This was the same stepfather who told me that Etruria and Eritrea were the same place; it was just two different ways of pronouncing it. The same stepfather who refused to allow me to continue my education beyond the age of sixteen with the words: ‘I’m not going to spend good money keeping you sitting on your fat arse in a classroom. You’ll go out and work for a living like everybody else.’ The same stepfather who eventually died in a mental hospital, having been moved there from the care home where he’d taken to sexually assaulting the blind female residents. The stepfather my mother only married because he told her I’d die of malnutrition if she didn’t. (My mother wasn’t quite that naïve, but she was afflicted with a neurotic tendency which can amount to the same things in some circumstances.) And there’s plenty more.
So do I regret his arrival in my life at the tender age of 6½? Of course not; I regard him as having been a primary learning experience. And it’s become apparent to me that nobody really knows what drives another person, so we cannot judge from a position of omniscience. Besides, if he hadn’t come into my life that life would have been different, and we can’t second guess fate. Who knows where my different road would have led? I might have died of malnutrition.