Lads Without Dads
What inspired us:
Some of my earliest memories are my mother and father arguing.
I remember him coming home drunk and screaming at my mother because she had hidden his car keys in an attempt to stop him from drink driving.
I remember seeing his cut knuckles and holes in the doors where he had vented his rage.
I remember when he promised a fresh start to my mother, sister and I.
“A fresh start, in a new place, I have a job there and things will be different. No more drinking, no more cheating, I will change”.
At the time I was eight years old and my sister a year and four months younger than me. Our mother trying to do the right thing for us both and wanting to keep the family together reluctantly agreed to relocate us to the other side of the country in the hope of this ‘fresh start’.
Two weeks after arriving and trying to settle into a new home, school and lifestyle, I remember my father returning from work, arguing with my mother, packing his belongings and leaving. It later came to light that he was already in a relationship with another woman who also had two children before even moving us away. I guess we were his safety net if his plan was to fail.
Not wanting to uproot us again after the recent turmoil of leaving everything and everyone we knew, my mother decided that it was maybe best to stay put.
For just over a year we struggled alone with no contact from our father.
Eventually my mother decided that there was no other choice but to return to our home town, familiarity and support network.
When we returned we initially stayed with our grandparents whilst awaiting to be housed in social accommodation.
Eventually we were offered accommodation in a local hostel where my mother, sister and I where forced to share a one room bedsit style premises whilst awaiting a more suitable property.
The only private facilities being a small wash basin in our room. Bathing and cooking facilities were shared with other residents.
After several months conditions were so bad we ended up moving into private rented accommodation in the hope we could resume some sort of normal family lifestyle.
This started a domino effect of disaster. My mother was seriously struggling emotionally and financially as a result of my father leaving and pretty soon she got into debt with the high rent on our accommodation. We were evicted. We would secure other rented accommodation, the same issue would arise, we would move.
This would happen so frequently that often my sister and I would only unpack certain items when we moved as we knew that it would not be long before we were on the move again.
It is thought that a house move is almost as stressful as a bereavement.
I have almost lost count of the amount of times we moved once my father left. A rough tally without exaggeration would be around twenty five different addresses in several different areas and a few different schools.
During this time my sister and I resumed contact with my father via a telephone call once a fortnight at whichever telephone box was local to us at the time. I was around ten years old.
We used to visit him for two weeks during our school summer holidays and one week during Easter. This become routine and we would look forward to both the phone calls and the visits, although we both used to struggle with the fact that he had re-married and that his new wife had children a similar age to us. That we would only have his love and attention for three weeks of the year. But it was her children he would take on holiday, support, love and provide for on a regular basis.
Eventually my father’s second marriage ended and after hearing about a string of other relationships via our minimal contact we were informed he had re-married again and to no surprise his latest conquest had two children a similar age to myself and sister.
It was when I was around twelve years old that something happened that would change our lives completely.
At the time we were in council accommodation and our housing situation was more settled than it had been for some time.
As I have already mentioned, and will not go into detail about, my mother was struggling severely with many issues. Let’s just say in her quest to find a suitable male role model/father figure for us she met a couple of unsuitable candidates. One of which as a peace offering to my sister and I, offered us each something of his as a gift, my sisters treasure was a miniature portable black and white television. About the size of an I phone box with an extendable aerial that would protrude about three foot out the side of it. My gift was an altogether different story. A .22 air rifle with telescopic sights.
I was just about twelve years old at the time and I thought all my Christmases had come at once. I was a typical boy born in the 80’s I think. I loved catapults and pen knives and all things dangerous. This was amazing. I would spend countless hours after school and on the weekend shooting in the garden at make shift targets.
It was a Sunday afternoon as far as I can remember and I was doing just that, shooting targets in the garden. I remember my sister calling me to say my best friend was at the door and wanted me to go out and ‘play’.
I remember being excited that my friend had called for me, running into the living room, zipping the air rifle up in its case and putting it behind the chair in the living room.
I cannot remember exactly what we did on that day, but I do remember a typical day for us then would involve walking miles and miles. We would climb trees, make rope swings, ‘scrump’ apples and jump through peoples gardens with the skill of a modern day free runner which we fondly called ‘hedge hopping’.
I think my friend and I returned to my house about mid-afternoon. My sister was home with a younger friend of hers from the estate we lived on and my mother was in a friend’s house further up the road. The first thing I did when got in was reach behind the chair for the air rifle. I unzipped the case and pointed it at my best friend. I can’t say what was going through my mind at this moment I guess it was something like in the movies, a sort of “put your hands up” the same game we would play as toddlers with our ‘spud’ and ‘cap’ guns.
I turned and pointed at my sister. I think I may have even said put your hands up or I will shoot.
I then swivelled and pointed it at my sister’s young friend.
I squeezed the trigger expecting a click, however it didn’t click. It ejected a .22 pellet at point blank range into this beautiful young girl’s cheek.
It all happened so quickly. Blood squirted out of her and I remember having to pick her up. I remember her blood running down my shoulder as I carried her screaming down the street to her parent’s house.
I was hysterical. I was twelve years old. It could have just as easily have been my sister, best friend or I.
The police were involved and I had to go to the police station with my mother for an interview. Obviously it wasn’t intentional, I should not have been left unsupervised at that age with an air rifle in the first place. Something which would never have happened if a positive male role model was in my life. The gun was confiscated and destroyed. And no further action was taken.
Unfortunately there was a small minority of people in the town we lived in who used this incident to vent their own anger and rage and that evening we had things thrown at our house windows, and were intimidated and harassed. I was terrified. Of course I never meant to hurt that young girl. I was twelve years old. It was an accident. We were all scared and I did not want to go back to school for fear of any repercussions.
I never did return to that school. That school and town was everything I knew. My relatives all live there. I grew up there. I went to primary, junior and started secondary school with the same people. I had my favourite teachers, I was part of the rugby team and had formed personal relationships over many years with all of my classmates. From that day on I never returned. I never went back to my class, saw my teachers, or played rugby with my team.
From what I have been told, the girl it happened to had to undergo a horrific operation to remove the pellet. Apparently it had imbedded so deep into her cheek that they had to go in through the roof of her mouth in order to extract it.
I am told that these days she has a small scar and if it is brought up in conversation that she refers to it as her ‘war story’. I am unsure of this though as I have not seen her since that day.
I sincerely hope that she knows it was purely an accident and that I am so deeply sorry, I will never forget it.
A year after that incident we were living in a different town and although we were still having to move from one property to another as rent and bills stacked up, we were settling into our new lives and schools. I was around Thirteen years old. We were still visiting the phone box on a fortnightly basis where we were told of the all- inclusive holidays and luxuries lavished on his new family by our father. And still visiting for those three weeks of the year were we got to see first-hand just what we were missing out on.
As I was becoming a teenager I found it harder to deal with not having my/a father figure around.
So many questions. So many things I wanted to be taught, to experience. To share with my dad.
No matter how understanding my mother tried to be it would make no difference. There is no substitute. It takes a man to make a man in my opinion.
As I was maturing I started to understand more about what he had done by leaving us all those years ago. I started to understand the effects it had had on all of us.
Our old life had gone, our father had gone and we were still struggling. So much so, that my mother was unable to afford decent winter coats for me and my sister and suggested that we ask our father. So during our next conversation I was nominated to try and gain some financial assistance from our father (who in the 5 years of leaving us had contributed nothing financially) he agreed that he would send something to help.
A week later my mother received a cheque for £5-00 signed by my father’s new wife who now had the same initials as my mother, a note was attached saying that she was the new Mrs ——-.
I demanded to be shown any correspondence from my father and when I saw his offering I was enraged.
Enough was enough. After everything we had been through with no support from him what so ever I could not contain my anger with the whole situation any longer. I ripped the cheque into tiny pieces and proceeded to write a letter to my father telling him exactly what I thought of him and his new family. I was thirteen years old.
I mailed the letter and the following week my sister and I walked to the phone box for our chat with dad.
We used to reverse the charges by dialling a certain number it would connect us and he would agree to accept the charge for the call. He was good like that.
Upon answering I was greeted with a tirade of abuse. Which I could only gather meant he had received the letter and cheque I had returned to him.
He told me that unless I apologised to him and his wife that he did not want to speak to me again. I asked him if he was choosing this woman over his own flesh and blood and his answer was yes.
I put the phone down after that comment.
I didn’t speak to him properly or see him for 19 years after that phone call.
For 19 years neither my sister nor I had a birthday card, Christmas present or likewise.
My sister is now married with a great husband and two beautiful children who he has never met.
A couple of years ago I got to a point where I felt as though I needed to make peace with my father. I had been carrying around so much hurt and anger inside me for all these years and I was hoping that by recommencing contact it would finally ease a little.
I manged to get his telephone number and for the first time in 19 years tried to have a conversation with him instead of screaming my rage. I arranged to go and visit him. I hired the transport. I travelled to him. I sat and listened to him. I tried to understand him. I bought him some shopping and told him I love him. That I had missed him. That I could understand that the relationship between him and my mother had broken down. That I understand people and feelings change. But that I do not, will not and cannot understand how anyone can ever leave their children. What is even worse is the fact that his father had left him when he was a young lad. He knows what effect that had on him and his life yet he chose to do the same to me and my sister. He had no excuses for me. His health is deteriorating. He lives alone in social housing. He has few friends. He has been selfish his entire life and as a result was now living a miserable existence. This however gave me no satisfaction, it made me pity him. I explained to him that how if he had been there for me that we could have worked together. We could have been a team. Father and son. And now that he was getting older that I would have continued and looked after him. The way it should have been in my opinion. I asked him for answers. He had none. I just had to accept it.
I spent a couple of days with him and then returned home. For a while we kept in contact. He started to contact me most days with trivial messages about the weather and how we both were feeling. At the start it was nice to finally wake up to a message from my father and to be having some sort of regular contact. However pretty soon it started to frustrate me. It was pointless. Too late. The damage has been done. Then when I struggled to reply to these futile messages he would either be aggressive or try to guilt me into replying. As a result I changed my number and have not had contact with him since.
I have recently celebrated my 35th birthday.
I still struggle on a daily basis with the effects not having a positive male role model in my life has had on me.
I am scared.
Scared I will end up like him.
This is what has inspired Lads Without Dads.