We were going for a walk on a Spring afternoon that felt like an early summer, and he told me about his father.
He’s such a smiling, carefree person, but as he talked, I saw the sadness in his eyes.
He had a happy childhood and early teens. When he was about 17, his father abruptly decided he wanted to divorce his mother. For years he had been having an affair with his personal assistant, and apparently, she was putting some pressure on him to clarify things between them. Meaning – to leave his wife.
His mother would not have it, though. She did not accept the fact that her husband wanted to leave, and she refused to divorce him. As much as he insisted, she would not change her mind. Years passed, his mistress gave up on him and he became embittered by his wife’s refusal to comply with his wishes. In the meantime, he had left home and put distance between him, his wife… and his children too. It seemed all the anger he felt towards his wife was extended to his son and daughter; the ties he severed with his wife he severed with his children too, as if they had any responsibility in his failings as a husband or their mother’s stubbornness.
When he found himself another woman, a much younger one by the way, he did not tell his children; someone told them he had married her, as he shared no news with them; when he had children by her, it was only much after that he invited his son and daughter to come and meet their new siblings. As much as his son tried to remonstrate with him, and ask him to get in touch more, so they could have a normal father and son relationship, he was evasive – he never actually acknowledged his absence, or his disappearance from his elder children’s lives – he would simply keep his distance.
Years have gone by. His elder son is married, with children of his own. He keeps trying to get closer to his father, but to no avail. It is always he the one who calls, the one who suggests they meet; his father is never available to take care of the grandchildren, never remembers a birthday, barely recalls it’s Christmas time. He is an absent grandfather, as he was – and still is – an absent father, and no matter how much his son tries to bring him closer into the family circle, it seems he cannot take that step.
As my friend’s story unravelled, I felt so sorry for him. I could never understand how some men – as most cases I know are with men, which doesn’t mean they cannot happen with women – who break up a marriage, or end a relationship with a woman, extend it to the children. It seems they are “included in the package”. We all know romantic relationships do not always last, but a child is forever. Your love for your children is supposed to be unconditional – nothing should be able to change or diminish it. No matter how many fights we have with their mother or father, they will always be our children… or not? It seems not, in this case and in several others I know. These men make a sort of clean cut with their old life, and this includes the children by their first marriage. They begin anew, with a new family and without looking back. It’s shocking, but this is what happens; in fact, what happened in my friend’s case, and nothing can take away the pain in his heart for having lost his father without having done anything to deserve it – except being his mother’s son.
As we walk back, he is silent, immersed in his thoughts, and I utter a silent thanks to my dear father. No matter how bitter his separation from my mother was or the fact that they didn’t speak to each other for years, he was always loving and attentive, coming to see me and my brother, taking us out to restaurants and the movies, showing a huge interest in our lives and paying all the bills too. Most important of all, loving us like a father should. Never absent from our lives. We knew he had divorced our mother, but not us, his children. On the contrary, he was always there for us, and we knew that. Looking at my friend’s sad and subdued face, I felt so very lucky for the father life had in store for me.
Photo by Michael Morse on Pexels