Ha, or rather, a lack of them.
A while ago, I wrote here about sending a letter (more a note, to be frank) to my father. He’s been absent from my life since I was almost four, so over twenty seven years. By his choice, I hasten to add – I don’t know why he made the choice he did at the time, but I hope he’s found peace with it and his path has caused him more happiness than pain.
I won’t go into a huge amount of detail, but I can empathise with him, and I bear him no ill will or resentment. His childhood was troubled, and there are a lot of unresolved issues still carried on with his siblings (more complicated relationships there – I have lovely relationships with two, little but kind contact with another, one recently died who I didn’t know, and I’m not sure if I met the last. And their relationships among themselves are complicated and strained too, so I’m glad of the close ones I have, and that my grandma had always been involved in life). So, while I can never truly get it, I imagine I can get a little of it. If that makes any sense at all.
When I was younger, I desperately wanted a father – even though I didn’t really fully understand what that meant. I imagine these fantasies were mostly driven by kindly characters in Enid Blyton stories, or perhaps television characters. I was quite an imaginative child (and was frequently told that I lived on Fantasy Island, which I was hugely disappointed to realise wasn’t a real place that we could visit in the holidays). I would imagine a reunion, or scour the faces of unknown men, to see if by some freakish coincidence they were actually him. Of course, nothing came of it (bar one chance sighting on a train onvecat age sixteen. Maybe I’ll share that another time). And at times it was painful, and I shed many tears, but I’ve resolved it in adulthood. It is what it is.
I think what helped was realising that parents are human, and flawed. They’ve got their own stuff, and issues, and bad decisions themselves. Becoming a parent doesn’t automatically mean you have your shit together, or that you can handle life. Or that you aren’t still hurting yourself from a past you had no influence over.
I know at times he was desperately depressed, and contemplated suicide. I hope he’s in a better place now, and that he’s happy. I hope that his adult life had been kinder to him.
I have some memories of him, some good and some not so good. I have photos too, which are much the same.
The silence is deafening, and so I think by his lack of reply, he is choosing to remain absent. Which is absolutely his right, and I understand. It causes me no pain, and instead has given me a sense of calm certainty that I can lay his chapter to rest. You can’t miss something you never had, as the old adage goes, and I waved goodbye to the father of my fantasies a while ago. I’ve been lucky to have a childhood where I have never doubted that I was loved, my family are close knit and supportive, and I have some amazing male role models in my life who have more than filled that role together. I have had far more than he ever had.
And now, I have something that I never imagined I would be able to have, or hold onto – a handsome man who I married, whose heart is huge and open and mine. He is an amazing dad to our children, and I am so thankful that he is so present, and such a kind and wonderful influence. It’s something I will never take for granted.
So now, I can keep my photographs and memories somewhere safe, to share with my children when they are old enough to understand. I’ll try to do as my own mum did, which is to not talk badly of him, to encourage empathy for a decision not taken lightly and to be as honest as I can about the whole situation. I’m at peace with it.
Before I wrote to him, it felt as though I was in a situation of limbo due to it all being so unresolved. Inaction can be just as drought as taking action, sometimes. We were both neither here nor there, knowing at some point checkmate would occur, but unsure of who would make the best move first. My life was stuck on a page, with a cliffhanger ending due at any time, looming in the distance. Now I can say I’ve finished the book, and I’m pleased with the ending. I hope he is too.