My father ended his life in a back-alley at the age of 67, dead from a massive heart attack caused by years of chronic alcoholism. I keep a cutting from the local newspaper, the headline still chills “Mystery Man found dead in alley”, it took 48hrs for his body to be identified, he died alone, with nothing to his name, the final chapter in the life of my father, my male role model, the person that most as a son I should have looked to for guidance in my life.
My father was a troubled man, the difficulties that he carried unresolved through his life ultimately destroyed him and in turn left their mark on his family. My father wanted to be a loving and caring man, but it was not to be his destiny. The years of problems aside that he created for his wife and children would make a book in themselves, but for me specifically he was unavailable as a father. I cannot ever remember having been given advice by him, or feeling able to seek it, I cannot remember him saying he loved me. I don’t carry this as a cross to bear, or feel hard done by for it, I just find it sad that we were not able to live differently. I could not look at my father and how he lived his life and use him as a positive role model for mine, I had to find my own way and make my own decisions, learning sometimes by my mistakes, by going down the wrong road, making U turns, finding my way as best I could. I had to find out for myself what it meant to be a man, and in time to be a husband and a father.
An early defining moment was when I was perhaps seventeen or so, my girlfriend at the time came to find herself alone with my father, he told her that I was just a boy and that she would do much better with a real man like him. My father was a serial philanderer, I knew, but when my girlfriend told me what had happened I felt deeply betrayed, I couldn’t understand how a father could possibly do this to his son, from then I became determined that I would not be my father, that I would live differently and be different, but I also came away distrusting not only my father, but men in general, if my father could be like that then so, potentially could any man.
And so for much of my life I have avoided close relationships with men, I prefer female company, that’s not helped by the fact that I have no time for the ladsy, football conversation which I find deathly dull, I switch off if the subject turns to motor racing or cars, DIY projects or power tools, but I know under-pinning it all is a general distrust of males. I distrust men because I couldn’t trust my father, it’s a shame to tar half the world with one brush, its something I need to sort out. Regrettably even now I haven’t quite perfected the art, I’ve failed to recognise the snake come over my threshold and equally I have failed to connect with the Sound Man, I really don’t want to operate expecting the worst of anyone, I want and I need to trust in people, to be open, I will continue to do so, but I will go with my instinct, it was and is sound, I just wasn’t listening.
For me, when it came to being a father I was absolutely determined that my son would never feel the way I did as a child and a young man, that he would be supported, whatever that took, that I would do all that I could to help him grow to become a decent, happy and balanced person, I believe I did a reasonable job, he himself has exceeded any hopes I might have had, but most importantly of all, for me is that he understand that I love him very much, I tell him as clearly as I am able.
I hold no malice towards my father, once I was angry, but now I am just sad that for him his life was not a happy one, it could have been very different, but all things are for a reason, as much as his life was unfulfilled, mine stretches out in front of me. I can make mine a fulfilling and positive one. But I realise I need to Man Up, as they say.
Man Up, Verb-Phrasal,US, to be a man, to take responsibility for your actions
Given I didn’t have the best schooling in what it means to be a man, I have made my own ideas, for me a man is about strength, physical on a level, but equally about backbone and spirit, about driving to achieve to make things happen, about having purpose. A real man holds honesty and integrity and being truthful as a mantra, is somebody to count on, standing up for his beliefs and ready to defend them to the end. Being protective of those that need help, but equally able to confront and deal with challenging situations and stand up and fight. Above all a man is prepared to take risks, to learn from them if plans don’t work out, but never, ever to give up.
I’ve thought a lot of late about a man’s role in life, about my role and how it is changing, I am no longer a husband, I am still a father, though my son is as near as dammit a Man in his own right, so what is my role now as a man? The last few years have been a limbo, I’ve been reactive to what life has brought me rather than pro-active, I have not taken control and ultimately I have not been living my own idea of what a man is, clearly its time to “Man Up” and get on with it.
It’s time to go exploring, I’m not sure if I am ready yet to book myself into a sweat lodge, or join a Men’s group or start a Bromance, not yet anyway, but I am going to get physical. I have a yearning to get back to my physical side, earlier in my life I was very happy in my body, I did a lot of exercise and sport, it gave me a great buzz and I felt pretty darned good, like many things I allowed this to slip away. Feeling powerful in oneself physically is a great base to work from, many things begin to flow, I would like some of that power back again. Ok so I’m fifty now, but I can get myself into good condition, maybe not quite that of years gone by, part of the way will do just fine. I’ve lost 25kg in weight, that’s a decent place to start. I have a great Gym to go to, I did use a personal trainer a while back, nice fellow he was, but on the suggestion of a friend I am going to book myself a female personal trainer, my friend said you will do a lot more for a pretty girl than some bloke, you know what she is right, pretty personal trainer it is going to be.
Life is about playing the Long Game and I my friends most definitely intend on leaving this one a winner.