The road already taken
When I was about 3 years old, my father left/was kicked out by my mother who had had enough of his irresponsible nature. Whilst he was—apparently—very emotionally available, he was too unreliable and she needed someone who could support us.
This is what she’s told me as I don’t actually remember him at all.
Now, I’ve never had any reason to doubt the stories she’s told me about him—few as they were—but a part of me has always been curios for more. What was he really like? How much am I like him? What baggage have I unknowingly gotten from him?
He would call every now and then, to say that he would show up for our—me and my sister’s—birthdays, but I can’t remember if he ever did.
I don’t think he did.
In my teens I got into a lot of trouble and I can still remember my mother telling me—in hindsight, it’s obvious that it had been out of concern—“You should be careful to not become your father.”
But how could I be careful and avoid something I didn’t know?
About 6–7 years ago I decided that I was enough of an adult that I should bare the responsibility as much as he should now, whilst I could certainly fault him for not making efforts to have a relationship with me when I was younger, I couldn’t hold that against him anymore.
Approaching him I made a few attempts at finding something to bond over, which in our particular case turned out to be alcohol. He had already dulled the pain of existence for most of his life at this point.
According to my mother he has always been inclined towards to the booze and I imagine adding another failed relationship to his list probably didn’t help him steer away from the intoxication.
He had an accident were he fell over in a drunken stupor and hit his head on the pavement. I helped him into his apartment, cleaning his wound as he sat there cursing in Finnish. He sounded like he was disappointed in himself, but maybe I’m projecting?
After that incident I was hesitant to try again.
A couple of years after that he died in a stroke or brain aneurysms.
A drunk with 5 children from 3 different relationships, but no family.
Paus, breath & reflect
“Why are you telling me all of this?,” you might be wondering.
It’s simple really, not easy, but definitely simple. To know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been. You need to know what baggage you’re already carrying.
In a relationship, this goes double. Your partner deserves to know what baggage you’re carrying, unless you’re the special kind of ass hole who likes to surprise people with moments such as, “I shat on your carpet.”
Nobody likes a carpet-shitter, don’t be a carpet-shitter.
And one of the many baggages I’m carrying is that I grew up with an emotionally unavailable step-father who, to this day, looks at me with contempt and derision. A man who doesn’t talk or share with my mother, the woman he’s meant to be sharing his life with.
And a biological father who I never really knew, because he couldn’t get his shit together enough to be there for his children.
I used to say that I grew up without a paternal role model but I’ve come to terms with that that simply isn’t true. I did, but not in a way I would have wanted.
A bad role model is still a role model.
All of this sets the stage for how I behave towards my own son. I want to be there, both financially and emotionally and everything else in between.
And I want to be there for my wife, the woman I’ve decided to share my life with and who, in return, has made the same decision. A woman who has her own baggage to carry. And as much as I appreciate her help carrying mine, I need to step up and always be there to help her carry hers.
But it’s a long fucking journey to get to where I want to be. I have a lot of ghosts to exorcise before I get there.
The long, long road ahead
“Where do I start?” I ask myself every now and then, hoping someone will emerge from the depths of Disneyland with a magical potion to make it all easier. Of course, no one ever does because it’s never easy.
Simple, sure. But never easy.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Tao Te Ching, chapter 64
I think Chinese philosopher Laozi had it all figured out. And with a time stamp of about 2000 years ago it’s pretty safe to say he gets to call “First!”
So that’s where I’ll start.
I’ll begin my first step by crawling—slowly and subconsciously reluctantly—out of my man cave. I let go of the “last bastion of masculinity” as some misguided idiots call it.
My journey is far from over but at least it’s a first step.
And I don’t want any acknowledgement. There should be no parade to celebrate my epiphany because that’s just another form of entitlement.