Rhetorical Question

This man fathered three sons… but none of us call him father — photo by Me


“National Disgrace”; Atmosphere
Let me know if the YouTube’s missing…




Do you miss your father? Sometimes it feels like there’s a Whole missing from my life. For most of my life I haven’t mourned for what I don’t have because I don’t know what I didn’t have. Then occasionally someone says something and it turns out I’ve been walking for miles just a few degrees off North… all this time I thought I was on the same life course as Others, but here I am way over here and there you are way over there.

Sometimes it will occur to me the reason I can’t throw as well as someone else is because they had a father who taught them. Or I’ll watch my step-brother skate and I’ll tell myself I’m a fool for not being able to skate as smoothly and I’ll ask myself “how..? Oh, right, he has a father”.

I don’t know if I miss my father or if I’ve been missing the idea of Having a father. I know I didn’t have one, but I still write things like “the cult my father ran” or “my father was borne in Scotland”. I know there’s nothing I know which he has taught me… at least directly. Indirectly he has taught me many lessons.

I’ve said this before, but it seems as though everything I’ve learned has been through trial and error… when I was thirteen my mothers hairdresser told me to get rid of my acne by putting rubbing alcohol on my face and lighting a match… I was in the bathroom with the rubbing alcohol and matches in my hand when I decided it Could be a bad idea.

I didn’t even know how to properly grow a beard until last year. I thought there was something wrong with me because after letting the hair grow for a month it wouldn’t look anything like a full beard so, discouraged, I’d shave it off. I’ve discreetly asked people for tips in the past, but last year I Googled for instructions.

One of the very first posts I made was a joke about growing a beard… since then I get at Least two Search Engine Referrals every day asking “how do I grow a beard?”, so I know I’m one of many Fatherless Sons looking for lessons on Manhood online.

A friend of mine was over tonight. The beard thing came to mind so I asked him… he has grown one in the past, but not really. He just let his facial hair grow, he didn’t know how to take care of it so he shaved it off. He never really had a father either, but he was aggressive in life where I was passive… he ran head first into the world while I waited for some instruction and annoyed people with my blankness.

But here we are together… him, forty-years old and recovering from addiction; adopted but trying to connect with his Blood Family; precariously hanging on to his girlfriend and her kids, while trying to be his daughters father. And here’s Me, thirty-seven; still trying to connect with my sisters while recovering from a mental disease; living alone on disability, dating a woman who has two kids…

Last Friday night I was showing some photos to my girlfriend and somehow my father came up, she said she had never seen a photo of him. So I said “just a sec” and went into the living room… and couldn’t find them. Then I remembered I only have two… for some reason when I told her I’d go get them I thought there was a Them to get.

Not too long ago I was talking to someone I’ve known since Forever and I mentioned my father… he said it was the first time I’ve ever mentioned my biological father. I’ve realized since then that I’ve never spoken of my father to anyone outside family and my doctor… maybe there were a few occasions. But everything about him has been an Interior Dialogue between myself and myself pretending to be him.

The thing is… I don’t know if this Post is a condemnation or an invitation.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Depression, Father, Health, Lithium, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Punk, Salted Truths, UmBiPMaD Stories, YouTube. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Rhetorical Question

  1. thordora says:

    Missing the parent you were supposed to have is such a kick in the ass. Missing all those moments, those instructions, that perfect parent you think you should have had….I can understand that. I think of all the girl stuff it would have been nice to have my mother around for-I think of the hair and makeup, the basic girly upkeep I know nothing about.

    I can google it, but it makes my head hurt.

    There is no shame in missing what you never had the chance to have, especially in your case where he was alive and well and CHOSE to not man up and be a father. You deserved better than that, and you still do.

    My create our myths without parents. Where others have their stories set in stone, we have to make bricks and build houses, hoping that no one notices the gaping holes of “I don’t know”

    A friend of mine basically lost her mother in a divorce when were were 12 or 13, and I remember telling her that I preferred my mother being dead because I knew she hadn’t left me willingly. I hated her mother for that.

  2. Bryan says:

    I think wanting to know something about family history is perfectly normal. I went through it for years after not meeting my biological father until I was in my early 20’s and getting ready to have my first child. I felt I owed it to myself to have some form of family history regardless of how fucked up it was to pass on later in life to my kids if I was ever asked.

    My pop was severily mentally ill and he eventually subcomed to his personal demons after a few short years of being in my life. Do I feel sorry that he is gone? No… he had a lot of things going on that I’m glad that I don’t have to deal with in the third party sense. I am fortunate to have known him even if it was for a short period in my life. To tell you the truth he was one of the few people that I ever cried over losing, and I still as of yet, don’t know where he is buried.

    The yearning for the knowledge itself, for me, was the most important aspect of wanting to find him. In the same token it gave me a concrete idea of how different my life was though I lacked his presence in my life growing up. It was insanely different than the life that I lived with my step father for 14 years. A life that I grew up with thinking that I lived in a world of normalcy when it was anything but. We were a family that tried but could never quite make it for one reason or the other. I’ve posted about some of the things in my past with all that though, and have made healthy steps on recovering from my sorted child hood over the years.

    In the end I’ve found that it doesn’t matter who really raised you. It’s how you live your life that will define you as a man as much as the actions that you lay out before yourself and the lessons that you learn from that. Nothing is saying that the man that teaches you the finer points in life has to be any kind of a father figure to you. I guess that’s why I am very comfortable being a stay at home dad, besides the fact that my disease makes managing the public a bitch for me to navigate at times and I can’t seem to find my bearings when certain situations arise. That’s something I’ve had to figure out for myself and nothing that any male role model could have prepared me for. Hell I’m supposed to be a man, I’m supposed to be the breadwinner, I’m supposed to be able to work on shit and fix it (though I can now, it took me years of learning through my own means to make that happen) I’m supposed to be visably emotionally vacant during certain things to not show my weaknesses, though that can be helpfull in certain parts of life it’s not something one should take with every facate of life. And the list goes on… Regardless 90% of all these streotypes are bullshit and should only be dabbled in sparingly I have found. It’s like anything good in life moderation is the key and finding out when the best times for this to happen is paramount for being a sucessful male figure.

    I’ve had a hell of a life for the most part and you have as well and though I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through the shit that I lived through I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. With out the sorted mess of it all I belive that if life would have been softer for me I would be mearly half the person that I am now. Some how I can’t see anyhow it woulld have been beneficial for me to have ahd my biological father in my life any more than I did.

    I’ve spouted enough bullshit about this, I hope that you’re having a great day and it’s not snowing too much for you up there if at all.

  3. bine says:

    i cannot even start to imagine how it must be to have missed the guidance of a parent in your life. all those little things you want to ask every day … okay, i was a very curious and inquisitive child, must have annoyed my parents no end.
    i play dr. ruth for a girl who doesn’t have parents. not just for sex questions, but everything she doesn’t know whom to ask, i told her ask away, i’ll see if i can help you.. i don’t have all the answers, but most of the times i at least know someone who has one. sometimes i’m shocked at how many of those little questions there are. i never really noticed, because there was always someone to ask.

  4. markps2 says:

    You want to know how to grow a beard… I want to know how to shave.

  5. exactscience says:

    Markps2 the websites exist, hell there are even videos on youtube.

    Gabriel for what it is worth I taught myself to shave, youtube and goggle didn’t even exist when I learnt, and I have a Dad who is always around, but not.

    It is important to remember that parents are people too. I had this very important realisation when I was 14 about five seconds after I realised that both of my parents are fallible. I know that there is the whole biological thing but more importantly the relationship you have or don’t have is based on the type of people you both are.

    I have learned more from my friends than from my Dad and my Mum, my parents may have made a frame but my friends painted the picture and we all know that the best pictures dont need framed.

  6. Gabriel... says:

    I think Mark was speaking in Metaphor… or tongues. I’m cleaning the apartment today, so this is just a quickie before I respond properly to everyone. Shaving’s not the problem, or maybe it’s a whole other problem. I’m mostly a stubble person when I don’t have the beard. Shaving is easy, though. You do it until you find a way to do it without bleeding. Growing a beard, however, actually does take some skill… it’s not just letting the hair grow — don’t cut it for the first eight weeks, wash it with shampoo, keep it off your neck, never trim it while it’s wet. In some ways the point I’m making is We grew up with parents who had grown up trying to prove their parents knew Nothing about Everything… including the roles of parents and children and the rules of parenting. In my case though my parents and their friends also owned guns and were planning for the Revolution.

    Parents may be people, but they’re not always parents. Their fallibility is something we’re all supposed to learn at some point in our lives, but relationships are determined by individuals… to use your metaphor ExSci, my father decided pretty early on there will be no picture with him and his three sons… we had no say in the relationship we would or could have with him so we were never been given the opportunity to naturally discover his fallibility. Because everything has been on his terms I have to rely on my imagination to have the conversations we should have had, which means I’ve been killing him and hugging him and listening to him and being praised by him and screaming at him for the last 28-years with no conclusions, no lessons and no response. And it’s not something someone can move on from without some Reality to show the way… especially when the parent in question believes your suffering proves their martyrdom.

  7. I would love to find my biological father and meet him. I know the chances of that are slim to none. I don’t even know if he’s still living in Pakistan or even alive!

    And perhaps, I might get a tiny bit of information about him as a person from my loony mother but who knows…

    I think I’ve gotten to a point where I treasure what I do have: A letter from him I received when I was seven in response to one I wrote (even though I didn’t know he was my biological father!) and one photograph I managed to find.

    I know who I am (similar in a way to what Bryan wrote and I read his post about this kind of thing on his blog and commented.)

    But yes, for a long time I felt somewhat lost and like a piece of me was missing. Not so much anymore?

  8. exactscience says:

    Gabriel. I was only making a jibe at new media… jeez.

    This could of course spark a debate about the merits of lifecasting and blogging and flickring and such.

    I wasn’t trying to be glib when I said not needing frames. I do realise the decision whether to frame or not isn’t in your hands, but dealing with it is.

    I think I have run out of intelligent or genuine or helpful things to say about this sorry.

  9. dame says:

    i felt like i mourned my mom my entire life. but i still reached for her on occasion, if only within myself.
    this post reminds me of all of it.
    and how i thought i was prepared for her death, and the inevitable. but i really wasn’t. or i was, but there was more to it. i’m still figuring.
    it’s just the most complicated thing ever. to wish and want and realize and accept and deny and and and…
    there’s just so much to it all.

    but never feel unusual to feel complicated and confused by it all. it’s natural to love and want, or to want to identify, or understand, forgive or even hate a parent ‘despite’. sometimes all those things, all at the same time. all mixed up.

  10. melanie says:

    I feel like I am one of the few who’s parents are still married to each other, still alive and still very much a part of my life. Whether their constant interference is a blessing or a curse I have yet to decide. I learned very little growing up from my european, old-school Mom and Dad who still believe that children should be seen and not heard. I spent most of my childhood life preparing to leave home and when I did I never went back, even when I probably should have. 90% of the time I’m trying to avoid them and their constant criticism of everything I do. The other 10% I’m worrying about how I’m going to have to take care of them when they need me to do so as I can barely take care of me and my girls. Would I ever wish either of them out of my life, of course not! But maybe I wouldn’t have turned out so screwed up if my parents hadn’t been quite so involved.

  11. I know what this feels like. Don’t know if you have googled “Father Hunger”, or looked at any books on the subject. I found two very helpful – one called Father Hunger, the other Father Factor. Certainly made me feel less alone.

  12. nursemyra says:

    I understand the yearning to know about one’s parents as I was adopted too. was fortunate to meet my birth mother when I was 30 and we have an ongoing relationship though my birth father and I only met once.

    gabriel, do you ever see yourself contacting your father in the future?

  13. Gabriel... says:

    I don’t see myself “contacting” him again so much as “awkwardly being in the same room during my sisters wedding should that ever occur”.

    I made the effort back when I was fifteen, when he gave me two hours of his time (thirty minutes of which was me waiting in the lobby of his office reading Reader’s Digest), at that point I hadn’t seen or heard from him in six years.

    Seven years ago (or so), when I was thirty, I moved into the city where he lives so I could connect with his two daughters (my sisters)… so I saw him about once a week for eight months.

    Since the 1979 divorce the only contact he has Ever initiated with me , and I am not joking, came about two months ago when he sent a smiley emoticon to my Facebook account.

  14. voodoo child says:

    This is the most honest blog I have come across. I have always had parents. a few ago my dad died at age 72. I live in the old family home that he built. About three months later a young man in his late twenty’s shows up at my door. I had heard of him as my cousin from an affair my dad’s brother had. It turns out this dude is probably my brother. I don’t know how to help fill this hole in his life. He met our dad on more than one occasion. our dad did visit him a few times. Reading this blog has helped.

  15. I still am confused about women’s beauty and hygiene stuff. My mother was there, but she may as well have been absent. I was thirteen before I learned how to put my hair in a ponytail. I’m now 30 and can now handle a ponytail and a braid, but nothing else. On the plus side, I save a lot of time by not knowing all those female things.

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