Ideas and imagination…unfettered.


Oh Father

Oh Father

The struggle many people have with their parents as we move through life is complicated—and more common than you may think. The idea and ideal of the perfect family dynamic is something we all aspire to on some level but many of us never achieve. The fallout of this can leave a resonant feeling of want and disappointment to a nagging feeling of failure and self-loathing. While the ‘perfect family’ and the accompanying ‘ideal relationships’ therein may be a construct, they are nevertheless the standard many of us hold as a goal of personal success and fulfillment.

This came to mind recently as I read a post on Facebook by someone whose father had just passed away suddenly. He stated they had been estranged for many years. Boom! Off went my emotional grenades. I had the same thing happen to me 15 years ago. As those memories flooded back, so to did the thought that many queer people find themselves in this situation. Now, I have no idea the details of his experience and they really are not my business, but all I needed to know was he is a gay man who had a broken relationship with his father. How many of us have had the same experience?

We want nothing more than to have that deep, nurturing bond that tells us we are loved unconditionally and are safe within that love.

I have had many conversations with gay men over the years about strained parental relations. Many are rooted in the fact of parents not dealing with their son’s homosexuality. However, that’s only one of the issues that create rifts and gulfs. As we get older, those chasms become wider—and our feeling of loneliness and abandonment burgeon along with them. It’s an emotional Catch 22: we stomp our feet in an act of petulant independence not wanting to be lashed to the ankle of our parent who doesn’t wholly accept us. At the same time, we want nothing more than to have that deep, nurturing bond that tells us we are loved unconditionally and are safe within that love—and safe to go out into the world to find love.

Some of us get over this. Others flail through life with a broken template. The irony being you are a man attracted and drawn to men by your inherent nature, yet on some level afraid, suspicious or angry with men for the slings and arrows and pain you have experienced in your own relationship with one of the most important figures in your life—your father.

One of my greatest regrets…I never made amends with my father before his death.

The father-son bond is primal. It is also something we don’t talk of much in our culture. Men are perceived to be able to break those bonds and go out into the world free of the patriarchal baggage or bonds we came into the world with; the very ones that inform our self-esteem, our relationships with other men, how we perceive ourselves as men and how we create (or decide if we can create) relationships with other men—both platonic and intimate.

One of my greatest regrets is that I never made amends with my father before his death. Again, very complicated and very emotional. As I get older I realize the irony of my trying to distance myself from him and the inherent similarities in our personalities that kept us from breaking down barriers and really getting to know one another. Or at the very least, achieving some sort of emotional détente. This is a regret I will carry with me to my dying day. This is a regret I can do nothing about as it pertains to my particular circumstance.

If you walk away, shut down all channels of communication and something should happen, you will spend the rest of your life wondering what you could have done differently.

When I speak to people with fractured relations with their parents, I tell them about my history with my father for no other reason than that if something should happen to their parent(s), they aren’t left with emotional baggage they will never be able to shed. Many things happen between parents and children to drive them apart: abuse, violence, alienation, abandonment, intolerance and rejection. These are devastating to anyone and are all good reasons to acquit oneself of one’s parent.

However, if there is a thread of a bond left, no matter how tenuous and no matter how its tensile strength has been tested, I tell people to—at the very least—make an effort and try to communicate with that parent. Because, if you walk away, shut down all channels of communication and something should happen, you will spend the rest of your life wondering what you could have done differently, where you could both have had a chance to come to an understanding or at the very least tabled your issues.

Dropping the hammer on someone may feel like an act of power and independence when you are doing it. Living with the emotional consequences of that leave you feeling anything but powerful or independent. It reminds me of that old axiom that says: “never go to bed angry”. If you’re not doing it for them, do it for yourself.

photo credit: fruity monkey

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Andrew Vail’s writing career began in Halifax when he was but a child. In Grade 4, he wrote and produced his own series of comic books entitled “Freaky The Frog”, the on-going tale of a little misfit frog and his pals of the pond. Marvel Comics never came knocking but Andrew knew he loved to create and tell stories. Since then, Andrew has worked in advertising, PR and publicity; has interviewed politicians, rock stars and very interesting yet not-so-famous movers and shakers. He has published articles in a variety of local and national magazines and websites.


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One Comment

  1. Thanks for this Andrew- beautifully written.

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