Heads up, this is a long, boring one.
I’ve already written about how many pleasant nostalgic connections I have between my mom and a bunch of various things, from mini-golf to music by The Police to public skating. Even though I don’t have a super close relationship with her now, my mom sure managed to make a good impression on me as a kid that still echoes through my adulthood.
But then there’s my dad.
He wasn’t (and still isn’t) a bad guy. I really think that for being a single dad raising two boys, he did fine. He fed us, clothed us, gave us a home, gave us a weekly allowance in exchange for doing chores. He gave us quite a bit of freedom, which I think is invaluable. I have nothing to complain about in those regards.
But for some reason, whereas I like most of the things from my childhood that I associate with mom, I hate most of the things from it that I associate with my dad. Things like people making an ‘h’ sound at the start of words like ‘white.’ Plates and bowls with typical English designs on them. Unfinished projects that languish for years. Sailboat culture. Mowing lawns. All manners of clutter. Whenever I think about or come across any of these things, I’m instantly annoyed, and I only realized recently that the common thread between those things is that they all remind me of growing up with my dad.
I’ve been mulling this over for a few weeks or maybe months now, trying to figure out why those things and/or my childhood with my dad bug me so much, and I’m still not sure. I definitely think my mom did a better job of spending quality time with us, doing fun things and interacting with us more than my dad did, and I think that’s part of it. While my dad provided the necessities for my brother and I, he didn’t do much beyond that. He didn’t play ball or anything else with us, didn’t take us to the beach, didn’t take us on any hikes. The only things I remember him taking us to were super boring things that he was interested in — the Abbotsford Air Show, some old plane museum in Sidney, boat shows. All things that I utterly detested, and still do.
Wait, I’m lying. I liked the road trip he took us on to Drumheller and the Tyrell Museum, and he took us to Disneyland when I was 10 or so. Those were both a lot of fun.
But that’s it. I just remembered he took us to Hawaii and Australia for three weeks when I was 12, and you think those places would have been a lot of fun for a kid that age. But they weren’t, because all we did there was take tours of various factories (no joke), go to the homes of old people who dad knew through sailboat connections (also not a joke), and drive for countless hours each day. I remember precisely one day of beach fun in Hawaii, and zero days spent on any beaches in Australia. I even remember going to a small, beautiful, tropical island in Australia — but nope, dad didn’t want to swim there. Instead, we trudged through the heat and blistering sun until we had walked around the whole island. What fun. But hey, he took us to see the Sidney opera house. That was a real hoot for a 12-yr old. Good grief, it’s just occurring me now how inconsiderate my dad was when it came to ‘quality time’ with the family. With the exception of Disneyland and Drumheller, he just did stuff he wanted to, and dragged us along with him. 95% of the time, he really didn’t care what anyone else wanted to do.
Another example of him being inconsiderate: I was always very tidy, even as a child. I remember cleaning up my room and having a few small bags of clothing that I didn’t need anymore. I asked dad what to do with them and he said just to hang on to them for now, that he would drop them off at the Salvation Army the next time he was in Mill Bay (which was 10 minutes away and which he went to every other day). Weeks passed. I asked him again about taking the bags. He tore a strip off me, told me he’d get to it. Months passed. I asked again, had another strip torn off. I hated those fucking bags. Finally he was away one day so I threw the bags in the burn barrel outside and lit them on fire. Problem solved.
Oh, I just remembered what a hypocrite he was about being prompt and on-time. I remember him picking me up from friend’s houses, and if I wasn’t waiting with my shoes on when he arrived, he tore a strip off of me. But conversely, if he picked me up and decided to have a half hour BS session with my friend’s parents while I sat listlessly in the car, he tore a strip off me if I asked him if we could go. “We’ll go when I’m ready to go,” he’d say.
Funnily enough, he has also always been the most comically late person I’ve ever known. One time, he was supposed to pick my brother and I up from the Mill Bay ferry terminal, but he never showed up. So we sat there, two boys under age 10, in the middle of nowhere, wondering where our dad was. Eventually, we just started walking and eventually got to a corner store in the Mill Bay village — over 5 km away (you can imagine how long it took our little legs to walk that far) — where we went inside and looked at some arcade games. My dad eventually showed up at the store and tore a strip off of us for leaving the ferry terminal, and for going into the store and making it harder for him to find us — as if we should have sat at that empty ferry terminal for hours and hours on end, and as if we were bad, stupid kids for not doing that.
You know, I thought this post was going to help me get to the bottom of why I’m annoyed by everything that reminds me of my dad, but it’s just turned into me bitching about specific things he did. I can’t tell if this has been really self-indulgent and unproductive, or if the point of this is that I am actually quite bitter about my childhood with him. Is it possible that my sense of bitterness colours everything I associate with him? That’s what I’m leaning towards at this point.
And if that’s it, then now what? The options are to keep my mouth shut and continue to have a minimal relationship with the man, or to tell him everything I’ve talked about here and get it off my chest. Both those options are junk. There’s no guarantee talking about this shit with him will improve anything. I actually think it would make things worse since he would probably feel very defensive and possibly guilty about things that can’t be undone, and it’s not like all my resentment will disappear the second he says “I’m sorry.” I will always have these memories and the unpleasant associations that go along with them, so why bother dredging all this shit up with him?
No, I feel like it’s good to investigate my feelings about my dad and acknowledge my bitterness towards him, but our relationship is what it is due to years of history, and I think it would be naive to believe I could change 38 years of history and the resulting feelings with just a conversation. Maybe we could spend the rest of our lives doing family counseling if we felt like wasting all our time on it, but I think I simply need to accept our relationship for what it is: I feel like he really fucked up some stuff when I was a kid, and that has made it difficult for us to have a good relationship as adults. That’s all there is to it.
You know, I feel like a lot of people in this world could learn from what I’ve been figuring out while writing this. I think too many people indulge their desires to hash out old grudges under the guise of trying to improve a relationship. I think that if people really thought about it, a lot of them would realize they’re not doing it for the sake of the relationship — they’re doing it for the sake of pride, because they want to stick their finger in someone’s chest and tell that person how they hurt them or pissed them off all those years ago. Of course there are exceptions to this, big deals that people should be held accountable for, but should I go and bitch at my dad because our trip to Austalia back in 1992 was awful? That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about. “You didn’t hug me after my big soccer game, and that still hurts 30 years later.” That kind of thing. That’s crybaby shit. Sometimes, there’s just no point in revisiting negative feelings. Sometimes you just have to accept the relationships, or lack thereof, you have with people.
You might say, “it is what it is.”
Well, this has been enlightening and annoying.