There aren’t many people I would consider significant to my life and those that are generally had a negative impact. It’s not that I’m simply a cynic or jaded; it was the way I was raised. Whenever I picture my father, I always go back to this one photo of us. The only one, actually. My dad still had colour in his hair, and I’ve never seen it’s like on a person. It’s close to the colour of cinnamon but richer. He had started to grey but clutched on to this last bit of youth. He looked rather silly with his long mane of snow peaked cinnamon hills.
I was on his shoulders wearing one of those ridiculous 80’s wind jackets with all the neon colour patches. I am looking rather terrified and he had this shit eating grin on his face. What the picture doesn’t show is why I was terrified.
This day is the only day I remember my parents being together. My dad had disappeared when the news of my impending arrival came and only managed to wandering aimlessly back into my life when I was three or four…for a while at least.
I was never upset that my parents weren’t together, for me it was simply a fact. But on this day, all three of us went to the petting zoo. I’ll say little of my mother because I don’t remember her being there other than her cackling at my terror. What was it that had got me so spooked? Was it a lion, or a tiger, or a bear? Oh no. It was a baby goat.
I’m walking around like I’m the queen of the petting zoo, ambling and giggling in the sunshine, petting goats, and pigs; doing my thing. I was trying to feed some baby goat those disgusting food pellets you can buy at the zoo. I fed the goat, I pet the goat, I fawned over the goat, I got bored of the goat. I can’t remember what caught my attention away from this adorkable fumbling baby goat, but he certainly didn’t like it. I decided to go be cute somewhere else and was minding my own business when Bam! I’m being eating. I was so scared and frantic that he easily threw me off balance and then attempted to eat various parts of me, (he left the coat alone, even he knew it was ugly). By this point, I’m wailing and flailing like a screaming wacky inflatable tube girl. My mom stands by doing her evil malicious cackle but my dad comes running to my rescue and scoops me up onto his shoulders.
That day is the only good memory I have of him and for the longest time, he was my hero because of this. It took me a long time to learn that who I thought he was, was fake. I’m sure deep inside he has an honourable streak, but he never wanted a kid, let alone a girl. He disappeared again not long after this photo was taken, and I clutched the photo every night, waiting. I blamed myself because I didn’t know better. He shaped me in the worst ways and the best ways. I am one hell of a fighter and won’t ever let any baby goats pick on me ever again. Ever.
About two years ago, after disappearing and reappearing multiple times in this period like fucking Houdini, we finally had the discussion I had been waiting for my entire childhood. I’m disappointed in myself that it wasn’t me who started it, but I’m glad it was said, even if it was a fallacy and pointless. The whole thing was awkward, we have always been awkward. We were sitting outside my house in his blue truck that reeked of wet dog.
He was slumping in his seat as if he could disappear into it, which is really an interesting sight as he is 6 foot something in a small truck. I really should just call him Houdini but I have too much respect for the magician. He started off with an even more awkward conversation starter,
“You know I love you, right kid?”
“I know I haven’t been the best father, but I love you and I’m always there for you.”
Internally I went apeshit, externally I remained poised and calm, my default countenance.
“Well dad, you and I both know that’s bull”
He apologized, and explained and excused, but concluded that he was not father material. Well duh. He wanted a better relationship, which was his point.
Have you ever had a serious conversation with someone that you both knew to be complete crap? That is what this was. My dad did not want to be a dad. I came to terms with that many years ago. Anything he has ever done with me or for me has been driven by guilt. Once, when I was still in high school and being my angsty self, he called out of the blue about something very serious and managed to make it the least important thing in the world. It had been about three years since I’d set eyes on him and the phone rang just as I got home from school.
“Hey, it’s your dad”
“Ya dad, I know”
“Well, your granny is dead”
“Anyway, want to come to Kelowna for her funeral?”
As heartless as this sounds, I refused. I hated my dad and barely knew my granny. She couldn’t even spell my name right, despite that my father reminded her constantly and it’s the common spelling of the name. I explained that I simply couldn’t go through this back and forth anymore and I wanted him out of my life. This was followed by the blame game on his part. I remember standing in the living room, flabbergasted that my own father blamed me for our shitty relationship. He hung up and we never spoke again until the awkward “I want to be there conversation”. His blame game is why I knew this conversation was all crap. He had plenty of opportunities to be there and I even agreed to this proposed better relationship. Needless to say, nothing has come of it, other than a life lesson.
My dad taught me a number of things in his lack of guidance. One, parents do not always deserve respect and the second was to be cautious and skeptical, and as a wise man named Michael Shermer stated in his article I want to believe, “ I’m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe but because I want to know”. So, in essence, my father taught me to learn; to learn people and gestures and to use those things to accurately judge character traits, in order to get a better idea of who that person is. It taught me not to judge too quickly, or too slowly, and to never let someone blame you for their own faults