Today being Fathers’ Day gave me occasion to think not only about my own father, but fathers in general.
As I see it fathers come in four categories. Good, bad, and indifferent, or missing completely.
Those missing complexly may either have left at some point, and whereabouts either known or unknown.
Or just plain not knowing who the father is.
I once knew someone who was conceived during a drunken one night stand. His mother not only didn’t know who the father was, she didn’t even have a name to trace him. All she could remember was that he was one of the most handsome men she had ever met.
This particular young man was absolutely obsessed with the fact that he didn’t know who his father was. Obsessed to the point that he allowed it to ruin his life. He blamed his mother, which spoiled that relationship. His mother could have just as easily aborted the pregnancy, or put him up for adoption, but instead raised him as a single parent. She was a loving mother as far as I could tell.
One day after growing tired of listening to him complain about his missing father, I told him to concentrate on what he did know instead of constantly complaining about what he didn’t know. He had good features and a fine physique, no doubt inherited from his father, whoever he was. He had a good brain in his head, and was well educated.
I told him about my own father who was not a particularly good one. He had abused my mother and me, physically, verbally, mentally, leaving scars that took years to heal. Until one day I realized we none of us get to choose our parents, we all have to make do with what we are given.
My father was one of the first to be drafted when WWII broke out in September 1939. I was only three and a half years old so don’t remember him before he left. He fought in the North Africa Campaign for almost five years, then came home briefly in 1944 when I was nine years old.
He then went over to France in the follow up to D-Day and was gone another year. He came through all this unscathed, physically that is, I am sure it affected him mentally. I often wonder, what if he had been killed.
All I would have is pictures like the one above, taken 1940 somewhere in the Sahara Desert. My mother would have no doubt told me wonderful stories about him. I often wonder would I have then spent the rest of my life trying to live up to this image of my father. Not a real image but a perceived one.
Would I be any less screwed up or emotionally scarred in later life? We all have fathers whether they are known to us or not. If we have a good one then we should consider ourselves lucky. Because the odds are greater that we have one who is bad, indifferent, or just plain unknown or missing.
We are all a product of where we came from and what we did along the way. No matter how hard I try my past will never get any better. So what would be the use of continuing to blame my father for problems I have now? This was the point I tried to make to the young man who didn’t know his father.
My father died in 1996, I wrote this some years later:
When I finally forgave you I had to reach beyond the grave, I didn’t choose the hand you dealt, but chose the game I played.
I stepped into a time and place where I’d stop blaming you, and take responsibility for everything I do.
I wouldn’t trade what I have now to change one yesterday, that goes for you, you were my dad, that’s all there is to say.
I swore I’d never cry for you when I was just a kid, but the day I heard you’d passed on, cryin’ was the first thing that I did.