I had breakfast with my dad this morning.
So what? You may think. It's hardly the most auspicious start to a piece of writing, but if I tell you I didn't speak to him for 15 years, then I did and we went some way to fixing the father / son relationship, but then we crashed and burned again, maybe you'll read on?
I was never close to my father, from the age of 13 up until I was 21 I had no respect for him and from 21 onwards I had no need or want of a relationship with him. It had a lot to do with the break up of my parents marriage and myself taking on the mantle of being my mothers protector, but as I've grown older, and I've lived and had relationships of my own, I've realized that there was no villain of the piece, that they were both to blame and they both (and there is only one word that is suitable) "f***ed up" - BIG TIME.
I've always thought, that unless you were abused by your parents, there cannot be a reason to blame them for your behavior as an adult. I've been down the therapy road and I'm used to all the terms and words used about "learned behavior", "repressed memories" or repeating the patterns of your parents. You don't need therapy to know when something's wrong or bad for you and you don't need to do that much soul searching or self analysis to realize what didn't work for them, is never going to work for you. Children who grow up in a house full of screams / shouts / tears and tantrums are either going to become withdrawn and frightened of the world or they grow strong and soon realize that's not going to be the way they live their life. I have two brothers and we all turned out extremely different. I'm not saying we came out of that house unscathed, but the three of us seem to fight against repeating the example we grew up with.
I love my dad but it's taken me a long time to get to the point where I can sit down with him and we can talk. He wasn't an ogre and I didn't grow up in a house full of fear, in fact the opposite is true,but I did grow up in a house that was always full of tension. I never once saw my parents show any affection to each other. I think the nicest thing I ever saw my mother do was set my dads newspaper on fire whilst he was still reading it and the nicest thing he did for her was not to prefix a four letter insult with an eight letter insult. When you grow up in a war zone you learn quickly, and my in depth knowledge of profanity and dirty words went down a storm in the school playground. What I hated at home became endlessly entertaining at school. My mother and father should probably never have got married, they didn't ever seem to grasp that the endless arguing, smashing things and screaming wasn't doing either of them any good, in the end it made both of them ill and it left the whole family fractured and emotionally cold.
I had breakfast with my dad this morning.
We talked about the weather, his breakfast, my breakfast and then we finally TALKED. We talked about everything. My mum, their relationship, my relationship with both of them, both of my brothers, how my dad feels, how I feel and the exact reason why we haven't spoken for so long; and I told him that it's my fault, it was my choice and it's something I have to deal with. My reasons for not talking to him are because I wanted a quiet life and I had thought that after almost twenty years of not having a relationship with him, that I didn't need one anyway. I didn't think I missed him and I thought I wouldn't have anything to say to him but it's not the truth. I do need my dad and I have lots to say to him.
I will talk to anyone. I say hello to strangers, and I strike up conversations with people in supermarkets, on the street, on the Internet and on tube trains but I didn't even bother to take the time to talk to my own dad. I was wrong. Relationships need to be nurtured to grow, or revived and restored to keep growing, and the older I get the more aware I am that those I love are not going to be around forever. It's never clever to throw anyone out, to give up or just walk away from your family, even if that isn't the way you grew up or how you were taught to behave. We are all products of our parents and our life experience be it good or bad, and in hindsight, it really wasn't that bad. I wasn't abused physically or sexually, I just grew up witnessing two people abusing each other verbally and emotionally.
The funniest thing about today? My dad picked me up in an old transit van, full of newspaper, rubbish and dust from his working week and he said to me "You don't mind me picking you up in the van do you son? You must remember us always driving around like this when you were a boy?"
And the nicest thing is, I didn't mind, and I do remember.