CHILDHOOD, WHAT THE F**K! | CHAPTER 3
Updated: Nov 15
By Ryan Elson | Broadcaster & Entrepreneur
Chapter 3. Ryan’s mother has been killed in a car accident and the world is instantly in turmoil. It’s a very sad, confused Christmas with new guardians that he barely knows and living conditions that simply do not work. Factors that quickly plant the initial seed of anger, despair and rebellion.
Warning: Explicit language, may be offensive to some readers
The next few months were awful. I remember Grandma and my Uncle and Auntie arguing about what they were going to do with us. Grandma eventually moved into our house and gradually started to hate me again, no more hugs, you are just like your father….etc. I think I had got too big for the tap treatment though. This is when I started to feel truly lost.
I felt like no matter what I did with Grandma she hated me. Eventually I think I started hating her back and then she really started hating me!!! After a while I got moved in to Uncles house.
My Uncle was my legal guardian. Mum had asked him if something should happen to her would he look after her children. I’m sure it rolled easily off his tongue when he said yes. My Uncle and Auntie were not prepared for this life that had been thrust upon them. My Uncle was running his own mechanic business, they had just had their first baby and life was going how it should until Mum died. Then they instantly had a nine and a seven year old, who in truth they barely knew, to deal with. It was a disaster.
There was an old garage, shed at the rear of their house which they clad out with the timber look wall coverings. I liked it, it was mine! Shower in the laundry nearby…..I didn’t have to go in the house aside from to eat.
What I figured out pretty quickly was that no one actually wanted me to go inside very much. Any entry of mine to the lounge area or front of the house where the dining room or my guardian’s room was situated was generally met with something similar to “Is there something you want”?
My Uncle did not want to be my Dad. At all. I was his nephew and he always introduced me as such. My Auntie in truth just seemed to be confused and unsure about me and I subsequently became confused and unsure about her. On many occasions I witnessed conversations between my Uncle and my Grandma regarding who would look after me….. “Can’t you take him?” or similar questions were pretty common. This entire time still feels very dark to me. This new world looked heaps better my old one but in truth it was worse. There was so much that I just couldn’t understand… why had my guardians and Grandma fought hard to keep me and my brother with their side of the family? They constantly let me know that I was just a massive pain in the ass….so why did they want us in the first place??
I wondered why I couldn’t go and live with my Nan but when I bought it up I got slapped down and told that would never happen.
My Grandma and Uncle were constantly reminding me that my Dad was a no good drunk and that he was the reason for our troubles…..even for Mum’s death because if he had been a decent man Mum wouldn’t have had to go to work. Yet each night my Grandma and Guardians sat around sipping Sherry from a decanter next to them until (particularly my Grandma) were slurring and had trouble getting up.
On top of that I was often told that my Dad had beaten Mum and us and what a bad man he was for doing so. The stone cold fact is that no one has ever hit me as hard and as often as my Uncle. His standard plan was to call me to stand in front of him and ask me what I had done. When I said I didn’t know he would open hand crack me around the side of the head…..it wasn’t a slap, the noise was a dull thump. I often saw stars after these hits. The more I spoke the more he decided that I was lying and the more he cracked me. If I didn’t speak he would crack me. If I flinched he would tell me to be a man, if I didn’t “show him respect” he would close his fist and hold it in front of my face whilst he berated me.
These sessions were some of the worst of my life. There was simply no win. If I told the truth I would get a hiding, if I lied I got a hiding, if I didn’t say what he wanted I got a hiding. I have never felt more disempowered as I did then.
During this time I spent as much time as I could at other friends’ houses often asking their parents if I could stay the night. This really pissed my Uncle off and he yelled at me saying that I had to stay there as it was my home…….Like fuck it was my home!!!
Apart from feeling safe these visits to my friends houses gave me a glimpse into what a normal family was all about. They weren’t perfect but people actually had discussions with each other! They didn’t just yell or get angry or point fingers as they spoke and best of all they didn’t hit each other!! Sure there were some smacks delivered (it was the 80’s) but no one got hit in the head or punched in the face……even that would have been nice.
When I was 10 we started playing club hockey. I was going to play football but my Uncle had played hockey for years and we sort of fell into it. I played full back, liked it and I was pretty sporty so I did Ok. When I was 12 my Uncle decided to coach us and I loved it!! For whatever reason he didn’t give me a hard time and it was as close as I ever came to feeling like his son. We played really well that year and eventually we ended up playing in the grand final on the main newly astro turfed field! We were the first game of the day but there were people in the stands as we did our warm ups……I was so freakin’ excited I could barely contain myself!!! Then the game was on, I played pretty well and got some “Well done mate” calls from my Uncle!
Then we won….and the coolest thing happened!!! My Uncle ran over and hugged me! Hugged me properly too right on the new field in front of a crowd! It was the happiest day I had had since Mum died and I felt like the world had finally changed for the better! Unfortunately it hadn’t. On the Sunday I was told to mow the lawns and got hit for not doing them properly. I never ever got a hug from my Uncle again and I never ever felt like his son again. After a few months I was moved back to Grandma’s as my guardians had had another baby named Michael.
I’m pretty sure that it was about now that I started acting up. I really disliked Grandma and I started to behave pretty badly. Aside from the usual not cleaning my room stuff that kids do I openly refused to do as she asked, I swore at her and laughed when she hit me. When she could do no more she would call my Uncle to come down and sort me out. He would deliver a solid flogging each time……..if I hadn’t already run away. I often used to take off to Lenah Valley Primary School and distinctly remember watching my Uncle driving past slowly looking for me. I generally turned up later and received a belated kicking and a week or so of silent treatment which suited me fine.
I then started to steal. I started off stealing money from Grandmas’s purse when she was asleep and when I couldn’t do that I would shoplift. For a while I got involved with a few dodgy kids that were stealing cars and stealing from people’s houses but I soon left them. They were dickheads and were always going to get caught.
Anyway when I was 12 I was at Kmart and saw a very cool glow in the dark skull with rubber snakes and spiders in it…..I wanted it! I kept an eye out, removed it from the package and stuffed it down my pants before walking out the front doors. About 4 steps out someone grabbed my shoulder and said, “hand it over son”. I had been caught by store security. I was taken to one of their interview style rooms and asked a heap of questions. I was absolutely shitting myself. Then the cop arrived and gave me another serious telling off before telling me that he would be taking me home to speak to my parents. I told him that they were gone but my Grandma would be there. The drive home in the cop car was only a few kilometres but it felt like a long long time. When we got there my Gran nearly died when she saw the cop. I was sent to my room and my fate was discussed in the lounge room. Eventually I was called out and the cop told me sternly that I was to be given a warning this time but next time would be very serious. Grandma couldn’t wait to call my Uncle to tell him the news only stopping to tell me how much trouble I was in. No shit I thought…
My Uncle arrived and I braced myself. He yelled and ranted, lot’s of fist in front of the face etc……but no hitting! I got banned from watching TV and eating with the family for 1 month. The TV bit sucked but eating in my room away from my Grandma and brother teaming up on me was brilliant!!!! A few months before my brother and I had had a fight during dinner and my brother stabbed me in the shoulder with his fork….it was stuck in there without holding it. My Gran witnessed this attack and as a result…….sent me to my room. Not having to eat with them was a blessing!
Being back at Grandma’s sucked enough but then I got some news that tore my heart out. I was informed that I would be going to Boarding School in year 7, I would be living there for five nights a week and could come home for weekends. The boarding school was 5km from my house.
I felt a new level of abandonment and I fought the idea as hard as I could getting regular beltings for it. Even though home was shit I didn’t want to be alone.
Just before I headed off to what I fully believed was going to be a new kind of Hell I had another experience with the Police….this one was a little different though. I had agreed to take my little brother and his mate, Scott to the movies in the city and we had been dropped off by Scott’s Dad. We watched the movie and then headed out to the street in front of the movies to wait to be picked up. As we were standing there a group of bad looking lads came towards us and I caught eye contact with one of them….bad move. They increased their pace and came straight at me with a determined look in their eyes. We later established that there were nine of them, aged from 15 to 17. I told my brother and his mate to go inside but I don’t know if they did. Right then I was grabbed by 3 of them and pinned against the glass of the theatre, the biggest of them then stepped up, said, “What did you fucking say” and punched me straight in the face….hard! My holders then let go and they all took off. I can’t remember if I went down or not but my head was ringing. My brother was yelling at me and I then saw Scott’s Dad striding towards me, I touched the right side of my face and it was covered in blood……
Next thing I remember I was in the Police Station giving what I now know was a statement, the Cop was taking notes and was pretty happy with my recollection of events. He asked me if I would recognise them if I saw them and I reckoned I would…. Then we jumped in the Cop car and went hunting! This was heaps heaps cooler than my last ride with the Police!
I was enjoying this now! We were cruising the streets looking for my attackers and I was checking everyone out, still holding the blood soaked washer to my face. The stitches could wait, this was cool! Then I saw him!! The guy that punched me! He only had two of his minions with him but I remembered them as well. The Cop pulled out in front of them and grabbed them on the spot immediately putting the leader in the back of the car with me in the front. This big bad ass now turned into a snivelling piece of shit apologising for belting me, saying he thought I was someone else and begging me to not say anything. I said nothing but I was thinking fuck you dickhead, you’re gone!
When I joined the Cops years later I looked him up. There was his assault charge from me. I actually caught up with him a few times while I was in Hobart uniform and he was just as I remembered him at the last…..a snivelling piece of shit.