Is All Fair in Love And War?

Don’t let it steal your light.


My mother was severely abused as a child. She is a twin. Her sister was born first. Then, it became apparent there was another baby — my mother.

It was during the late 1940’s, a time when determining a twin pregnancy wasn’t as easy as it is today. My grandmother already had two little ones to care for and was expecting to birth one more child and not two.

She instantly rejected my mother.

After her hospital stay, my grandmother returned home with the twins, and despite her husband’s protests, she gave her newborn baby away to their neighbors. She wanted nothing to do with the second-born twin.

My mother was fortunate that the neighbors were lovely people. The couple took her in and cared for her as if one of their own. With them, she found security and love. She was cuddled, touched and encouraged. Her needs were met in every way that a newborn baby requires in order to thrive and grow mentally and emotionally.

She remained with them for the first two years of her life. Then, at the insistence of my grandfather, she was eventually returned to live with her biological family. Her life would never again be the same.

She was the unwanted twin.

Love was replaced with hatred. Nurturing became neglect. Security was a fading memory in a two-year old’s world as her mother set about stripping her of worthiness and virtue.

She did this through unthinkable acts of brutality and torture. She did this through inhumane treatment and emotional abuse. Think David James Pelzer and his story, A Child Called It, and you’re on the right track.

I cannot imagine the state of internal crisis for a mother to treat her child with such cruelty. I can only assume that a soul must be so damaged and confused to have the ability to inflict such severe torment and suffering upon her own child.

My mum has often said how she wished her parents had left her with the neighbors. Those first two years of her life had somehow imprinted upon her soul and impressed in her memory. The fleeting time spent with that family proved to be vital in forming the fabric of her psyche and the breadth of her heart.

She never forgot what it felt like to be loved and nurtured.

I knew my grandmother before she died an early death, but my mother kept us away for the most part. She was a woman plagued with darkness. As you can imagine, she held little interest in me. Our relationship was nil to nothing and she had a way of scaring the bejesus out of me.

Every now and then, I look at old photos of the woman who abused my mother. Pictures of her with my grandfather when they were young. She had been a stunningly beautiful woman with soft, delicate features and lustrous dark hair.

The couple posed with grandeur — he in a classy black suit while her petite figure was wrapped in white fur. They appeared sound in the knowledge of the path ahead of them; a future filled with promising visions and love. She’s like a different woman in those pictures; a woman I never knew.

I realized that at one point in her life she had known happiness. She had known love.

So, what went wrong?

Life was vastly different back then. My grandfather enlisted to serve in World War II at the age of twenty. He was ranked Private and became a prisoner of war in one of the most notorious of Japanese war camps: Changi prison.

He spent years being tortured in that prison along with thousands of other Australian men, including war hero, Sir Ernest Edward “Weary” Dunlop, who was my grandfather’s friend.

James Saunderson was like a gentle giant. He was funny and charming — an ordinary Aussie kid ready to take on the world with his woman by his side, until years of war, torture, death and imprisonment stole his light.

He returned home but would never be the same. Those years haunted him. They were the same years that would snatch the light inside of my grandmother and prove the catalyst in my mother’s mistreatment.

When life squeezes us, what comes out is what’s on the inside.

It’s one of the great lessons of life.

Living through war might be a radical example to use when discussing relationships. My grandfather’s experience had devastating affects on his psyche that lasted throughout his lifetime. He spent years receiving psychiatric treatment — years suddenly erupting into violent bouts of rage.

The war took more than just my grandfather’s mental health. It claimed my grandmother’s quality of life, her dreams and her sense of humanity. The war collected both of their soul’s and darkened the lives of their children.

Did they have a choice?

We can never erase the past. We may never quite be able to take away the pain, but we can take measures to heal ourselves and work through the inner-demons to find the light again. In each moment, we have a choice.

When the pressure is on and out of you comes anything other than love, it is because that’s what you’ve allowed to be inside. To live a highly functioning life, you need to take away all those negative things you don’t want in your life and replace them with love.

My mother is proof of this.

She could have easily embraced the mindset offered by her violent upbringing. She could have chosen bitterness and hatred, and carried the abuse through the generations, but she didn’t.

Does the past still haunt her? It probably does sometimes. Yet, she has only ever spoken of her parents from the highest regard. Somehow, that little girl who was never shown the love she craved from her mother, grew up with the ability to accept the life she was handed and forgive her parents for every indiscretion.

She chooses to view them through the eyes of love and empathy — and this is a choice we all have regardless of how someone might upset or offend us, or whatever the situation confronting us.

All my mother had ever wanted was the love of her mother. Even on her death bed, my grandmother refused to convey the words she couldn’t give.

My mum has lived her entire life without hearing her own mother speak of her love for her, but every day I hope that I have enough inside of me to make up for the love denied her.

Although I’m not sure that that will ever be enough to fill the void left in a little girl by a mother who couldn’t find a way to snatch back her light and open her heart to love.


Also published by P.S. I Love You on Medium