We are more than the sum of our environment

A couple of columns ago I pontificated a bit about the dangers of abusing adults in front of little children.

To recap, I related to you the trauma I suffered after seeing adults I respected being humiliated in front of me. The worst by far was the lady in the neighbourhood who was clobbered by her hubby with a moerse straight right to the face that pole-axed the skinny little woman.

What I did not relate was a similar incident in the same neighbourhood - only this time the woman did the beating up.

She was a tough auntie who did all the "manly'' duties of her household herself, from fixing the chimneys to mending fences. She ran the cleanest household in the neighbourhood, had a vile temper and chain-smoked.

On the other hand, her husband, shame, was a shy bugger who giggled stupidly even when you said hello. When he was not scrubbing the floors or washing the dishes, he was as spotlessly clean as his children.

He neither smoked nor drank but always did the errands to the shop to buy the missus' cigarettes.

One thing was clear to all of us: he did not wear the pants in that house. He cooked, ironed, washed the dishes and behaved like a real makoti in his own house.

All that would not matter because he did not seem to complain. The only problem, though, is that she beat him up real bad.

One night in particular, my family was awoken by his screams and the wailing of the children as the wife bliskemmed them all.

My father and a couple of other neighbours, fearing for the worst, rushed off to the house only to find she had locked the doors to prevent any escapes.

Inside the house, the man - call him Bra G, was pleading for mercy: "Askies, askies, jooo. Maar o re bethela eng?" - Sorry, but why are you beating us up?

"Jou bliskem . " and then another Dlup!

When the neighbours eventually managed to force the door open, Bra G bolted past them, his face a round ugly mess of blood, droopy saliva and tears. From a safe distance in the dark, as the men were calming the wife down, he yelled: "You are going to shit. You'll see. You're getting used to me!"

He and the children spent the night with the neighbours.

The tragedy of it all unfolded the following day when Bra G came to our homes, all washed up and bandaged, smiling from ear to ear.

I overheard him plead with my parents to forget about the incident the previous night. It was all his and the children's fault, he said.

"We went to bed without washing, while we know the house law. I just fell asleep on the sofa . sorry. She is right. It is a small thing, every family has problems ." he blabbered on stupidly.

I heard recently the firebrand lady of the house died many years ago and Bra G recently.

What beats me, though, is that their children seem to be well adjusted individuals. Don't ask me how come.

I can't lie and say they are maladjusted - and least they don't look it - just as I can't lie and say apartheid made me stupid. I am afraid it tried but failed.

l Charles Mogale is editor of Sunday World.