Thursday, 19 March 2020

Everyone needs a father

In this crazy world at the moment, we're going into un-chartered territory for some months to come, with our lives, health and finances all at risk from the Coronavirus. We're all clearly going to have a lot of time on our hands for reflection and I've been doing that just recently in respect of my father. I show him below during WW2.
He died in 1969, when he was just 50 and I was 22. Up until his death I had always had a pretty poor relationship with him, he worked extremely hard to support the family, worked himself to death in all respects, but he was not a good family man. At 22 years old, I had a whole lifetime in front of me and so little time for a father that shared little with me, that, as far as I was concerned, could come later in my life, which of course it never did.

I was the second child, born in 1947, a year after the first child, a girl, died just a week after birth. Therefore when my sister was born in 1950, I guess he always saw her as the replacement for the first one and favoured her at my expense for the rest of his short life. Later came three other children but my father had his favourite and so it was and so I spent my childhood and teenage years being somewhat withdrawn from normal family relationships. As a result I guess, I've struggled with relationships all of my life and still do to this day, always needing a great deal of time with just myself.
However, around ten years ago and after the death of my mother, I gradually found myself being drawn back into the family circle after a long time out of it. I guess as I plodded through my sixties and into my seventies, I was being looked upon as a father figure by my younger siblings, a funny kind of realisation. That led me, as the curiosity of old age often does, to begin researching my family history and in particular, the male line from myself backwards. That, while it has been very successful, rewarding and enlightening, has exposed a great and much regretted hole in my life, all  those missed bonding chats with my father. The missed opportunities to ask him what growing up on Sheppey in the 1920's was like, what the countryside and living conditions were like, what his parents and his aunties and uncles were like, why he went into the army in 1935, earlier than he should by saying that he was eighteen when he was really only sixteen.
I was lucky in that I managed to get hold of his complete army record in the Buffs until de-mob at the end of the War and seeing what he did and endured through that helped me realise that there was far more to him than the person that I thought that I knew, when I was just twenty two. 
I would dearly loved to have chatted with him over the last ten years or more, because everybody needs a father and I missed the opportunity to have one.

6 comments:

  1. My father would have been about the same age and he too was in the army, and when I look back on the role that he played as a father and my role as a father, its very different. But then he grew up in a different era to what I did and that experience determined his attitude and role. Looking back now I think the best we can do is try to understand what made them the way they were.

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    1. I totally agree with you Dave, any father who fought through the war had every reason for carrying those experiences in their mind for the rest of their lives.

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  2. Thank you for this post, you dad looks like a thoughtful man, and handsome. Interesting how now you are being seen as rather a father figure for your siblings. There are many things I wish I had chatted about with my mother, who was only 56 when she died in 1971. I am writing a family history as the request of my sons.

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  3. Thank you as well Terra. I guess that getting on with work and bringing up children prevents many of us from talking to our parents until it's too late.

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  4. I think both you and your two correspondents above have said it all really Derek - it was a different era and wartime brought many obstacles to our lives. I think I was very lucky being an 'afterthought' - my parents were well in their forties when I was born and I had a sister twenty two years older than me. In spite of the war (my brother was at Dunkirk) I had a happy and carefree childhood with loving parents and for that I have always been so grateful.

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  5. Your feelings so much mirror mine, Derek. I was born in late 1938, my father went off to the war in 1939 and I first remember seeing him when he was demobbed in 1946. So we never formed a bond. He died in 1989 and I often wonder about his early life and want to ask him questions.

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