There is a passage in the Bible about smashing idols.


I’m guessing he must have read it that day, or recently.   Or maybe God spoke to him, the way He did sometimes.


He found a hammer and walked around the house, selecting ornaments – idols –  to smash.   Old ornaments that his mother had owned.  Lladro that my mother was collecting. Sitting on teak, on sideboards. He picked each of them up and took them outside to break them.


It was a nice day, it was summer, and humid. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I imagine he collected them all in a tablecloth or sheet,  and took them out, clinking together, possibly breaking chunks out of each other as china things do. The house is a bungalow and it’s all one level so he just needed to open the glass back door and walk out, taking the pile with him.


Then, I imagine him dropping the pile on the grass, spreading out the figures a bit then methodically breaking one after the other. Or maybe it wasn’t methodical and he just whaled at the pile with his hammer. I don’t know how many he had smashed when my mother got home and discovered what he was doing. I don’t know what she said to stop him, but I know he gave the ‘smashing idols like the Bible says’ story as an explanation.  She rescued the rest of the ornaments and returned them to their places.


You can read his act a multitude of ways. The first, and most obvious, reading is that it was a genuine religous act: that God spoke to him and told him he had to rid the house of  shepherdesses with lambs, cherubs, angels painted in pale colours and Victorian-looking people STAT. Because my mother was worshipping them?  Because they would encourage her (or him?) to idolatry?  I haven’t read the Bible passage for years, but from memory the breaking of idols is about forcing people to stop worshipping the old Gods.  Except, ornaments are decorative, not religious.  This is possible.


The second reading is that the violence was part of some kind of mental health episode, an episode of delusion.


The final reading is that the violence was directed at the owner of the china figurines, my mother. That by breaking her favourite things, he wanted to get back at her, and hurt her, but didn’t want to admit it.  This wouldn’t have been the first time he broke something that mattered to someone else, deliberately, so this is also possible.  More on that later.  At any rate he said he wanted to destroy the idols in the house,  and they left it at that.


There was a time when I thought about trying to get him help, and started reading up on the NZ Mental Health Act. But there’s a section where it says, basically “genuine religious belief isn’t the same as being mentally ill” so I stopped, but not before making a call and leaving a message with a local mental health advisor. I never heard back from him.