I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings about Fathers Day. It’s hard to say I’m thankful for my father. When I was a kid, the most positive male role model I had was a fictional character in ridiculous blue tights and a red cape.
As I wrote once before, my brother and I didn’t need a bogeyman to fear, because the most terrible monster we knew sat with us at the dinner table. But now I know he took much worse abuse from his parents, so these days I pity him more than I resent him. He had a poor example to follow, and I think…I hope…that deep down he was doing the best he could to raise us right.
He was certainly a better father than a lot of kids have. At least he was still around until I was 14, and tried to teach me some things. I am thankful. But those lessons came along with a lot of cruelty. Because I’ve seen the damage done by a bad example, I have little faith in myself to take on the same job. I’ve avoided marriage and fatherhood because I don’t want to repeat his mistakes. I’d rather have no wife or family at all than to risk carrying on this wake of destruction and disappointment that stretches back so many generations.
Now I’m getting older, looking down the barrel of 40, my regret about that is coming out in weird ways. My hero complex is merging with a presumably instinctive paternal impulse, and I sometimes butt in where I’m not asked, trying to provide a good example for friends’ sons who don’t have a dad or a stepdad around. I’m having difficulty reconciling my compulsion to do some good in this world by offsetting the damage done by all abusive and absentee fathers, with society’s perfectly reasonable expectation that I not be a nosy creep.
I used to wonder whether I was good enough. Now I wonder whether I’ve waited too long to figure it out. I wonder whether it’s better to direct my paternal instincts where they belong, or if it’s okay instead to remain simply A Friend.