Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A Modern Problem - My Father

Today is my 47th birthday and yesterday I was told that my Father died. It has been a bad weekend, a family friend died on Saturday, my nephews cat died after being injured on Sunday morning and Sunday evening was my Fathers turn. However I had a very modern relationship with my Father and that means that I really didn't know him, so how should I feel about his death?

So some background, I am the sixth of seven children and my parents separated when I was four. I only have two memories of him from that time and after my parents separated they both took up with new partners. My younger brother started calling our Stepfather "Dad" straight away but I was very loyal to my Father and I held out for two years. Which in hindsight probably didn't do anything to help my relationship with my Stepfather. After that I rarely saw my Father even though he didn't live that far away. But through one of my older brothers I had the occasional contact. But it was like going to a friends house and meeting their Father, nothing special. The women that he was with had two sons around my age and the four of us, my stepbrothers, myself and my younger brother were great friends. As we got older we drifted apart.

When I was in my mid teens I decided that I wanted a relationship with my Father, so I would go and visit him. Mostly we watched TV together. Then when I was sixteen my older brother told us that our Father was getting remarried, I was glad. It was quite clear to me that whatever relationship that had existed between my parents was well and truly in the past, so I wasn't shocked or upset at all. But I didn't get an invitation to the wedding, in fact I was never told about it. A boy at school was invited but I wasn't. After they were married I went to the house so he could tell me, but he didn't. And it broke my heart.

He couldn't even acknowledge reality and it destroyed what little relationship we had. I never went back to visit him, although I did see him a few times after that at birthdays or funerals. Over the years I have thought maybe I should make another effort, but I never did. I had tried and it got me nowhere. I found out later that others had also tried and had been just as successful as I was. In his later years I heard that he wanted a relationship with his children, but too much water had gone under the bridge.

When my Stepfather died, even through we had not had the best of relationships at times, I cried. I was very upset, he raised me, protected me, taught me good lessons and bad and he provided for me. But my own Father couldn't even tell me that he was getting remarried. How should I feel about him?

I then think about how many others have this modern problem, where we don't know the people who should be the dearest to us in the world. When my parents separated I didn't just lose my Father but the rest of his side of my family. All that history and background was lost to me. The truth is that I don't love my Father, but I don't hate him either, rather he is just someone I used to know a long time ago.

The way we live now means that far too many people understand my problem, far to many know what it's like to not know one of their own parents.

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  1. Mark,

    I'm very sorry about your father! (and other things, too...)

  2. This is a very sad post but I commend you for expressing your thoughts and for your conclusion. I think the way to feel about his death is to say exactly as you have put it. I think he was probably a good man who didn’t cope very well with being a good Dad to you and ended up making a complete mess of what could have been a potentially a good relationship. Afterwards he possibly felt it was too late to make amends- another big mistake. The important point to make is you were the one who decided that you wanted a relationship with your natural Father, so you (not him) would go and visit him. His behavior is unfathomable but let me relate another story which might shed some light on the matter.
    When I was a child I visited my uncle’s farm and I used to also on a horse visit my grandfather and mother who lived together in a little cottage not far from the main farm house where my uncle and auntie resided. As a very young child I noticed my grandmother was at times what seemed to me to be bit overly critical of my grandfather if he was not up to scratch with his chores.
    So in puzzlement one day I asked the question why and I remember the answer given to me then when I was only a very young child nevertheless struck a chord at the time. My Grandfather expectantly won a lottery at the time and promptly left the marriage and 7 young children with Grandma who resorted to acting as a cattle station cook where she received free board for all the children and a meagre allowance so that the family was only just able to survive. Amazingly many years later when her was frail and had spent all the money she took him back, but she did not spare any leniency when it became to chores that were not performed satisfactorily. I doubt my father or his siblings attended the funeral and nor did they take much interest in him, for he was a stranger to them. I guess he just couldn’t cope with marriage and bringing up 7 children, so he didn’t want to face the reality of life just as we all must face from time to time.

    1. Mr. Byrnes

      Thank you for your kind words and for your family history. I don't know if I would be as forgiving as your Grandmother was though!

      Mark Moncrieff

  3. I was sorry to hear of your intermittent and disconnected relationship with your father and his family. I have also been in your shoes. The loss of familial connection, to our roots, is ungrounding. My faith, that God is my ultimate father, has been my savior and allowed me to see my own father more compassionately. I see him now as just a mere man, with all of his human weakness, imperfection and short-sighted view of things. I know of your pain and your true loss and void. The best thing you can do for yourself and him, is extend forgiveness. When we do, we realize how hurt and weak they truly were..and they did the best they were capable to do. The depth of your compassion and insight into other people and situations, I am sure, is through these trials you have experienced. I hope this is comforting to you in your time of loss and remembrance.

    1. Thank you Gwen, I appreciate your thoughts.