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By Jason Michael
TWO DAYS AGO I was informed that my auld faither had died. So, this will require some unpacking. Firstly, my heartfelt thanks to everyone on social media who reached out to me with well wishes and condolences. In spite of our frequent and often explosive disagreements it is touching to be reminded that we are all people facing the same personal joys and heartbreaks. So really, thank you for getting in touch. How do I explain this auld faither thing? Most would be familiar with the post-divorce and remarriage language of the ‘biological father,’ so yeah. We can begin there. My biological father died after a long and difficult battle with cancer, and this has discombobulated my emotions. I am not sad for his loss. His death isn’t a loss to me. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I saw him in person. It may have been twenty-odd years ago. I’m not sure. But I do remember the last time we communicated. He sent me a message on Facebook.
Receiving this message was a bolt from the blue. I reconciled myself to never hearing from him when I was still in secondary school. While rummaging in my brother’s room, when I was fifteen or thereabouts, I came across a birthday card addressed to my older brother from ‘dad.’ It was flowing with glowing words about how proud he was and how much he missed him and looked forward to seeing him. Ouch! He had his golden child and his scapegoat, and he replicated this with his second family and with his third. He was a toxic sonofabitch, but even now I am not entirely convinced he ever meant to be. There were times — moments — when he was good to me. I remember those. He passed on his interests to me; karate, reading, and collecting pointless stuff like coins and stamps. He introduced me to the love of my life — Sid Meier’s Civilization.
However, by the time I was the age he was when he first met me I had gotten over the hope of ever hearing from him again. Then out of nowhere he drops me a line on Facebook describing how he ‘missed his boys’ and how he was sorry he had ‘nothing to show for his life.’ Over a week in June 2012 we chatted back and forth. After all the ‘dad’ and ‘son’ stuff I decided to lay down some ground rules: I got that maybe this wasn’t all of his making — sure, I don’t know — but I have a dad. My dad, who I have never known as a ‘stepdad,’ raised me. He put clothes on my back and worked himself to the bone to make sure our family had food in the fridge and a roof over our heads. It was a bit late in the day to be falling for all this A Boy Named Sue shite now, but I wasn’t going to be cruel about it either.
What happened when I was a child was not my ‘history,’ it was yours and my mum’s. The time for blame and recrimination is long past gone on that score and we have the opportunity to make a new story. I am still very eager to have that couple of pints with you, to be just like two regular Joes in a pub talking crap. Why not?
He responded and appeared open to the idea:
Nothing would please me more Jason, but you must realise my frustration over the past years. I tried constantly to be your father but was stopped and denied at every turn. I am bitter … better believe it son.
But little was I to know then that these would be the very last words I would get from my auld faither. He absented himself from my life for the last time on 18 June 2012. I sent him one or two messages in the years after that but there was no response. I dropped him a line when I heard he had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, but there was no answer. The blue tick next to the message told me he had seen what I wrote — and what I said then will remain between me and him.
His presence in my life — when he was in my life — was entirely toxic. He was an arrogant, self-centred, and thoroughly narcissistic man who abused the children he fathered either by chipping away at their self-esteem or by vicariously living through his favourites. All his human relationships were arid and every opportunity for connection, affection, and love he ossified by his idiotic inability to accept others and people as ends in themselves. People and things that were of no immediate gain to him were worthless to him. Actually, I’m pretty sure he was a sociopath (but I’m not qualified to make that diagnosis) … and, truth be told, sometimes I am terrified that I can be like him. I suppose the greatest lesson he taught me, the inheritance he has bequeathed me, is not to be like him. No one deserves to be like him. He didn’t deserve to be like him.
The dark magic he worked when we were small made impossible any loving relationship between my older brother and I. We grew up growing to hate one another — one of the nightmares of my existence from which I am still struggling to wake up. Yet, in a rare conversation with my brother in the hours after hearing of our auld faither’s death, my big brother — who idolised the man — said ‘God forgive him.’ He hurt him too. My sister, his scapegoat child from his second family, was a little more to the point: ‘He can rot in hell.’
So, how do I feel about this? I am sad that I’m not sad. Fathers should be mourned by their children. But then he was never that … he was never a father. I am sad at the realisation the world makes people who poison the world and who by dying make their only positive contribution. Jesus! That’s harsh. But it’s true. This is how I feel, and after all these years this is my last word on the man who was my auld faither:
He was never there and blamed everyone but himself for that failure. In his death he — either by habit or calculation — left a world of guilt on the shoulders of his children, guilt we will never accept. This was on him. But here we are. I forgive him. I am now letting him go. May the angel of the Lord present him to God the Most High.
15 thoughts on “Two Regular Joes”
All the thoughts I have Jason and was afraid to voice them. I salute you young man x
Jason I have read this over and over and feel I need to add to my last comment. He left as far as I know, 6 children who are broken in some way through him but! He also left at least 3 partners who at one time in there life loved the man! Only to be abused beaten and ridiculed…. Not one of us will shed a tear I’m sorry to say. X
Mari, I am so sorry. This must all be hard for you in its own strange way. Someone said to me once that we spend the second half of our lives paying for the sins of the first half. Andra Broon made the world an unhappy place for himself. But we are fortunate. We have time to recover and make amends.
Jason, take a minute & Google Christina Rossetti’s Poem Remember
Thank you. But – when all is said and done – I think I’d rather forget.
Sorry for your loss Jason and for the difficulties you have had with your relationships with your father and siblings. Famillies can be hellish sometimes and “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”
I knew Andrew for many years, he was a product of his upbringing. He was always OK with me, and like yourself I ,still to this day ,have interests and hobbies I learned from him.
You have not seen him for many years, and to write such an offensive epitaph about anyone is deyond disgusting.
The old addage of, nothing nice to say, don’t say anything, springs to mind.
William, I am going to assume Andra was not your father, that he did not walk out on you. I’m also going to assume that you are not family and that my reflection on my relationship – or lack thereof – with my auld faither has less than fuck all to do with you. I’m sincerely sorry that you have lost a friend, but you are not family and I am not in the least interested in your opinion on this matter. ‘Offensive’ was his treatment of the women in his life and his treatment of his children. That was always offensive. Had you described my thoughts on this – speaking as his ‘son’ – as disgusting in my company tonight and I may well have planted you. Maybe wind your neck back in and behave yourself. Learn when it is good for you to keep your own counsel.
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Thank you for sharing this. I found it immensely moving.
Thank you for your honesty.
You may be glad that this man had such a relatively minor effect on your life and that you are able now to let go and forgive. There are many families where this kind of toxic masculinity survives in disfunctional and abusive marriages. Perhaps this was a permanent condition of existence in the days when marriage was more or less impossible to discontinue. My great grandfather was a complete [deleted]. He required my grandmother to stay at home and be his son’s dutiful wife, despite her talents, he turned his sons against each other and was more interested in slaughtering birds than engaging in relations with his family. He died about four years before I was born and yet his residue remained. On the other side, my mother’s parents could do no more than tear lumps off each other, but because they were wealthy, they were able to a certain extent to live separate lives and to protect their youngest daughter, my mother, with a private education. My mother nevertheless succumbed to her mothers manipulations and spent the years immediately after graduating looking after her increasingly demanding and mentally unstable mother. The situation only ended when my mothers friends and the family doctor persuaded her she should take a break with her father on his farm, whereupon her mother announced that if she left she would kill herself. By the time my mother arrived at her father’s, news had already arrived of her mother’s suicide.
Perhaps if in earlier times toxic masculinity had not completely overpowered the institution of marriage, or if divorce had been easier for couples whose passion had turned to poison, none of this would have happened. The situation described above was one of several reasons why I never had children.
Jeggit: was your dad a heavy drinker? So many men destroy their own life and the lives of others with drink. We try to be good parents, most of us, and, I think, always fall short. Was it Larkin who said that your parents always f**k you up? You are not your auld faither. You are you. From what I have gleaned from your writings, you come across a very deep-thinking person. I can’t say that I always agree with you, but you do have consideration for others. No one should ever carry the burdens of the past, although all do, to some extent, but, again, you are not your father. Choice is always there.
Both my parents are gone, and I miss them every day. I miss my grandparents, too, on both sides of the family. Perhaps I just didn’t appreciate them all enough when they were around, so there can be regrets on both sides. We never think, really, that one day, it will all end – for them, for us – and that time will run out.
Your dad does sound pretty awful, but he could not have been happy either. Imagine having your own flesh and blood hate you, or, at least, not care a jot for you. So many men are destroyed by toxic masculinity, as Duncan Spence says (wise man). It does no one any good – male or female – and it will be a day to celebrate when it is finally brought crashing down or just worn away. I think the world, and us, as people, will be the happier for it. Don’t let yourself get bogged with regrets, though; cherish the good life you had with others who cared about you. All the best, my dear.
Hi! No, I don’t really remember him being a heavy drinker. He enjoyed a drink and I remember him drinking, but not heavily. He was always quite into his health. As a younger man he was extremely fit. I imagine there were other demons in his life. Thank you for your kind words.
He was my brother in law for many years. So yes I consider myself to be part of his family.
To be fair, you were only his son by blood. His real son looked after him whilst he was ill, and now has the burden of his passing and how to deal with Andrews body.
As a failed priest, I would have thought you would be more compassionate.
You are more like your father than you think, resorting to physical threats.
‘…only his son by blood’ and ‘his real son?’ Wow! You really are a vile piece of excrement. Perhaps you should ask your sister about threats and physical violence. See, I knew the man too. Much more than you will ever know. I know the people he hurt – every last one of them. And I don’t know where you are getting your information about me, but it is quite wrong. I am glad, however, you are aware of the violent part of his nature. Please don’t feel like you need to respond. We are finished.
I’ve still to meet you in Dublin for a pint.
A fellow Scotsman living in Ireland.
Take care , man.