My dad died a few months before I turned three. He was young too, only in his 30s, I think. He had a heart attack. My mum and him had already separated by then (he’d cheated on her) so I only have a few memories of him: him bouncing me on his knee at a fair, crying after hurting myself on a rollercoaster with him, sitting in the backyard listening to him talk with the other adults. His funeral. Not much, really. Not enough to understand what kind of man he was from just my early childhood memories.
My mum was always very diplomatic about him. Honest, but diplomatic. He died quite suddenly and they weren’t divorced yet so she got all of his stuff, including a diary he’d kept. They met in New York when my mum worked with Australian Foreign Affairs and the diary dated back to before they met and features his thoughts and drawings (he was quite artistic). Unfortunately, he was also a massive womaniser and there were stories of these other women in the diary so I can only imagine what that was like for my mum.
She was the main breadwinner in the family. She worked for the government and got sweet postings in New York, Pakistan and Nigeria (where I was conceived). He pretty much just went along for the ride and she ended up losing her job because of him. He got into some shady drug deals in Pakistan where drugs incur the death penalty and we had to be flown out of the country. He worked as a key cutter, a stripper (so that’s where I get it from!) but, for the most part, was happy for her to do the work without having a corresponding interest in being a stay at home dad.
Growing up without a father, I spent a lot of time thinking about what my life would be like with him around. As a child, you have a sense of longing for what you don’t have. You find it hard to think of that missing person as someone who could hurt you, whose presence could actually be worse than their absence. As an adult who has read his diary and spoken to people that knew him, I am torn between wanting to know him and not liking him.
In my heart, I know that he was not a good guy. He would not have been a good role model or a good father; he had another daughter that he’d basically abandoned in New York when he’d left the country with my mum (he wasn’t still with her mother). I think he would have been too busy being caught up in what felt good for him to care about what was in the best interests of his family, or even just his daughter. In some ways, I was lucky. I had a father who’d died and you can’t question death. You can ask mummy where daddy is every night or why he prefers living with his other family and never sees you. In my more morbid moments, I’m happy he died instead of living on to cause me further pain by being a shitty absent parent. Dark, I know, but if you’ve been reading a while, this shit happens.
As much as people say all children should have two parents (and some even go further to specify that the configuration should be a mother and a father), I honestly don’t believe that. Yes, it would be nice but what if one of those parents is an absolute dick, whether they’re abusive or absent or just a bad person? Wouldn’t the child be better off without them? I don’t believe coming from a single parent household is worse than that. It’s about quality, not quantity when it comes to parenting. Having my dad around would have given me two parents with the traditional gender breakdown but it probably would have fucked me up worse than I am now. And we can’t have that now, can we?
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