This time of year always provokes reflection. December 25th is an Anchor for most of the World. Christmas is mandatory, whether you’re a Pagan, Christian or just really big into Coca Cola. Of course the New Year automatically gives permission for a ‘New You'. You know, the ‘You’ you decided you would definitely be in 2014 after you were really determined in 2013, because you had made that deal with yourself back in 2012… that you. I’ve tried, but there really is no escape.
However you spent it, I’ll bet Christmas still descended into madness. Even when we said the words, ‘lets just do little presents this year’, back in November I still ended up carting home 6 separate ‘bags for life’ full of over priced goods in matching wrapping paper. Yes I have six ‘bags for life’. I try.
This year I spent £5 on my Niece’s Christmas card. She can’t read. (Because she’s four.)
But more than the presents and the cards that no one reads, the one thing that I can never get away from at Christmas, is family.
I'm lucky, even though my parents split up when I was four years old, my Dad remains the one very constant male relationship in my life. I guess like most other girls he is the measure to which I hold all my other male relationships. I'd like to think he is the reason I have high standards and hopes for the men of my future. So whilst shared Christmases, traveling, ‘either ors’ and the feeling of compromise have always played a part of my growing up so too has my Dad.
My Dad was always the Hero. He was the weekend Dad who, no matter how hard the task, always had a sunny disposition. Always said ‘Yes’.
Yes to me, yes to my Mum. Yes to new school shoes and ballet fees. Yes to sweets, McDonalds, crappy pre-teen magazines and later than they should be bed times.
But most importantly he said yes to the five hour long drive when my Mum decided she wanted us to live by the sea side.
We moved when I was six years old. Down to the coast and away from our family. I liked the seaside and my tiny new school by the beach. I liked our tiny village too with it’s Tourist shops and the Tourists who didn’t know the good hiding places or dog walking routes as well as I did. I had a happy childhood.
I never understood at six years old what it must have felt like to drive down to the coast every other weekend to see your little girl. But worse it only dawned on me a few years ago what it must have been like to drive away again, alone.
But my Dad was a Hero.
With him, he bought not only treats, but also rituals, funny sayings and the makings of our own language. It’s only now that I’ve recognised those five hour drives together for what they really were. The roots of our quite brilliant relationship.
Dad played to me all his favourite bands, taught me all the lyrics, which really spoke to him. We listened to his favourite books on tape and I even developed a tolerance for ‘The Archers’ on Radio 4. Dad’s favourites are now my favourites.
We used to have these long chats; the car was a safe place. I could tell Dad anything. I could tell him secrets followed by the phrase: ‘But don’t tell Mum’. My Dad indulged my every story, even the made up parts, never picking out the flaws in the tale. Or the friends, who I claimed to be real, but were clearly reincarnations of characters from books by Anne Fine.
My Dad made this monster journey with me from the time I was six until I turned 14 and we finally moved closer to London. We sill had our car journeys, but they weren’t so long and it wasn’t so long after that until I began driving myself around. I got a car and I named her Brian.
It is true that as you grow up you grow away. You need people less, the routines and sayings become less often because you naturally begin to see that person less.
My parents divorced when I was too young to know societies grasp of normal, so really the whole thing was very normal to me. Divorce was like a fact, I remember talking about my fictional future second husband almost as much as my first, when I played weddings in my dressing gown as a child. I realised however, it wasn’t so normal for your Dad to have not so much as a girlfriend throughout your whole childhood and teenage years.
Once I reached an age where I could at least pretend convincingly to be an adult I decided that something had to happen. I had known my Dad for 22 years, and increasingly I had begun to think of him as a sad man. The twinkle in his eye was fading with his Hero status. He had no one to take care of, I was making sure of that and I guess he needed a purpose. It is hard to be the sole focus of someone’s happiness. It is a great pressure and it puts a lot of strain upon that relationship.
My only thought was to put my Dad on Match.com. Maybe that wasn’t right, but I knew that something had to change. Dad needed someone else. In the words of Nick Hornby:
“Two people isn’t enough. You need backup. If you’re only two people, and someone drops off the edge, then you’re on your own. Two isn’t a large enough number. You need three at least.”
My Dad needed to get a life, and whilst those aren’t going for a subscription fee on the Internet, relationships are.
It’s over a year later and to my surprise Dad’s found his match. Throughout 2014 I’ve dealt with the idea that not only am I no longer the soul focus of my Father’s attention, the main reason for his happiness, but he’s also getting laid more often than I am. Each of these things have come as they’re own surprising hurdle and new ones spring up every day. My Dad’s Girlfriend is still an odd concept.
Now they have in jokes and sayings and sometimes, in spite of myself, I feel a little redundant in their company. But she is good for him, I know that.
Dad is shamelessly cracking jokes again, he’s going to places and making arrangements that I could never manage to encourage him to do before. He has someone who doesn’t need him to look after her, but wants him to. It’s a very nice thing to see.
Whilst I feel I’ve temporarily lost a little of my Father what is there is the craving for his attention again. The wanting to make him laugh, or to tell him a story with a few added funny details, is back. I’ve not felt that way in a while.
It isn’t jealously, but it’s as if now my Dad is being a little cooler, he’s slightly preoccupied It’s almost as if he is playing hard to get, and every girl knows how that feels. So I’m finding myself appreciating him more when I do have him.
I no longer feel guilty when I can’t see him on weekends or holidays. Now I’m safe in the knowledge that he’s somewhere else and happy, not alone.
This year I have my goals like the rest of the world and I’m naïve and hopeful to think that I will achieve them. But I also need to learn how to have this new relationship with my Dad. We still share all our same favourite bands and books, and we still know not to call each other when the ‘Archers’ are on. But I now have to get used to the fact, he’s not only mine anymore.