Wednesday, 4 July 2007

What is a father?

I wasn't abused or beaten as a child so what am I moaning about? I simply feel I have been denied the affection and love I craved from my father, something I assumed I should be entitled too. My sister recently declared that I expect too much from him. "Expect nothing and you shouldn't be disappointed." Surely having your own father love you isn't expecting too much?
When I was young I wanted him to be a proper dad, you know the kind that take you to the park and push you on the swings, the kind that when you are upset would sit you on his knee and make it all better. The kind if someone hurts you, would go to the ends of the earth to claim your retribution. You know the kind. Well he wasn't and still isn't one of those dads, he is an alcoholic.

I suppose any child has the desire and the right to be loved by their parents particularly their father. They as parents and we as parents have a huge responsibility to our children to make sure that they feel loved, accepted and secure. Sadly in many cases, this is not happening, consequently leading to emotional scars in adulthood brought on by our own behaviour towards our children or our parents behaviour towards us as children.

What is a father? What is his role? To raise and nurture his children and provide them with a sense of security. To protect in times of trouble, to teach morals and values, right and wrong and to be honest and truthful. My father was and is none of these. He is a drunk and a bully who often shouts his obscenities uses his fists or needing to telephone my home to instruct me to "piss off." He opposed my decision to end my marriage and divide my family. In his opinion my ex husband is "a good ol' mans man," not one of those "new age wimpy types who does their own ironing. A drinker, that’s what you want.” His temper and delusions are the result of drinking too much whiskey and constant alcohol abuse. I was never witness to or on the receiving end of his violent outbursts as a young child. He saved those for me till I was much older.

My father has always had a thirst for the booze. As far back as I can recollect everything revolved around the local public house, then later, a bottle of scotch. He was and still is a traditional husband as my mother’s role was to look after the home and my sister and I. When my mother took a job at a local playgroup, I was able to go with her while my sister was at school. My father’s attitude was she should not to expect him to help around the house. He would finish work early teatime and head straight for the pub. Being self-employed offered flexibility and his hours of trade were generally Monday, Wednesday and Thursday approximately 8am to 4pm. Tuesday and Friday he was at the pub. He would come home and sit in his chair while my mother would set up a small folding table in front of him, lay out a table cloth, place a knife and fork on it followed by the salt and pepper. She would then take his meal that had been keeping warm in the oven, and place it in front of him. When he had finished, he placed his knife and fork on the plate, sat back in his chair and mum would clear away. I remember an incident when she hadn't unfolded the table properly and as dad cut into his dinner, the table collapsed. We tried so hard to stifle our laughter, obviously dad wasn't too pleased!
He rarely ate with us at the table and on Sundays my mum, my sister and myself would eat our traditional roast beef dinner; dad would stroll in from the pub around 3.30pm and eat his meal alone then mum would proceed to clear away. Occasionally, as a treat, he would bring us home a bar of chocolate. I loved that. The feeling he thought of me was overwhelming.
We rarely did things as a family on weekends. Dad's attitude was he had been driving all week so wasn't going to spend his weekends driving again. Any trip that was organised was through the pub.
I remember one Christmas I was given a watch my father had bought. My mother said he had been out on his own and purchased it for me but it was more likely he had been making his deliveries and happened to see it in a nearby shop window. Nevertheless I still have the watch, as it is a reminder that for one moment he thought of me. For one moment I was important to him.
He wasn't an affectionate father. He was just there, head of the family, dishing out his rules and regulations. I don't recall him having a massive input in my life where discipline was concerned, that was left to mum and the threat of the boiler stick would be enough to stop us kids in our tracks, but I do remember, and it’s still the same, if he was defied, we paid the price.

I remember him hitting me once. I was about sixteen and he smacked me around the face, knocking me too the floor and tearing my dress. I was scared of him but respected him perhaps through fear but even though I felt un noticed and insignificant, I loved him. He was my dad. I think any child's desire is to be shown love and affection by their father. All I craved was for my dad’s acceptance and love. I never received it along with realising that as I grew up, to be accepted and loved by anyone, would be all I looked for in a relationship. It would never cover the void that remained in my life, my father’s obvious lack of affection that I desperately desired.

He was self employed and managed a one man business driving to market in his Lorry, buying and selling fruit and vegetables, then back to a handful of shops to make his deliveries. I loved going to work with him during the school holidays. I earned myself some pocket money and I worked for every penny, jumping in and out of the cab, carrying crates of cabbages and boxes of apples putting them in orderly piles to the rear of the shops. We would eat our lunch of cheese and tomato sandwiches while we drove along the road, listening to the music of Johnny Ray. I loved being in his company. It was the only time I had my father to myself, and for the whole of the day, I felt I was important to him.

I always knew when he had been drinking excessively. He didn’t seem to stagger about like many people heavily laden with alcohol, but he would come home from the pub, sit in his chair, put his feet up on the stone fireplace and rest his chin in his left hand, covering the side of his face. I could tell he was listening to any conversation I had with my mother as even whilst watching the television anything he didn't like the sound of, I suddenly would become aware of his cold blue eyes glaring at me through his slightly open fingers. I hated it when he looked like that. It made me feel so uncomfortable.

My parents often hosted Christmas Eve parties for their pub-drinking cronies. They were quite good fun until one Christmas Eve party during my middle teens, a friend of my father was in the kitchen talking to him. The friend was leant against my mother’s washing machine and on watching me walk in, asked me for a Christmas kiss. I was uncomfortable with the request but thought a peck on the cheek would be harmless enough and no cause for concern and as I walked towards him, he reached out, grabbed my arm and pulled me towards him. Suddenly his body lunged at me and pressing his lips to my mouth, I could feel his tongue try to push between my lips. I pulled away in disgust. He smelt of stale alcohol, was practically incoherent and as far as I was concerned, was trying it on with his friend’s teenage daughter. I was repulsed and walked out but my father did nothing, probably too drunk himself to notice what was going on.

My Father eventually lost his driving licence due to driving whilst under the influence.
He had been lucky for so many years. I honestly think he considered himself untouchable, but a simple mistake of a faulty backlight on his car was enough to be stopped by the local police. On stepping out from his vehicle, he stumbled, to be asked, "have we been drinking sir?" Consequently he was banned for a year. I was astounded he hadn't been stopped before. He had been known to drive so heavily drunk that my mother, who herself, had never driven a car, would sit in the back seat behind my father and lean out of the window to instruct him where the white lines were!

My Fathers drinking has become worse over the years. So much so, my mother, who recently suffered a stroke, has been told in a drunken stupor that he doesn't want to be her
carer, in fact, he wishes she were dead!

All my fault?

At sixteen I became involved with a boy a few years older than me. He was nineteen and was my first proper boyfriend even though I had boyfriends in the past they were nothing serious. He wasn't anything special to look at in fact he had quite a distinguished red nose which came under constant attack from a joke or two, Rudolph being one of them. To begin with I was shown a lot of attention from him and I lapped it up, but not long into the relationship the attention faded and it was replaced by criticism. I was pressured into "doing the deed." He had told me, "if you don't do it then I will have to finish with you and find someone who will. I'm nineteen and have needs." I was fifteen and a half and it would be my first time so the alarm bells should have rang out, but I was besotted with him and frightened he would leave me, so succumbed to his demands. Afterwards I wondered what all the fuss was about. There was no romance, so feeling slightly used I locked myself in the bathroom and cleaned myself up. He had a way of making me feel not very nice about myself after that, and would remark, " you are lucky to be going out with me because no one else will want to be with you," and "you're nothing special." It became so, that the more he kept telling me bad things about myself, the more I began to believe it. I could not accept any compliments given to me, as I considered them to be insincere, and non-deserving. I saw less and less of my friends because in his eyes, they were no good for me.

I wanted to go to college to study window dressing, but he told me, “ you wont be any good at that. You don’t have the flair.” I changed my mind and looked at becoming a
travel agent to be told once again, “ you wouldn’t cope with being away from home.” I now understand that it was down to his own insecurities, which caused him to treat me this way. It’s a pity I couldn't see it then. Our relationship was not a good one. My weekly wage packet ended up in his pocket as unknown to me, he had been sacked as a lorry mechanic due to an incident where he had forgotten to service some brakes correctly. The driver, whilst speeding down a hill, put his brakes on to find they had failed. Luckily the driver managed to swerve into an emergency lane nevertheless causing extensive damage to the vehicle. My boyfriend however, had told me he had left his job to set up his own business servicing motorcycles and appeared to be out of work for some time, so my wages went towards our social evenings at the local pub, tax and insuring his car and general running costs.

I stayed with him for three years. Frightened of being alone or fear of rejection, but towards the end of our relationship, I discovered he was involved with someone else. I had been learning to drive a lovely little red Volkswagen Beetle, a car my father had bought for my mother. I don't think he ever had any intentions of teaching mum to drive, he needed to be in control and if she could drive, she wouldn't need to rely on him for a lift. My car had disappeared along with my boyfriend for the weekend and I soon discovered late on the Sunday evening, he had taken a girl away to the coast for the weekend.

We had a huge argument and he suggested we go for a drink to talk things through. I don't remember sorting anything out but I do remember leaving the pub. As I had been drinking Coke all evening, I was obviously the one who would drive, so we got into the
car and I set off towards home. He told me he didn't want to go home just yet, so could
we go for a drive to talk about our relationship. It was late even though I was uncomfortable with night-time driving, agreed to go. He directed me out of the Town where we lived towards the countryside. I remember shifting in my seat as the streetlights stopped and we were thrown into darkness. The only lights were those of the car headlights and squinting in concentration, I was finding it difficult to focus. He motioned that I pull into a gateway of a field just off the road, so I pulled in slowly and stopped.

I didn't know how much talking we were going to do as he had been drinking heavily so I waited for him to say something, any excuse for his actions and that he was sorry, something to help me understand his betrayal, but he didn't. What he actually said was, “get into the back."
"Why?" I asked.
" Because I told you too." was his response. He was angry and I was reluctant to antagonise him and shifting to the back seat was an awkward manoeuvre, but I did as I was told. It was dark when he turned headlights off but I remember the silhouettes of the trees and the bushes and the passing clouds interrupting the moonlight. He leaned over and started to kiss me, quite tenderly to begin with but quickly becoming more aggressive.

I remember struggling with him and he hissed at me to lie down.
I was scared and began crying which annoyed him. "Shut up" he demanded. "What are you crying for?"
His hands fumbled with my jeans and as he pulled them from me, I could feel the cold air on the lower half of my body that gave me goose bumps and I could see his breath.
I remember feeling his heavy body on top of my own. I was uncomfortable and cramped and I turned my head away from him when he tried to kiss me. I didn't want this so I certainly was not going to respond to him. I was scared. Was this rape? How could this be, this was my boyfriend? Only strangers rape. I couldn't and didn't want to respond to this rough, loveless intrusion, so I lay still. He heaved a few times and then demanded,
"come on you get on top, see how it feels when I just lay here, where's your effort?"
Once again I did as I was told, still very scared and this time he lay there quite still staring and smirking at me. "You see," he said, " not nice is it?"

The next moment he told me to forget it. "Come on I'll take you home." It ended as quickly as it began. I pulled my clothes together and slid into the passenger seat. He started the car, reversed out of the gateway and proceeded home. I never spoke a word, just stared out of the window upset, humiliated and ashamed not caring that he was driving still heavily laden with beer. He didn't take me home but instead drove to his own house. It wasn't far from where I lived and I guessed he didn't want to stagger home. He got out of the car and I followed him towards the rear of his house, hand outstretched, asking for the keys to my car. He began shouting at me again and before I could turn to walk away, I felt something strike me heavily in the eye. Immediately I could feel it start to swell. It was watering, but he insisted he had never hit me.

The following morning sure enough, my eye was swollen and blackened. I couldn't tell my parents what had happened. It was my own fault wasn't it? This was what I believed,
so I made up some story that I had been clowning around with a friend who had accidentally kicked me in the face, so went to work that morning sporting dark sunglasses.
I eventually plucked up the courage to end the relationship, and I was indeed alone. My friends had moved on as I had focused all of my time on my boyfriend and our one-sided relationship. All I can say is I must have done something to allow someone treat me this way. Perhaps not doing anything about it and allowing it to continue was my reward for everything I was given. It has taken a very long time to accept that I did nothing to deserve any of this.

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