Last weekend I spent some quality time with my best friend Bradley Minnaar. He’s mother passed away recently and now moved back in from a granny flat into the main house. All his sisters are married with kids and his one brother is married with kids, while the other became a missionary after his wife passed away only a few years after getting married. Sometimes while growing I envied to luxury, as I perceived it of having both your mother and father available to you.
One of the things we discussed was the missing father syndrome in so many families, including my own. One obvious thing for me is how strong the link is between poverty and missing fathers. I grew up primarily with my mother in Uitenhage, outside of Port Elizabeth, and probably one of the poorest towns in South Africa. The biggest employer is Volkswagen, Goodyear and some other factories, all which remove fathers from the household.
Anyway back to my own story. Until my father married his 2nd wife, when I was about 12 years old, I used to visit him for extended holidays in Johannesburg. I recall the feelings of trepidation I had when I realised my father was having another son i.e. my brother. The love that comes with a new born soon replaced whatever insecurity or anxiety I had about his arrival. Looking back, maybe the biggest disappointment for me was when my father could not make it for my 21st birthday in 1996. This was also the same weekend I graduated with a BSc degree, becoming the first person in my extended family to complete a university degree.
Without blabbering on about my own story I wanted to let mention 3 excellent books about being a man, mandhood and masculinity. I’m linking to the Amazon.com reviews so you can read detailed reviews for yourself:
Last week I finished Manhood by Steve Biddulph, an Australian family therapist and prolific author about children, families and couples, and I’m already starting to re-read it because it is absolutely profound in it’s message for men, fathers and sons. I really appreciate how my mother raised me and the sacrifices she made. However, I can testify that NOT being able to spend more time with my dad, especially during and after the puberty stages from about 15-20 negatively impacted on my confidence during my early relationships with a woman. So it’s taken years of pain and suffering, depression and frustration, loneliness and grief, that eventually led me to a very important search for answers.
Because my father is still an alcoholic it is difficult to have a conversation because he is often not in a healthy physical state to so. A long time ago I refused to buy him any and detest the people who continue to do so, even with his deteriorating health. There is still a gap in our communication and I will keep working towards a healthier relationship with him because it’s important that I learn the other side of the coin.
The books mentioned above have helped me to articulate my own feelings toward my father. And more importantly it has given me an understanding of that which has been missing. So I now have complete acceptance of the difficulties he went through with his father and family. He is the eldest of 5 brothers and 3 sisters, and ended up leaving school in grade 5 to earn a living and help support the family. There is sometimes a weird love-hate relationship between him and his siblings.
After his 2nd marriage I was cut off from him for about 10 years until I moved to Johannesburg at the end of 1996 to work for Internet Solution. At that time I began a very slow process of reacquainting myself with him. It’ll always be a work in progress. During the last 3 years he has had 4 mild heart attacks and this, as well as reading the Manhood book, has created a sense of urgency in having a different kind of conversation with him.
My challenge now is how do I ask him to tell me his version of the love story with my mother?