Nine years ago today, my dad died. He was fifty-one years old.
Now, I’m not going to pretend he was the greatest father in the world: those who know me and those who knew him know that simply was not the case. He drank too much; he cheated on my mother more times than I care to remember; he smacked me too hard too often; and for a lot of the time he was with us, he didn’t seem to give a shit about my dreams, my aspirations, or anything that really mattered to me at all. A couple of weeks after he died I even wrote a story about him, the emotions of which were as raw as the draft itself. But – for better or worse – writing is the way I have always expressed these things.
Strangely, I miss my dad more often these days than I used to. Not every day, but more often than I ever thought I would. Back then – towards the end – we didn’t speak much, and we hadn’t done for years. He was on to his second wife and lived a couple of hundred miles away, so I rarely spoke to him and I saw him even less, and that was just the way I liked it. There were a lot of bridges that had crumbled since he left the family he had created, and there was a lot of work that needed to be done to fix them.
I’m not sure what it is I miss about him or feel that I have lost now that he is not here because, as I am sure you have gathered, nobody was knocking on his door and awarding him Daddy of the Year. I suppose I like the idea of that… figure in my life, and I know I wanted to tell him what I thought about how he treated us over the years. So maybe I am just a little pissed off I never got the chance to say these things when he was alive to hear them, or perhaps I just wish he was more like all of those sitcom fathers I see on TV.
But the vitriol has mellowed somewhat over the years, and I guess – although neither of us ever said it – we were working towards becoming friends when he died. Because, in a way, you have to. I think now, if things had carried on the way they were, I may even have forgiven him for most of what he had done over the years. Most.
He never saw me pass my driving test; wasn’t there when I got married; never saw me hold down a proper job; and wasn’t around when I had my first professional publication. I guess you could say – even though I was twenty-seven when he died – that my dad never saw me become a man.
Of course, he never saw me mess things up either – sometimes rather spectacularly – so maybe it comes out fairly even in the end.
Anyway; good, bad or indifferent – today is for the fathers.