Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yesterday was Dad's Birthday

My father passed away last year.  I think there's a blog post about it somewhere.  Anyway I realised yesterday that I actually miss my Dad - it seems weird considering at times my relationship with him wasn't the best (nowhere near as bad as the relationship with my mother though!).  So I thought I'd get a little bit introspective and do a post about my Dad...

I have regrets - I have always tried to live my life with no regrets but I do have a few regrets in terms of my relationship with Dad.  I should have tried harder - I really should.  I think for most of my adult life I only ever spoke to Dad on father's day, his birthday and Christmas.  The rest of the year I pretty much ignored him.  Dad was a good man, he was, but he had a very large drinking problem which is partly what caused the estrangement between us.  That and in some screwed up way I always thought I was never as good as my brother in his eyes.  All I ever really wanted Dad to say was that he was proud of me - which a friend of his told us that at his funeral that Dad was incredibly proud of both us and would constantly talk about how well we were doing and so on (I suspect this applied more to my brother as Dad didn't have that many details of what I was up to...).

My relationship with Dad really did go sour because of his drinking.  The man was a heavy alcoholic from the age of 16 and I suspect that I have my own issues with alcohol due to that.  I don't know but I'm not going to blame him for it.  My father meant no harm ever.  He was a good soul but I think he was lost.  He tried to do the best by everyone around him and that's what once in a while went pear-shaped.  He was used and abused basically - people took advantage of his good nature and it was really sad to see it happen time and time again.  Old dogs, new tricks...

The bad:
- getting phone-calls from whichever bar Dad was at to come pick him up.
- getting into a fight with him at the bar I worked at because I was cutting him off.
- Dad not remembering who I was after he had a rather nasty fall and ended up in Hospital.  He was stuck a couple of years in the past, Edwin and I went to visit him and he absolutely no idea of who was (I had lost a considerable amount of weight by this point).  That was heart-breaking for me (and I did hold it against him).
- ringing Dad for fathers day or his birthday after a massive weekend and blacking out due to lack of sleep and he was still on the other end of the phone talking like nothing had happened (this I am actually ashamed of!).
- Some of the general things of living with an alcoholic... I won't go into details but they tend not to be pleasant.

The good:
- One of the fondest memories I have of Dad is bringing me a cup of coffee every morning when I woke up (I started drinking coffee at 14).
- I came out to Dad when I was 19.  I was so worked up and stressed over it.  Dad looked at me and quite simply said "as long as you are happy" - I was stunned and a bit surprised that it was that simple.  
- Dad buying me my first car and encouraging my interest in it.  I still don't know my way around the engine of a car but I can make a car look pretty ;)
- Dad's generosity - he was quite simply the most generous and genuine man I think I've ever met.
- Dad actively encouraged my interests - including cooking.  He hated me being in the kitchen though as the kitchen normally turned into a massive mess! But he was generally kind enough to clean up after me.
- Dad allowing me to hold my High School Formal after-party at home.  Almost 100 drunken teenagers!  The man deserved a medal for that one!  And we only had the police come past once.

The regrets:
- Not seeing Dad before he died.  I moved down to Melbourne in 2003 and I didn't go back to Brisbane until Dad's funeral last year.
- That Dad didn't get to meet the girls.  I tried explaining to Dad that Larry and I were starting a family (or attempting to at that stage).  And it's the only time Dad ever hung up on me with a very curt "I have to go."
- Dad not being there at our Wedding (but there was a very good reason for that too!).  If Dad would have been a bit more healthy mentally then it wouldn't have been a problem - but I'm not sure if Dad could have handled the concept of his youngest son getting married to another man.

My father in a lot of ways was a very admirable man and I do have a lot of respect for him.  He was born in 1940 during the War and in a lot of ways he was your typical European male.  Didn't show much affection to his kids (he loved us deeply though - I think Edwin and I both knew that).  I don't think he was ever expecting that he would be raising two children by himself.  Virtually unheard of in the 1980s.  But I think he did ok.  I'm not a complete screw-up... I've done ok for myself.  I've got a good education, stayed out of prison, I have a stable relationship and I have two amazing children.  I wouldn't be the person I am without my father.  I may not have always liked him but I do love him.  I have a much deeper respect for him now that I am a parent myself - I understand more of where he was coming from and the sacrifices he made.  

It's also funny a flickr contact of mine a couple of months ago posted a self-portrait of himself in the mirror and asked who do you see when you look in the mirror.  I see my father... as I have gotten older I look more and more like my Dad.  Not completely obviously as there were two people involved in making me.  But the resemblance is there.  Once upon a time I used to think I took more after my mother in terms of my looks but that was based purely on memory.  I can now see how people think I look like Dad...

I do love him and I do miss him.  And I do only hope that I can be as a good a person as he was.