Fatherhood….Part 3

I was 4 years old when my father left my mother, from then on I grew up without a father figure. I had my mum, my older brother and my younger sister, and later on we moved home and my grandmother moved into the same house as us. Growing up without a dad didn’t really mean much to me, I could not remember much about my dad being around. I did realise that all my friends had a dad around, so not having one did make me a bit different to the other kids, but as I was different anyway it didn’t seem such a big deal. I was born in 1964, I have a double hare lip and cleft palate and I have slight deafness, especially in my right ear, I used to joke that from the neck down I was pretty much perfect, but from the neck up I was rubbish! I got all the usual ribbing and name calling all the way through school, kids really can be the cruellest creatures! but I came through it with a few good friends, and a fairly good education and I’ve muddled through OK since then.

All the time whilst growing up I’d have to go to Great Ormond Street Hospital for orthodontic work, hearing tests and occasional plastic surgery, I always went with my mum, she always made it a bit of an adventure. Although I could spend a large percentage of the day sat in the dentist’s chair or having hearing tests, I always looked forward to those days.

My brother, sister and I all got into canoeing (kayaking) and mum would take us off to competitions all over the country, often hundreds of miles, with camping thrown in for good measure. During the weekends when we weren’t kayaking we were out on our bikes or just generally messing about. All this time there was nothing from my dad, especially no financial support for my mum. Times were really hard for her, she trained as a nurse, then started working nights at the local hospital. Still we kids got to do everything that we wanted, the other kids had more stuff, or better stuff, but we were just as happy and we never really missed out on anything. Since I’ve grown up I’ve realised how hard it must have been for my mum, and how selfless and special she was, and still is. Having been a senior manager, and now having my own business, I can see what a great manager most mothers would make. Dealing with angry or disaffected staff is easy compared to dealing with a small child throwing a tantrum in the supermarket! I’m convinced that if the UK had a bunch of good mothers running it instead of a bunch of self-serving posh boys (both sides are the same!) Britain would be great again (Sarah feeds our family of 7 for not much more than I spent on feeding myself before we got together!) but then again Sarah has bought up 5 boys on her own, with no help from their dad!

Then when I was 18, my brother was 20 and my sister 16 my dad turned up! He wanted to be friends, he wanted…….I’m not sure what! he definitely wanted contact. It turned out that he had been living in France with his partner, he had his own business operating 3 car transporters all over western europe and he’d love us to come and stay with him, get to know us etc! Well, my brother took and passed his HGV driving test, as did I, and we were both invited to go drive with/for my dad. My brother did do a trip for him, but I wasn’t interested. After sporadic contact (every 6 months or so) for a couple of years my father died. He was 53 I think, and here’s where it gets a bit messy, I’m not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby when I heard that my dad had died, I don’t think that it was his loss that was the issue, I’d never had him in the first place! but it was that I’d never get to say the things that I wanted to say, and I’m not even sure what I wanted to say! It all seemed so final and pointless!

I’m now of the mind that I really didn’t miss anything in not having my dad around, I had (and still have) a fantastic mum! The loss was all my dads, he missed my sisters first steps and first words, he missed our growing up, taking us out to the park, taking us canoeing and camping and teaching us to ride bikes etc. I’m now a dad myself, I came to it late, my lovely partner Sarah has 5 boys aged 10, 13, 15, 21, and 23. I’m often bemused by the boys, surprised by them, delighted by them, I’m often left clueless as to what to do or say, and sometimes I just want to yell at them, but when you see them learn something, see the joy in their faces when they’re having a good time, or see their pride when they achieve something new, I wonder to myself, how could any self-respecting man walk away from his kids?

Me and David

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