Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Thoughts about dad

I felt the walls were too high this morning after doing a bag of shredding. Most of the stuff I was doing was accounts material dad had put together from the year 2007 and when that was finished I went into the garage to take a look at the pile of the rest of dad's stuff in the alcove along the side wall. I sorted through a box of CD ROMs and carried a couple of small boxes of photos into mum's apartment but when I went back into the garage I just felt it was too much. The walls were too high.

As I got back to my place it occurred to me that I would not have had this feeling if it was mum's stuff I was faced with sorting through this morning. The reason it felt like the walls were too high was because it was dad's stuff I was faced with. And I thought about my problematic relationship with my father, who died 4 years ago, and how things might be different if I was less prone to complain about him when I got the chance, which admittedly was not that often but it did happen from time to time. Most of the complaining was in front of mum who, despite that fact that she was married to dad for over 50 years, knew that he had weaknesses of character. But we all have character flaws, and I am drawn to think that it's more of a weakness to continue to blame someone who is dead, for their character flaws, than it is to have those character flaws in the first place.

So looking up at those towering walls this morning caused me to take a hard look at myself.

My father was a good man in many ways. He was always present, he never left us, for a start. Which is more that you can say for me, who left the family when the kids were small. He always treated us boys equally, furthermore, and allowed us to make mistakes, which I should be grateful for. This last thing he did enabled us to develop resilience and develop our characters independently from an early age. Dad was a stern patriarch in the old school pattern in many ways. But he left us up to our own devices - which is good in a way, but bad in another - and never shouted at us or hit us (except once). I remember a slightly distant but engaged parent who often had trouble understanding his children. He kept to his own devices and let us stick to ours.

In many ways my dad was a good man, as I say. But he let me down when mental illness struck and left me exhausted by life. He would not help in any way, and instead just pointed me to the government website. It took me many years to recover from the shock of illness, but I have never really recovered from the feeling that dad let me down badly. In the final instance he wasn't there when I needed him. If it had happened when I was 16 instead of 39 things would probably have been different. But I still get the feeling that he would have apportioned blame to me where there should have been none. He thought it a character flaw that I got ill, instead of seeing it as a mere physical ailment.

I think it is time however for me to lay those qualms aside and to forgive him for his failures, which were significant. But they were not so great that they cannot be forgiven. Which is how I want to proceed. At least doing so will make it easier to get through this current task of tidying up mum's place. Anything that makes that job easier to complete must be a good idea.

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