Thursday 6 January 2022

The Faces that we Wear


I know that life can change who you are.

I was in care as a very young child so I had that "face" until I was adopted and had a new one. Between having my health conditions, being married, divorced, being an alcoholic and even the person that I am today, as a parent or as the person I am with Hannah I've had many "faces" over the years.

Yet it's not something I've considered of my parents.

However, on losing dad this week I've found it difficult to mourn the man he was and the different faces he's had.

When I was 25 I found out, accidentally who my parents were before they had kids.

Mum was a champion at Ten Pin Bowling and, with Dad supporting, had played nationally and internationally.

Dad and Mum were members of  Darts, Cricket and Bowling teams. Dad had started his career as a milkman and between that, the teams and Mum’s work they had a good group of friends. They couldn’t have kids so adopted in their 40s which, prior to children they took advantage of and became the "party house". Leaving me to learn about that face.

Then I had the "Dad" I was raised with.

He wasn't a great dad. He had strong gender stereotypes of what a "boy should be" and because I wasn't our relationship was difficult. He was also a man of his "generation" so racism, sexism and homophobic words and actions were a regular part of my life and upbringing and despite their want for children, it was stated that he had already had a "son", my brother and I was "only being adopted for my Mum"; something that's listed in my adoption file.

(Note: I have no photos of Dad and me as a kid) 

Again, due to their generation, I had a disciplined childhood that was maintained with corporal punishment. Yet, this was also used to maintain his stereotypes. For example, when I was little I kept wanting to hold his hand but "only boys who were gay" did that. To stop me attempting to he placed his cigarette at an angle so when I went to do it my hand was burnt.

This is the man I remember.

Then Mum died and he suddenly became this broken, dithering old man.

(Dad and Mum at my wedding)

I moved in on an mutual agreement to look after each other. Which, on the above relationship, was difficult especially when "Dad" verbally did his stereotypes towards the boys. This and the start of his dementia made me eventually move out 3 years later. I'm not too sure why but things changed and when we saw him he was better, especially towards the boys who in the end was spoiled by Grandad.

(Dad with the boys after we left)

The following years saw his mental and physical decline but he didn't change too much.

Finally, when he had his stroke and was left paralysed and needed significant care he became this frail, diminishing man; someone I made sure I spent as much time with as I could.

(Dad shortly after the stroke)

This wasn't the man I knew.

Admittedly, his key negative traits and feelings came through occasionally like not letting a black staff member care for him when his racist tendencies took over he wasn’t that man.

(The boys in the Care Home visiting Dad)

In his final days and hours he was just a vessel who was struggling to breathe.

(Dad in his final hours)

So, on his passing, I'm struggling to reconcile and identify the many faces he wore and the man I "knew".

Part of me is comfortable in knowing that the "Dad" who raised me died a long time ago after Mum died. Just as I am with knowing the "Grandad" that the boys knew "died" some time before his stroke. As well as being happy that he's at peace after battling all he did.

This doesn't mean that it's easy to reconcile all of it especially as for the majority of the time I "knew" him he was my biggest adversary.

The faces that we wear define who we are through the relationships we have with others at that time.

Pre-children, his social face was one that was defined by his friends. The man in my childhood was defined in the relationship he had with me. Just as much as the face he had for the boys defined the relationship between them. And, finally the man who was left at the end was defined by the daily interactions he had with those who visited or cared for him.

Despite all of this the face I'm left with is the one of the evolving person that he became.

(Dad post mums death at my 30th Birthday)

Each face shouldn't define who we are but instead should be seen as the route to all the relationships that we touched whilst wearing them. Even if it wasn't the full person, the evolution of who they were is a jigsaw puzzle of each face of an overall picture; something I'm hopeful for myself when my time comes.

For many, they remember the man "in his prime". For me, if it's my childhood or my relationship over the last 10 years I can't fully say I have "happy" memories of the face I knew but I do at least know the man and the faces that he wore.

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