It was the rain tapping against the window that woke me this morning. I didn’t really have much planned to do today so I intended to sleep in for a while longer than normal. But, as stated this wasn’t the case. As I could hear the rain it dawned on me that I don’t like rain. Don’t get me wrong, it would never stop me going out – unless it was torrential. But I find it uncomfortable getting wet and it’s just an all-round hindrance. Furthermore, it leaves me with the dilemma of what to wear. If I wrap up it will, undoubtable get warm later.
But where did this dislike of rain come from? I was never actively instructed to dislike rain. It just developed. After all, where does the dislike of spiders come from? We are lucky here in England as we have very few venomous creatures to avoid. So, the English fear of spiders is clearly irrational. But this brings me straight to the question – where do we acquire such feelings and thoughts?
If you recall, I went into some detail about my relationship with my natural father. He had absolutely no input into my upbringing. As a child and a young adult, he was a shadow. It was only later when I reached 40 that my thoughts became flesh and I had finally found him. We had a few similarities as we both liked history and the arts. We were also within the medical profession. But on reflection that was pretty much it.
I drew the line at his outdated views of the roles of women. We were poles apart politically. I was quiet and he was loud. He just loved the attention. Especially female attention. He took advantage and I was happy to supply. But my views and personality must have been shaped somehow by someone.
Nature verses nurture
Whilst realising that the rain made almost rhythmical patterns it dawned on me that I was stuck in the question of nature verses nurture. There are indeed parts of me that are unidentifiable. I just don’t know where these features come from. But there are others I can directly attribute to key figures in my life.
And this is where I want to reach today. I want to talk about my adopted father.
(Adopted) Father’s father
My adopted father was a good man. He had acquired a lot of his father’s traits. Both were well-spoken and gentle. My grandfather (for ease I will address him as so) always wore a cardigan regardless of the weather and this gave him an endearing character. When he laughed his shoulders would rise and fall – and what was nice, was that he did this often.
Days spent with my grandfather always seemed sunny and I utterly adored him. He would hold my hand and I would smile so any opportunity to spend time with him was always welcome.
I never met his wife as she died two years before I was born, but I know he missed her. I know this because he told me. He had a black and white photograph of her in a frame on the mantelpiece. She was also beautiful. Typical of her time with her hair in a fashionable bob. I also knew that he talked to the picture because I heard him one morning. This made him seem vulnerable yet loveable in equal measure.
He smoked because he lived in a time when it was expected. He loved classical music but enjoyed sharing my tapes (remember them?). Musically, I introduced him to the Pet Shop Boys and he introduced me to Puccini. Food wise, I introduced him to prawn cocktail crisps and he introduced me to chocolate limes. I still love those sweets. But he treated me as an equal of which was lacking at home.
He passed away in 1988 after finally admitting he had cancer. He had known for a while but didn’t want to make a fuss. Not making a fuss finally killed him. But this was typical of him. He would allow me to watch my programmes when he wanted to watch the news or we would eat chocolate instead of salad. I never really recovered losing him. He was really loved by me. As a result, I gave my son his middle name as homage when he was born. It was such a shame that the two never met.
His father’s best features
My adopted father had acquired his father’s best features. He was middle class in ideals and nature. Soft and caring. During my formative years I had considered him to be the most intelligent man ever to have lived. He could explain mathematical problems to me of which I struggled with at school. He could make a sideboard out of an old wardrobe. Furthermore, he tried to see the good in everyone. And that was the problem.
What did they see in each other?
My adopted mother (and I don’t want to go into much detail about her here, that’s a blog for another time) was the complete opposite. Where she screamed he just spoke, where she beat he just shook his head. In reality, I just cannot see how they ever got together. He was middle class in character, yet she was spit and saw dust, working class.
I have often considered that I took the beatings for him. Which was wrong. Many years after I had stood up to her and the beatings had stopped, she was admitted into hospital for a stomach problem. It was nothing major but it required her to be admitted for a few days. It was during this time that he spoke to me in-depth.
I recall us walking through the park on the way to the shops and it was during this walk that he revealed that she was a troubled woman. It took me by surprise, because I had never expected to hear this from his mouth. Furthermore, it had cemented my view of her after all.
Cut me, do I not bleed?
From this point, I knew a mother’s love was not what I had come to accept. It was also a time when it dawned on me that he was not as intelligent as I had considered him to be. He could have stopped the physical chastisement by her hand. Why had he not stepped up to the mark and supported me during the difficult times of my identity struggles? But he didn’t. Why? Well that’s simple, he was too nice to have done any of that. He just wanted the quiet life.
I suppose we would call it ‘hen-pecked’ today. But he was out of his depth with what to do. He had in effect, put his head in the sand to deny any of it. And here lie the similarities. His father had done it before him (cancer) and I had done it with my depression and abuse. It is only now that I realise this. I had acquired his character. I also wanted the quiet life.
This was not a dreadful thing to have. I would rather be like him than her. But my character dictated my future. I could fight if I had to (adopted mother characteristic) which protected me from being bullied at school. But my failure to admit problems came from him.
A few years ago, I took the step to directly highlight my adopted mother’s failures. I identified that comfort and care had been restricted and rationed. Her treatment of me over their child had been unequal and harsh.
I really wanted her to admit it and to try and help me build bridges with her. But her response didn’t come as a surprise. She rejected my claims and dismissed any further comments I had to make. She just failed to identify or admit any failure on her part. Yet she made it clear that I should forever be in her debt and it was my duty to identify this.
Unfortunately, my adopted father was present and as expected he said nothing. He neither defended me or her. And that didn’t come as a surprise either.
Good-bye and God bless
A week or so later my adopted father came to my house. We sat alone in the living room whilst he drank tea. I knew this was his good-bye. We spoke about things that had bothered me and he calmly listened and considered what I had said. Ultimately though, he had to conclude that she was his wife and that he could not be seen to side with anyone but her.
I accepted this as I knew from the moment he arrived at my door that this would have been the case.
I never saw either of them ever again. To give her up meant I had to lose him too. It was, alas, a price that I had to pay.
This and that
There are many things I disliked about my adopted father. He was weak and never really spoke his mind. The opportunity to stop the physical punishments were missed by him. Chances to treat the children equally had passed by.
Yet, I hope that I have the best of him. I hope that I am sensitive when its needed. It would be great if my children thought I was intelligent. His loyalty was obvious. He was just a nice man – simple.
If this is the case (I’m sure people will be quick to tell me otherwise), then parts of the nurture debate are true. I made a positive decision to not be like my adopted mother, and to date I don’t think I am. But I want to care and love and I want to hide from the horrors of life. And that was who he was.