Saturday, May 10, 2008

And When Did You Last See Your Father?

I watched this movie last night and several parts of the film have resonated in me so much that I cannot stop thinking about them and feel I have to get these thoughts out. The film was out last year and tells the story of a relationship between father (Jim Broadbent) and son (Colin Farrell) from the past to know and in the particular light of their fraught relationship from the son’s childhood. This is all brought to ahead when the father is diagnosed with cancer and becomes terminally ill. That is all I shall say on the movie, it’s a very well acted and written piece and I would heartily recommend it to anyone, you might need some tissues.

The film its self raised many questions and thoughts with me. How is the relationship with my father? How does it feel to have had more than one father? How am I coping since Bong died, the cancer part of the film was a little too raw in parts, how am I getting on? What would my ideal relationship with my father be? See a veritable can of worms was opened up in my head and not much sleep was gained last night. This could be a long blog, let’s start at the beginning.

I think if I look back I have had five father figures in my life. Bong (my granddad), Paul (my first step dad), Tim (my step dad now), my Dad and also my Mum. My mother had me when she was just 16. My father wasn’t about for long and so she brought me up as a single mother, taking me to University with her, and also being the role of both parents. I didn’t find out until quite recently that my mothers parents Gran and Bong had offered to bring me up as theirs. My mum refused as she wanted me to know my true mother and also because she had decided to have me and that was that. I am glad of this the whole thing could have been far too Eastenders to be true and I had enough Eastender like storylines in my childhood thank you very much. I am proud of my mother for this and also the fact she single handily raised me whilst doing a degree.

My Grandparents however looked after me for long periods at Easter, the summer holidays and Christmas letting my mother have a social life and time to revise. They took me on long holidays in the car to France and other European destinations and to a degree I felt like I had a second set of parents the idea of a father or what one was didn’t occur to me in my early years. That was until my mother met Paul. Sadly (as I would love to be able to) I cannot remember the first time I met Paul, all I do remember from those early years was that he made me laugh and we had lots of fun.

Eventually we left Newcastle and Paul and Mum and I all lived together, no teething problems all was good after a few years Paul proposed to Mum in Thailand and I was jubilant at the news. Then the possibility of adoption came up and I was more than happy to take Paul as my dad. I know this all sounds very rosy and to a degree it was, yes me and Paul had some mammoth rows as sometimes I felt he would over step the mark of ‘friend’ to ‘father’ and in some ways this meant ‘foe’. On the whole though it was a very happy time and bar one big row we had where we weren’t talking just before the wedding all was fine. Sadly this didn’t last as in 1992, six months after they married, on the 5th of December after a day of Christmas shopping my mother and I came home and I found Paul hanging from the attic. He had a brain tumour and in the previous months his behaviour had been erratic, we had fought more this was all too do with the tumour having burst on a holiday in Ibiza, none of us knew that until after he died.

Suddenly it was just me and my mother again. I became man of the house only my mum being deep in grief (though she was never sorry for herself which was highly commendable) couldn’t do the dual parent role. Bong stepped in and I went off the rails. I skipped school, I did a lot of weed (all aged around 11-13) I became violent, aggressive, and mean sickly mean. Bong tried to help and being a teenager and quite a screwed up one at the time I rebelled further and took against any authority figure that happened to be in my way. I think this was when Bong and I had a very fraught relationship and one now I regret.

Things calmed down and Mum eventually met Tim. He was a science teacher at my school where mum also taught. At first I liked him, we got on well and I liked his daughters. When he became my science teacher when I was in year 11 and my mum also became pregnant things went weird. We moved in, I didn’t want to. I started misbehaving more again at school and at home and declared war. I then had to move schools as we’d moved away from the area and I guess I pushed all the blame on Tim, I saw him as spawn of Satan, and naturally I also blamed my mother. Miriam was born and for a while that took the pressure off, I felt I had an ally even if a 2 month old one. Then it became too much and I left. I ran away from home. I was gone.

Whilst all this madness was going on, not only was I coming to terms with being gay, I had managed to get in touch with my Dad’s parents and in turn my dad and after 16 years not long before Mum had Miriam we met. I knew he was my Dad the minute I saw him, the feeling that a stranger has such an overpowering bond with you is the oddest feeling ever. We had some similarities and seemed to get on well and we even ordered the same McDonalds meal, for some reason that memory really sticks with me. We wrote regularly and I met some of my other family members, when I left home this relationship quietened also.

Now to the present day where are these relationships? Much has happened since much reconciliation has been made and I have a fantastic relationship with Tim. We go down the pub together, we get drunk together, and he is great company. I have never called him ‘Dad’ as I think it would freak him out but now I do see him as that and know that when the time comes my children will know him as their Granddad.

As some of you will know Bong died last year aged 68. It was very sudden; he was diagnosed with cancer and died within 7 weeks, to say a huge part of me is now missing would be an understatement. The fact he wont be at my wedding is like a wound that I don’t think will heal, I will have a fabulous day, he would be furious at me if I didn’t, I will always miss him. You don’t get true gentlemen like him anymore.

As for my Dad? It’s an odd one. We don’t have an ideal relationship by far (whatever that is) we speak on the phone every couple of months and email occasionally we haven’t seen each other in over three years. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the fact that with my entire childhood bond with him having never existed we don’t have that connection which is a shame as I would like us to. I invited him to the wedding and got a muted response and have heard nothing since so I can only assume he won’t be there, maybe he would find it to weird? I have never met his wife; I have met my younger brother and sister once, though Emma does text me quite often. This is down to both of us I do not lay all the blame with him at all. I do however feel I am at a crossroads of do we try hard to make the relationship work, or just leave it? I don’t even know what sort of a relationship he wants with me? This is something I need to clarify and deal with pronto I think as life is just too short.

I don’t know if I have answered any of my questions that I set out to; I do know I feel much better for getting it all out. I have also just realised that rather than my hard efforts to write something in fiction it would be much easier for me to sell out and get a deal writing one of those ‘tragic life stories’ only it would be just that… tragic. I don’t feel sorry for myself over any of this, yeah life can deal you a shit hand but it can with anyone. If I was to write a memoir I would much rather it was in the vein of Augusten Burroughs who has some mad stuff happen to him but is fine with it and, like I can, can see the funny side.

Wow, what a deep amount of writing one film can inspire hey? I feel like I have been far too serious and should add something shallow and silly, so I shall. If you don’t want to watch the movie for the story… watch it for the scene where Colin Firth is having some ‘solo time’ in the bath! And with that thought in both yours and my heads, I shall sign off!

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