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Life

On Father’s Day

BY Ben Kelly | thescepticisle   /  18 June 2017

I hope you are spending some time with your dad today if that is possible. If you are lucky enough to have a decent father (or father figure) around you are luckier than some. This is a day to celebrate that.

We all know how incredibly important a mother’s love is, every boy is a mummy’s boy and every girl models herself to an extent on their mother, sometimes involuntarily. They are an almighty presence in our lives. I was both unlucky and lucky in this regard; my biological mother was psychologically damaged, an abuser who was attracted to male abusers; a sociopath who has poisoned the lives of all her children.

My mum and dad split up when I was very young and I went to live with my mum and saw my dad at weekends. So, why was I lucky? When I was nine my dad met a wonderful woman, who realised the pernicious presence in my life my mother was. Even as a young boy I quickly realised how much better looked after I was with my new step mum and dad, by the time I was twelve I asked that I not have to see her anymore. From then on, my step-mother became my mother, and for that I feel extremely lucky because God knows what would have become of me otherwise. Others are not so lucky.

Since then I only saw my biological mother once, when I was seventeen and worked in Morrison’s she asked me where the wines and spirits where; she didn’t recognise me.

Despite been lucky enough to have obtained a loving yet strong and authoritative mother figure in my life, whom I love dearly, the sadness that bears down on one’s soul from having a corrupting and unloving mother is incredibly difficult to get over, but at least I had my dad. That’s why today, on Father’s Day, I feel grateful for my dad; all of my happiest memories of childhood revolve around him.

It’s something that none of us should take for granted; be grateful for your dad, flaws and all, on this special day. In this country, we have something of an epidemic of fatherless homes, especially among the poor. The consequences are wide ranging and terrible, for both sexes. How many wayward lives can be traced back to the absence of a father?

When I was volunteering for a social care charity it screamed out at me. I met “prolific offenders” and drug abusers who were profoundly psychologically damaged, their lives were a total mess. I met a breath-taking plethora of men young and old with deeply tortured souls whose childhoods had provided no kind of foundation for a happy and prosperous life. Broken homes leading to broken lives; and probably well over 90% of them lacking a father figure.

That, it seemed explicitly clear to me, was a huge contributing factor to their deep unhappiness. Grown men wept in front of me like children. These were truly harrowing scenes. Deep down there is a part of them that never grew up, that was never nurtured by an authority figure, a life guide, an idol, a hero, a foundation to build a life on; a father. Sadly, such men would often go on to do the same damage to their own children; and the vicious cycle continues for generations.

Never undermine the importance of a father or father figure to a family. Yes, many people get through life without a father, and no father is better than a bad or abusive father; but exceptions are not rules. In an ideal situation, a child should always have a father figure of one kind or another.

I have the utmost respect and love for my dad. He is a personal hero of mine, but let’s be clear; he isn’t perfect. He is a flawed man and a flawed father. Psychologists believe it an important time in a child’s life, especially for a boy, when they realise their dad isn’t perfect. I certainly can’t pinpoint that moment, but I can say that at the age of 32 all of my dad’s flaws, and mistakes, are plain to see. I only love him more, because he is a human being. I forgive him for his failings, perhaps I even love him more because of them.

He has made mistakes and when he was younger he was a mite irresponsible, selfish and had a terrible taste in women. As an adult now I understand him so much better. He had his first child when he was 23; if I had done that the result probably would’ve have been catastrophic. I could’ve been much more selfish, irresponsible and self-serving at that age; a state of being it took some time to grow out of. I’ve made some serious errors in my own life due to my personality flaws.

As a father myself now I understand the weight of that responsibility. I understand how any mistake you make can have a terrible ripple effect. I understand how one’s flaws are magnified and more consequential and how difficult it is to try and avoid passing them on to the next generation. I realise just how flawed as a father I am likely to be, but also how I’m able to learn so much good from my father; and use him as an example of how to be, and how not to be.

We are just incredibly befuddled, emotional, searching, hopeful and fearful beings trying to find a place in the world and guide our way through this baffling, sometimes awe inspiring, sometimes wonderful, and often terrible, maze of life that leads who knows where. How can we judge another individual for their mistakes if we are not willing judge ourselves equally as harshly? Look to their hearts and if you see the goodness in there, then cherish them.

My dad has a good heart and ultimately, he has been a strong father figure for his four sons. If there is an almighty judge, let them judge him on that and embrace him.

This Father’s Day is a poignant one for me and my brothers. We know that it will be the last one we spend with him. With the treatment stopped, his disease terminal, we have to begin facing the prospect of life without him. A prospect difficult enough for his eldest, in his forties, but harsher on his two youngest; at just 16 and 18.

This is the time I’d dreaded all my life, not just the ten years since he first got cancer. When I was a child I sometimes thought about my parents dying before I went to sleep and it made my anxious and weepy. The thought of gaining a stable family only to lose them was difficult to bear. Since he first became ill I’ve had to ready myself, but how can we ever be ready? Especially when so many of us are prone to repressing emotions when need be. It will hit me like a ton of bricks when the time comes.

I’ll write a short, but more emotive, message in his card this year. Probably the first time I have allowed my feelings on this to become exposed to him because, of course, we don’t talk directly about it very much. How terribly British. I have tried to, but the words don’t come out, the moment never arises, we are just not wired that way. Whatever we want to say to each other will splurge out in the final weeks and days or not at all, I guess.

I’m sure we both know already.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a relationship with my dad as a child and as an adult, which is a whole different, and wonderful, experience. Then you have a father and a friend. I bitterly regret that if I was to be lucky enough to live another 32 years I’d live over half my life without him. But then, as I have said; I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a dad, a great one, if you do too then show them some love today and be happy.

Happy Father’s Day.