Something has been playing on my mind recently, and to be honest it’s not something I really talk about on here very much. I think it was Christmas that made me think about it more than usual. As a blogger I was reading lots of lovely posts about how Christmas is a lovely time for people to reminisce over their own childhood experiences. That’s exactly how it should be right?
I want my children to have some amazing memories of the magic of Christmas, but the truth is Christmas didn’t have much magic for me growing up. Please don’t think this is a sob story, as my life is about creating my own memories and a new history for my family and moving away from the past. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with my life, and believe by taking responsibility for our choices and making changes we can over come the issues of our past.
As a blogger, sometimes I’m asked to think about my own childhood memories either around travel experiences or significant family times like Christmas. When you are asked to think about these things, and it’s harder than most people to find the positives, it can leave you feeling a little sad at a time when things should be happy and positive. Over Christmas I lost the ability to be in the moment, and was drawn into my past more than I would have liked to have been.
When I start to think about my own family, I often wonder what has happened to my Dad. When you don’t know much about your family, it leaves you with a weird feeling. There’s a kind of whole in your life, and lots of unanswered questions. I think it’s human nature to want to know where we have come from and where we belong. I’m really lucky to have a lovely family and friends that fill that gap, but I still have questions about my past.
I will often try and search the internet and find some clue about what might have happened to my Dad, but he’s not the type to leave a digital footprint. I’m conscious he’s getting old, and to be quite honest I didn’t know whether he was dead or alive. You guys might benefit from a bit of history at this point, as I think some context might be helpful. I will keep the story as short as possible, so bear with me.
My Mum left my Dad when I was a baby, and we moved away to a different area. When I started school my surname was changed and by this point my Mum had got married. I did know I had a Dad somewhere, but had never met him. When I was 12 years old, we tracked him down and I met him for the first time. It was an overwhelming experience to say the least, and would probably take a whole other blog post to go through.
My Dad has never led what I would call a conventional lifestyle, and could be described as nomadic. He’s definitely a free spirit, amongst a few other things. He didn’t become a permanent feature in my life at 12, he just popped in and out of it a few times. To be fair, I had enough on my plate with my Mum so in some ways this was for the best. The last time I saw him I was 17 years old, and with me leaving for university etc we didn’t make contact again.
Now, I’m 41 and despite not knowing my Dad’s birthday or age, I could hazard a guess at him being in his 70’s. He wasn’t one for looking after himself, so literally anything could have happened to him.
My curiosity peeked the other evening, and I thought I would have one last try and seeing if I could find out what had happened to him. Fortunately he is from a big family, and they still live in the area he grew up in. I knew a few names that I could look up. Facebook worked a dream, and pointed me in the direction of a lady who I thought might be my cousin. There was also a good chance she would know who I was too. I dropped her a message, not knowing whether anything would come of it or not.
The next day she sent me a reply, and even though she wasn’t able to give me any information she pointed me in the direction of an Aunt that might be able to help me. I’m not one to let the grass grow under my feet, so I messaged her straight away to see what she was able to tell me about my Dad. She was also kind enough to get back to me. When you start opening these doors, you can never be sure if people will want to speak to you or not. Sometimes, trying to contact family can be met with a frosty response, for lots of different reasons.
Sadly, I think this is what would happen if I tried to contact any of my Aunts, Uncles or cousins from my Mum’s family. I’m not ready to have a relationship with my mother, as she is just to destructive, but she has a big family as well. I have a lot of cousins I’ve not seen for many years. I often look them up on Facebook, but I don’t feel brave enough to get in touch. Because my Mum is, shall we say, difficult, I was very much tarred with the same brush. For many years I lived up to those labels, and I could have been described as difficult too. It’s safe to say I’ve made a few mistakes in my time.
The sad thing about this story is that you aren’t given the opportunity to make up for those mistakes, or show people what a success you made of your life. The memories they have of you are of a troubled child, who was struggling with having a Mum with mental health issues, an absent Dad with a colourful past and a violent stepfather, and no one is prepared to cut you any slack.
Fortunately for me I decided to shake off all those labels that had been stuck to me and create a new story for myself. Personally I think my story is far more interesting than any of theirs. They live in the same place, following in pretty much the same footsteps as their parents. Labels can work in all kinds of ways can’t they?
Any way, I digress. Back to the story of my Dad. The Aunt got back to me, and she offered to speak to me over the phone that night and fill me in. I braced myself for speaking to her, and made the call that would help me find the answers I had been looking for for many years.
We talked for an hour, filling each other in on what we knew about the situation. It was nice to have someone to talk to about it as so much had been going round in my head. Don’t get me wrong. My Dad isn’t going to be getting any father of the year awards any time soon, but to be honest it’s not really about him, it’s about me.
I want a positive story to share with my children about my own history. My daughters are inquisitive souls, and one day they will ask about the Granny and Grandad they haven’t seen and as the story stands at the moment, it’s not an especially happy one and it feels very unfinished. I’m not a fan of unfinished stories.
It turns out that my Dad is alive, and he is currently in a nursing home. He has suffered some strokes, and is wheelchair bound. Despite that he’s in pretty good health, but he is 75 years old so lets not pretend that time is on our side here. As the situation stands, he’s an old mad in a nursing home. Very few people go to see him, and if I know anything about my Dad, he will hate being stuck in one place.
Hopefully, when he finds out I’ve been in touch he will agree that I can go and visit him. I’ve got a lot to tell him. There’s wedding photo’s to go through, 3 grandchildren to introduce him to and the whole blog thing to explain. I might have a new reader, he’s got 3 years to catch up on!
Who know’s what’s going to happen next, I think at this point it’s just about going one step at a time. I forgave my Dad for not being around a long time ago, as I said it really was for the best. I just want some closure I guess, and maybe if we can salvage some kind of relationship in the last years of his life that will be a positive step for both of us.