Monday, February 08, 2010

The absent fathers

I was thinking earlier this evening about the men I knew while I was a child. I was wondering if any of them was or could have made a decent role model or father figure. Alas, most of them were pretty sorry excuses for men. Let us examine the list of suspects:

  • My stepfather: He was a sorry excuse for a human being, letter alone a father. I am forty-six years old now and I am still trying to undo the damage he did. Shortly before my mother died, she told me that my stepfather was a virgin when they were married. This might not be remarkable if it were not for the fact that he was forty-nine years old when he married her. He must have been the only solider on either side to make it through the Second World War with his virginity intact. At any rate, this information helped me to understand him better.

    My stepfather hated himself. It was my bad fortune to provide him with an additional target for his hatred. Perhaps I reminded him of the boy he had been. Whatever the case, he made my life hell for the entire time I lived under the same roof as him. He was an emotional infant who couldn't grasp anyone's needs but his own. My mother went to her grave earlier than she might otherwise have because she nursed him for the last years of his life and neglected her own health. If there is an afterlife, I hope he is suffering some torment there for the pain he caused.

    My theme here is absent fathers, and each person I examine was absent in their own way. My stepfather's empathy for other humans was largely absent. He was kind to animals, however, so he did have some compassion inside him. It's too bad that compassion couldn't manifest itself more readily with humans, particularly little boys.

  • My legal father: I bear the last name of a man I barely know. What I do know of him, however, is that he was a coward. He and my mother separated when I was two years old. He stopped his weekly visits when I was three. He did so because he was afraid of my mother's wrath. I guess his children weren't worth the trouble of facing his angry, estranged wife.

    I looked my legal father up twenty-five years later. One of the first things he told me was that he paid his child support consistently. I believe he expected me to thank him for merely fulfilling his legal duty to provide that child support. When I asked him why my sisters and I had never heard from him in all those years, he noted that he hadn't heard from us. Apparently it was up to the child who was rejected to look-up the father who walked out.

    Although I found his explanations for his behavior to be lame, I did subsequently visit my legal father and meet his wife, daughter, and stepsons. They were reasonably friendly, but I never got the feeling that I was ever going to matter much to them.

    When I was getting married a few years later, I invited my legal father to the wedding. I had discussed this with my mother beforehand to ensure that she would not be put off by his presence, and she told me she would be polite to him. He, however, declined my invitation because he did not want to have to face my mother. He had missed both his daughters' weddings during his years of silence, and now he was actively rejecting the chance to see his only son get married because it would be uncomfortable to see his ex-wife. This is why I describe him as a coward. I haven't been in touch with him since he declined my wedding invitation.

    My legal father was absent, quite literally, for most of my upbringing. And aside from the child support he paid my mother, all I got from him was a last name.

I intend to write about some of the other men I knew while growing up in some subsequent posts.

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