelation that I can’t forget is her announcement one evening that she didn’t love my adopted father. The consolation was that she was learning to love him, but she married so that I would have a family. I was unplanned, and she made this great “sacrifice” for me. In 1962 Wilfred was 41, and Mother was 28.  Now I am older. I realize how fucked up this was.

Night after night, this continued for years.

Broken Mother.

Sand Art as a Metaphor
Sand Art Bottles

One night Mother went away, and I stayed with neighbors for a while. When she returned, the green and black pills were gone. Years later, I figured out that she had overdosed on the benzo and anti-psychotics she was on and after had a time out in a mental facility.  After that, things were better for a time, at least.

My abuse over the years wasn’t neatly layered upon me. It came in waves, sometimes subtle, others violent and painful.

Data visualization was one of my specialties when I was an application developer, and sand art in a bottle is a perfect visual aid of how my abusive childhood was.

Our story of this angry child will continue.

Pink Floyd – Mother

“Mama’s gonna make all of your Nightmares come true. Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you.”