This weekend I saw my Dad. It had been over a decade since I last saw him. We had shared the odd tweet within that time, mainly at birthdays and Christmas - however the last time I had a conversation with him I was a baby faced teenager, making bad decisions and going down the wrong paths. Over time, I started to put a distance between him and I, and eventually the relationship came to a halt. A lot has changed since I last saw him and it would have been easy to continue life without him. So, why now?
I will spare you all with the finer details of how and why my Dad and I drifted apart. In short, he was a good man but not a great Dad. He meant well, I have no doubt he loved me, but he had me at a time when he was nowhere near ready to be a parent, and in result struggled to find a way to be a father.
For many years I resented that. I carried that anger with me and the only way I could express it was to stop having a dialogue with him. I have done the cliche route at times - drink, drugs and other forms of self destruction. However, I have been fortunate to have people in my adult life that have helped me to process any negative feelings I have had from my childhood and try manage them in a more healthier manner.
I have been to therapy - I take no shame in that. I am a firm believer that everyone, from any walk of life, can benefit from therapy. We all have struggles and I think if we all were able to approach them in a more cathartic manner, then the world would be a less destructive place.
Time has allowed me to be empathetic rather than bitter. My Dad was 23 years old when I was born. I am now 29 and even at 6 years older than he was, I feel like being a parent is still something I am not ready for.
I made a conscious decision during this time to see the good in him. To hold on to the memories I am fond of, rather than harvest the ones I am not.
Throughout all this time, he never stopped trying to get in touch. For every gripe I may have with him as a child, I do have respect for his persistence and that was one of the factors that played a part in me meeting up with him.
I am about to approach 30 years old. No doubt that played its own part in me agreeing to see him. I had held onto a lot of negative energy throughout my twenties, not just with him but with many aspects of my life. The past few years I asked myself “Do I want to be one of those people who never let go?”. The answer was no. I want to be able separate myself from the past and build a life going forward, part of doing that was to speak with my Dad again.
So, the big day arrives. His train was 12 minutes late, which considering it had been 10 years - neither of us were going to lose hair over it.
I’d like to give you the big Hollywood moment - mainly for comedic purposes - and say I ran up to him screaming “Daddy” whilst he wrapped to his arms around me and said “I love ya boy!”. However, the pleasant truth is, despite the long period of time since we last had contact - it was like I saw him yesterday.
We spent the day filling the (big) gaps. Drank beer and talked about the football. It was a really nice day and the time flew by. It was great to hear my Brother and Sister were doing well and getting on at school. Hearing about them felt like finding missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that was being constructed in my mind all these years.
I don’t know what the future holds in terms of the relationship with my Dad. We will never have that dream relationship - although I feel that only really exists in movies. However, it does not mean we can’t have a relationship at all. I feel much lighter having met him, I feel positive and I am glad I did it when I was ready to do so.
I am not going to become a preacher of people building bridges with their parents. Many of us have had difficult relationships with those who brought us into the world - and it can suck because they play such a vital role in terms of who we become as individuals. But if you are carrying negative energy, I do believe it can be overcome and most of that work will have to be done by you. None of us, including our parents, can change the past - but we can change how we let it impact us - and if there is any little opportunity to move on from it then I suggest you take it.
I have no regrets about the last 10 years - I have no doubt it was the right thing to do in order for me to become a more well rounded, healthier person.
That said, seeing him, seeing a big part of me, was one of the best choices I have made. And despite everything in the past and anything going forward - at the most basic level - it was just nice to go for a beer with my Dad.