I think about my father every day. Just over five years ago we had to let him go, he died due to poor mental health and cancer, but he’s still with me, and still in my heart.
At times I hear his disapproving tut, sometimes I see the look he had on his face when he thought he said something funny. Most of the time I see him when I look in the mirror and when I catch myself saying something he would’ve said. I was still learning about my Dad when he died, and still trying to figure out who he was, and why. More importantly I was still trying to figure out our relationship. I knew he loved me, and I loved him, though we seldom said those words.
His legacy is that he makes me think about how I bring up my sons, how I hold them, play alongside them, share knowledge, and marvel at their own discoveries. Aye of course when I get annoyed around them I think of my Dad too.
When I was younger there I could feel a tension between the two of us, there was so much unsaid. I had no way of knowing how to start asking him the big questions. We had small moments of honesty and truth, mostly snatched conversations whilst in the car.
These are patterns that I see repeated in my work with other Dads. There is so much that goes on between fathers and sons, and so much more that remains unspoken.
My sense is that there’s a process we all have to go through with our parents, as we grow up and start to find ourselves we expect our parents to hold us. They need to allow us to push at their boundaries. We need to test out how far they will let us fall and fail.
Whilst I never had my Dad’s words to use as a compass to guide me on my adventure of being a dad, I had his actions, and his mannerisms. The love was there, but given in different ways, and implied by his actions. When he died I was angry at him, for a lot of things. One of which was around why he couldn’t have told me (and the rest of my family) that he loved us more than he did.
As time has passed, I’ve come to the realisation that perhaps it was down to him being a product of his generation, and indeed his family background (that’s a whole other story). I’ve mellowed and given him a break. It was never going to be easy for him to tell me he loved me. I’ll never know what my dad was thinking, but I know he loved me.
I had to let go of my father, just as I was coming into my own fatherhood. I would encourage all parents, sons and daughters to feel the fear and ask those questions you’ve always wanted to ask. Find out who your parents are, before you need to let go.