Thursday, October 8, 2009
Today is my father's fiftieth Birthday and thankfully, time has healed many things. Yes, I was exposed to things a child, or anyone should never see their father doing but apart from the strain it appears to have put on some of my romantic relationships, which my father is unaware of, he is still a remarkable man with an outgoing personality and an enthusiasm for life, regardless of what is thrown his way and he has certainly had his fair share of lemons.
One of the hardest things I have had to face is my similarities to him. My mother, one of the kindest and most loving souls I know (unconsciously, I believe) began to suggest that my father's irresponsible and reckless behaviour led to the affair and eventually the breakdown of their marriage and our family. Unfortunately, as with most unconscious things, she was unaware that she was doing this and it began to filter into my (and I believe my brother's) minds that with this type of behaviour, came the personality, the morals and the infidelity - all bundled into one. We almost began to despise this personality type. So one can imagine how hard it was when we (my brother and I) began to see parts of our father's personality emerging through us. We have not discussed this at length, however I radically rejected this side of myself when I began to see it emerge. I remember one night with Tristen (long term boyfriend), I was having a party and he was quiet sober for a change - I was dancing the night away and messing around with my friends and I noticed him sitting on a bar stool so I went over to talk to him. He chuckled at me and said, "You've got more of your father in you than you think." I was so hurt by this comment at the time and it really upset me that he should say such a thing. He meant it to be spiteful because he didn't approve of my father at all. Anyway, I have since come to terms with the fact that I do have aspects of my father in me and I have learnt to love that side of me - and it's a big side too - a huge part of my personality was repressed by a number of factors and people and it is so unbelievably liberating to allow me to be myself around everyone I spend time with. It's a good side too and occasionally I do feel guilty, but I believe it is just a trigger of an older memory.
The side that is 'new' and that I've learnt to embrace is an outgoing, friendly and all-accepting dynamic that loves friends and friends of friends to join in and have good time. The reason we had such bad associations with it was that my Dad used this excuse as a cover for the affair a lot of times, "We were just dancing" (This was with Sam, the lady he'd run off with, copious amount of times in the past) "We're just friends"....you get the picture. But luckily I have managed to see the logic in all of this and sift through his personality and taken what I like from it, knowing that by accepting it does not predetermine that I'm going to be a lying, cheating spouse and break up the family that I'm dreaming of.
Anyway, as I was saying in the beginning, it's his 50th today and the point I was getting at was that because of this outgoing, loving, embracing personality, it has made him into a wonderful man, regardless of the hurt he has caused and been exposed to. In order to celebrate his life thus far, I put together a coffee table book of memories from his siblings, relatives, friends, children and girlfriend combined with photographs dating as far back as 1968. My brother and I took him out for dinner last night and presented him with this book. He was almost confused at first until he recognised a photograph and then realised, more or less, what it was. He opened the first page, which read,
"For all the laughs we've shared, games we've played, wine we've drunk and stories we've told...
For all the bikes we've ridden, fish we caught and tents we pitched...
Our childhood was by no means conventional but then neither were you - we love you for that and we treasure the memories we can share and pass on.
You are like no other - you are precious and rare.
We love you Dad.
At that point, he was so overwhelmed with emotion that he closed the book and wiped his tears, "This is awesome!" (One of the fantastic elements that comes with his personality is how easily he shows his emotions, although it has been something he has had to work on - they did not always come naturally.) He gathered himself and turned the page, I had begun with a brief family history and then had a few pictures of his parents, dogs etc - these would all have been taken before 1964 - "Where did you find all these pictures...?" My Dad lost his father at the age of 15 to cancer and he loved him dearly, he began to weep when he saw a photograph of him, "That is my favourite photograph of my Dad" He said through tears. He continued to close the book, cry and thank us profusely and then open it again, when he realised that it wasn't just us in the book, but memories and well-wishes from siblings, family, friends, his girlfriend and so on - he just could not contain himself. It is so rewarding to see a reaction like this, I mean, I hate to see him cry but I know that they are tears of joy and love. Unfortunately, knowing my Dad like I do, I also know that they are tears of guilt - I believe he doesn't think that he deserves anything from my brother and I and after all these years, I can see the guilt for what he did and what he put us through eat away at him every day. The gratitude was unbelievable and that is all anyone really wants, is to see that the receiver realises how much of your heart you poured into a gift like that.
I drove home on a high last night, it made all the late nights, the exhaustion and exasperation of getting people to contribute all worth it when I saw the look on his face because at the end of the day, he is my father. There were a number of years when he wasn't there for me but I was blessed with a number of other men who became my 'Dad's' and it turned out I was luckier than most girls growing up as I had a whole host of men who cared for and loved me as if I was their own. But he is my Dad and I have learnt to love him for who he is and not what he's done. He hurt me in seeking selfish pleasures but never intended to and he was young at the time and simply groping around in the dark, trying to find out who he was and what he was about, much like I and many of you are doing now. I've got to give him credit for being true to himself and following his heart in his search for happiness, which I don't believe is over for him yet but like I always say, life is always about the journey, the road-trip, the punctures, the music and cruising - the destination is just a bonus.