Missing

I haven’t seen my Dad since 1970.

That’s 48 years. Although, technically, that’s not wholly true, because he is an actor and occasionally I’ve seen him pop up on TV in shows like Doctor Who and Emmerdale. Also, he was in the National Theatre company for a long time and I used to go and watch him from the cheap seats. He walked past me in the foyer once. He was always very good. Sometimes, when I was very small, he used to take us to watch football, and once we spent 3 weeks together in Galway where he was filming a movie with David Hemmings. That trip made a big impression on me.

I’ve missed him all my life. 

I don’t even know if he’s still alive. For a long time, I didn’t try and contact him because it felt like that would be disloyal to my mum, but since she passed away I’ve begun to wonder if that was a mistake. Because, the past is the past, and as we get older, we learn more about life and the subtle reasons why people act as they do. It’s easier to withdraw from close relationships than to rekindle them when they break down. There comes a point when it’s simpler to be out of touch with someone and the connection falls away.

We all have people in our lives who go missing.

People who were once very close, but somehow we’ve allowed them to become invisible. We’ve disposed of them. The breaking of these bonds happens every day, silent as the rain falls. We let it happen, largely because it takes skill and effort to do otherwise. Our estranged family members and friends become ghosts in our consciousness, appearing only in dreams, or in split-second recollections that we instinctively dismiss. It’s not altogether healthy, because deep down, our souls never really forget. We learn to cleanse our pasts, to delete entire decades, to negate who and what we used to be.

We’re quick to construct creative narratives for the backstories of our lives.

And slow to check for the facts. For evidence. We make stuff up, I think. My mum always told me that my Dad was a wicked man, and no doubt in some respects he was – but I don’t really know the truth of that, and whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, was that really enough to justify him being missing for most of my lifetime? Couldn’t there and shouldn’t there have been some point of compromise and reconciliation? How is it that we can just turn our backs on each other? Isn’t that cowardly?

We make mistakes. People let us down. Stuff happens. 

How can we stay resilient through that? Certainly, it’s not easy. We feel the need to judge, control and criticise. We have expectations. I did write to my Dad, but I got no reply. My own way of acting resiliently in response is to try as hard as I can to be a good Dad for my own children. To work as hard as I can to support them and to always be there for them when they need me. Looking ahead, now I’m letting go of the sadness and frustration I feel about my own situation. The wind blows, the river runs, we find our friendships where we can. Everyone has their reasons for doing what they do. We forgive.

PS Have you seen our TED Talk?