I have two fathers. A natural father and an adoptive father. I will at some point talk about my adoptive father in greater details. But for this blog I want to discuss my natural father.
It took forty years to find my father after some extensive research and investigations. I wanted to find him because he was a part of me that I didn’t know much about. As a child, I only ever saw one photograph of him and it wasn’t the greatest of pictures. It was taken from a distance and his hair covered most of his face anyway. The photograph had discoloured over time and was curling at the edges. But it was all I had, and all kinds of thoughts and metaphors sprouted from this hazy image.
Finding my father
I had contacted the Salvation Army in my late 20s and they replied by stating they could not help me because I had been adopted. Although this was a backwards step it still didn’t put me off. At times I would find him only to discover he had moved many years previously. It was frustrating but it gave me the realisation that I was on the right track.
It was difficult to shape a view on fatherhood other than what I had experienced from my adoptive father. My adopted father was a very straight minded, middle class English man. For years I had considered him to be the most intelligent man who ever lived. However, as time developed I noticed more and more flaws within his character and so I became more drawn to the mystery man of whom was a shadowy figure in a distant memory. I know all teenagers do this (I’m sure mine did too) but I started to create a character based on what I desired from a father.
Creating an image
I had this romantic image of him being something phenomenal of whom would be intelligent, energetic and be considerate to others. There was nothing to base this image on as I had had no contact with my mother for many years, and she was, to say the least a very bitter and angry woman. I felt that I was intelligent enough to make my own mind up and not base opinions on what other people thought. Everyone was entitled to make impressions for themselves – and that included my absent father. Equally, I wanted to be forgiving of any faults he may have had.
I first made contact with my father in April 2012 after finding him via his publisher (he is an author). We chatted on the phone for several days lasting an hour or so with each call. We discussed who we were and what we had done with our lives. Our conversations found common denominators such as our love of history and the arts and how we had often thought of each other.
I met my father in May of 2012. Our first meeting went well. I met my brother and step mother of whom were characters themselves. My brother was very (shall I say) ‘earthy’. He was very much in touch with the natural things around him and didn’t really take much care of his appearance. My step mother was a short thin woman whose body had paid a very heavy price for excessive drinking – it eventually killed her, but not without warning (see my blog on denial). My father was a short man with a pot belly. He was loud and confident in his views and opinions. In some ways I considered him to be old fashioned. He worked and none of his wives had (yes that’s right had had married a further two times after my mother).
I liked the confidence he displayed. It was refreshing as we held long intelligent conversations over a range of subjects. He also exhibited a level of pride in his ‘boys’ that was warm felt and kind. Following these early meeting I decided to reclaim my birth name and became double-barrelled. It was nice. I had a name reflecting my bloodline and a name reflecting my upbringing.
Cracks in the persona
However, after a couple of years things started to become apparent. It initially started with my brother mentioning that he was a difficult man to deal with if he disagreed with anything he said. I had seen it but dismissed it. If for example, you disagreed with his view on politics he would just repeat what he said previously – but louder. He had a strange view of women too. I’m sure he loved his wives but was not what I would consider in love with them. He had a need to be needed and this was evident with his choice of wife. This sense of charity seemed to feed his ego. Yet, I was still willing to forgive these character flaws as he was my father.
I found my father a little bit creepy around my partner. I would cringe with the way he may have stood too close to them or the things he would say under the guise of a joke. He was often inappropriate. I would not only apologise for his actions and comments but I would warn people of his mannerisms prior to him arriving. Yet, I still forgave him.
I had a realisation a few months ago about who he really was. Following the break up with my abusive ex, it transpired that both he and her had been having a series of telephone conversations. At no point had my father made any effort to contact me to ask for my version of events. He had been utterly taken in by what she wanted people to know. In fact there had been no contact for so long I called him on my birthday as I had not heard anything from him (as time progressed it was always me making the contact). He was pathetic. He had an opinion and wanted me to hear it. Of course it was one sided and wrong. I finished the conversation with the fact that he had not made any effort at all to find out the truth or my side of the story. I’ve not heard from him since.
During my counselling sessions, my childhood was touched upon. I explained the actions of my father and how disappointed I was with him. There and then, my counsellor hit the nail on the head. She suggested that he may have thought he was in with a chance with her – she played the maiden in distress and he always wanted to be the knight in shining armour. He was available following the death of his wife to alcohol. Furthermore, should would love the idea of having any man, especially my father, eating out of her hand.
What am I saying
I have read many stories and comments about abusive and toxic parents. My father was not abusive to me but he was/is a poor father. My brother has very little to do with him and now neither do I. I offered a golden opportunity to build a good father and son relationship. Instead he opted for the power of persuasion by my ex without gathering the facts.
I want people to know that blood is not thicker than water in the metaphorical sense. If I think about it now, I wouldn’t have had him as a friend so perhaps I expected too much as a son. I consider that I forgave too much because I saw what I wanted to see.
I had 40 years without him and I can have another 40 years without him. There is enough disappointment in life without encouraging it.