November 6th – My father’s birthday. I know this as fact, but I don’t feel it as truth, because the truth is, I don’t have a father. There is a man still alive in this world who’s sperm fertilised my mother’s egg, but this man is not my father.
I don’t have one.
I grieve for the loss of a father I never had.
I know if I had father, I could have been a more resilient person in my younger years. I believe my own natural resilience, found much later in life, has assisted me in finding the fathering I need. But it took a long time.
A father is supposed to be a girl’s first example of men. She will choose her future romantic partners based upon the man that her father proves to be.
I didn’t have the role model I needed to make good decisions in partners. I bounced from one disastrous relationship to another, each being a painful experience with lasting consequences. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with men.
I haven’t been fortunate to get what I needed from my father as a single source, so I have learnt to adapt and have found fathering from diverse sources; in mentors, spiritual experiences, from looking at my father’s life and his past, who and what shaped him and indirectly from the fathers of my friends and loved ones, from heroic role models I will never meet, from images and art and even from encounters with strangers.
I have been thinking about good father figures in literature. One of my favourite books of recent years is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The relationship between young Liesel and her adopted father, Hans Hubermann, is in many ways the heartbeat of this book. Mama addresses Liesel only as ‘saumensch’ and is quick to offer a slap across the face, Hans, or Papa, adores Liesel, playing his accordion for her and teaching her to read. Hans Hubermann’s soft strength shines throughout Markus Zusak’s novel as a positive force in the otherwise harrowing and tragic setting of Nazi Germany.
In your writing when you have a character who is a father, consider the father you want him to be. Do you want:
A Bad Dad like Humbert Humbert in Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
An OK Dad like Franklin Plaskett in Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin or
A Good Dad like The Dad from The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
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