When I was a young boy growing up near Aberystwyth one day altered my perception of my father forever.
Up to then I didn't regard him with awe, yet he was certainly much closer to me than my distant mother.
She was an often absent figure, more preoccupied with her many male friends ( whose identities weren't disguised). I loved the music she played ('Shostakovitch' was a name I soon learnt to say!) and also listening to her recite Dylan Thomas into a Grundig tape-recorder in the kitchen.
But she was the very antithesis of a maternal being.
That day my dad and I went fishing together off the jetty at Tanyblwch, near our home in Penparcau.
I must've had a tantrum because we caught no fish and he couldn't handle it.
It was rare to be with him alone and that's why it stands out to this day.
He completely lost it and snapped my new plastic rod into tiny pieces, throwing them at bewildered fish in Cardigan Bay below us.
The drive home was something I'd become more familiar with as a teenager : his zig-zag forehead vein was bulging and writhing , as the car became a wheeled missile in his hands.
I shrank to the size of Tom Thumb and shook with fear.
I didn't know then that he was taking medication to try and prevent these episodes.
I didn't know till years after that he had suffered a severe mental breakdown and spent some time in two psychiatric hospitals, diagnosed as a 'schizophrenic'.
I certainly couldn't question that assessment, which never seemed to accurately describe his condition.
I now look back at the many years of such incidents, not just involving me but countless others : neighbours, almost every boss he had, a policeman on a Cambridge street , an irate husband and his several wives.
It actually astonishes me that he never killed anybody ( not to my knowledge anyway!).
Knowing more about mental illness now, I realise that 'schizophrenia' didn't tally with his behaviour, nor did he show the extreme mood swings of someone who is bi-polar.
It's hard to label it and while his medication did help, it didn't come close to curing it.
Yet, I ask myself, where did his illness end and his own personality begin?
Like my mother, he was totally egocentric and drifted from one craze to the next, spending money on each one , but not on other people.
Was this characteristic the product of some 13 years of growing up without a mother's presence, when my Gran worked away?
Or was it an integral part of his neurosis : the charming man who could amaze with his erudition, yet soon step over into an uncontrollable rage which led to many catastrophes in his life, including divorces, dismissals and even court cases.
I often wonder if he hadn't married my mother - someone equally self-involved, who could never express her emotions - whether he'd have changed for the better.
( But then....I wouldn't be here, nor would my brother and sister!).
Just before my mother died, when she was confined to her bed in a Home, I discovered that she'd been addicted to the sleeping tablet Temazepam since the 1970s.
This had a serious affect on her mental health and , later in life, she suffered from depression and spent time in a psychiatric hospital.
She suppressed all her feelings and they must've emerged at night-time because, when I lived with her and my step-dad, I recall being woken by her screaming. It was a terrible noise of suffering and those tablets must have been her solution at the time.
This shocked me because my mother always showed a very cold, hard attitude, not just to mental illness but physical as well.
She often dismissed it as a sign of weakness and my father as a flawed creature.
She was a devotee of D.H. Lawrence and I often thought of her as a kind of Lady Chatterley, seeking her love and excitement elsewhere.
Her addiction and depression came as a shock to me and she never confided in any of the family.
I don't pretend to know where it came from, that darkness which is all-consuming and which offers no way out.
Her life had become obsessed with finding another man and it's quite possible that no-one could satisfy her quest for perfection.
She had been an excellent teacher - a Scientist like my father - who re-trained in Dance & Drama. She was a highly intelligent woman who ended up surrendering her independence entirely to one person.
When I consider my sister, whose life has been seriously affected by a dreadful head injury ; my older daughter who has written so eloquently about her own struggles with depression in the anthology 'Gyrru Drwy Storom ' and my Gran, who died in a psychiatric hospital after years of Alzheimer's disease.....when I think of these, I do understand the prevalence and variety of such problems.
Yet, I still imagine the human brain as being like Space : the more we seek to know, the more there is to know.
Maybe we, as a species, should focus more on discovering its bewildering, fascinating but sometimes, very disturbing mysteries.
HER FOUR SEASONS
She knew enough to know
there was no way out of there,
down on the third floor :
the codes, the locks.
'I want to go home!'
'I'm sorry but you can't!'
'You bitch, you fuckin bitch!'
The nurse, patient as a Samaritan.
She knew enough to wander
where she wasn't wanted
and saw the pictures on the walls
all painted by that woman
with the wild haystack hair
and long Indian robes
and always bare soles
and one eye put out.
The colours screamed at her,
the big-eyed people stared
like jailers with keys concealed,
like the nurses whispering.
The TV yelled 'Do it, do it!'
With a spoon ( knife and fork prohibited)
she tore into each canvas
quick before they pulled her back.
She was moved to another floor,
her dosage upped ; fuzzy TV voices
mumbled instructions she couldn't make out.
Blank walls, her four seasons.