Monday, 3 December 2007

Go (Father) Figure

You know, I was thinking at lunch and realised that I've never really had a strong male role model. There's people, like my dad or my step-dad, but they've never quite had the impact that I would have wanted from my male peers.

Take my dad, who semi-left my life when I was just eight years old, at a time when my parents were divorcing. I still saw him on a regular basis, but it was just a couple of days over the weekend, and we'd never get up to much anyways. As I've gotten older, he's doing less and less things with me - choosing instead to focus his attention on my step-mum and her extended family. Literally, I don't ever get asked places anymore; it's like he just presumes I won't be coming anyway.

But his absence meant that - for a while - I was the only boy living at home, in a house dominated by the female sex. Hell, even the pets we had back then were female! So I guess I learnt fairly early on to appreciate women and their way of thinking, and (one of the only positives I can pull from not having a dad around) I came to recognise that certain sterotypical 'female' qualities like love, fun and passions don't have to be a bad thing. I embraced them full on, because they're abmirable things to admit having.

Dad's also an alcoholic, which I don't think I've ever really discussed on these pages. Every night he'll drink a bottle of Napoleon Brandy, and by the time the clock strikes twelve, he's well and truly gone. He's smashed and off his face, just like the way - I imagine - he likes to be when he tucks himself up in bed. But seeing your dad like that, I think it damages you more than you'd think.

Not only do you see his inner-demon come to the surface, but you see the real him; the vulnerable man, who so craves love but won't ever take it. As a child, that's the scariest thing of all, because you realise, aged ten or whatever, that when you're dad is drunk and off his head, he's weak - you're stronger than him. Stronger than your own Dad. That's not the way it's supposed to be.

Don't get me wrong, I do love my dad and have terrific pride in him, but I've been brought up to accept his flaws, and all the problems he has. I haven't had this strong central father figure, which is kinda sad. It's more sad knowing that certain people out their, friends of mine, never had a dad. He either died, or fled after conception. They never had a chance to have a father figure, whereas I did, and it's anything but a perfect sight for me.

I do, however, have a step-dad - but he's so much older than me that there's a slight generation gap between the two of us, blocking each other's understanding of the other's ideas. Add to the mix a little jealousy (both of us are man of the house, in a house big enough for only one man) and you kinda have a problem. Again. Damn.

The two people who I'd most like to credit as "father figures" within my life have now gone away, and exited my existence forever. One was my Grandad, who died in 2005. I still miss him, and the sense of fun he brought to life. I kinda feel that the lessons he was teaching me went incomplete. If only we'd had a few more years together, to complete those lessons.

The other person I'd credit as a father type figure was only in my life for 18ish months. His name was John and he was the dad of my ex-girlfriend, Katie O'Donnell. Throughout my eighteen months with Kate, John taught me a lot of respectability, and a greater appreciation for those around. We never really spoke much, but I still saw the world through his eyes, because he'd raised such a fantastic daughter in Katie. She was the greatest tribute that John could ever lay claim to. And I thank him for piecing together such a warm and inviting family. It's just a shame that I don't have the opportunity to talk to John anymore.

If anything, the lack of a father figure hasn't damaged me, but made me stronger. I'm more independent than I probably have the right to be, but it also means I'm more lonely too. There was never anybody there when I needed them; never anybody to play footie with (hence my inability to play sport of any kind) or never anybody there to argue back with (resulting in my total inability to mount confrontation) and there was never anybody there to be my idol, which kinda makes my whole childhood seem sad and pathetic now.

It wasn't, of course. I had a great childhood, and it's not fair to blame who I am now on the fact I've never had a solid male role model (besides which, I'm proud of who I am now, no need to be ashamed!) But it's probably the reason why I'm a little different to the rest of you; why I don't always think the same way - so don't hold it against me!

If and when I ever have kids, I'll be there for them in ways my own dad wasn't there for me. I won't make the same mistakes others have made. I'll be there, to show my own kids.

That's all you can ask; for them to be there for you.
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