My dad, like many people, was a living contradiction. He could be helpful and insightful, telling me his philosophical concepts and using those moments to try to build a bridge between us. We needed that. Most of the time he found it hard to say anything kind or supportive.
I've thought alot about our inability to connect. I believe that, on top of whatever family stuff contributed to his manic depression ( raised by two older women, an absent and sometimes violent father who didn't understand that an artist is a valid thing to be in life, etc.), WW2 was partly responsible. It created a generation of emotionally/mentally scarred men.
My direct knowledge of how my father was affected by the war is a blank - he never spoke about his role or experiences to me. My 'brother' told me what he had gleaned just a few years ago.
Dennis, my childhood friend, companion, workmate and 'brother', has a special gift. He can get people to open up to him in a way that's almost uncanny. He once told me he could get love from a stone if he had to. The reason for this ability is another story but he guessed something unsaid was up with my dad and kept after him until he spoke about it. Just once.
My father saw and took part in terrible things, as happens to everyone caught up in war. He ended up taking daily tranquillisers most of his life to assuage the nightmares and depression he continually suffered from. He called them his 'goodboy' pills. His public self was humorous and urbane. Not many ever guessed at the depth of the bitterness and harshness inside.
I guess I'm writing to say his difficulty in being a father had reasons. Reasons I wasn't aware of until after his death. I was fortunate enough though, to have read a wonderful article written by a journalist about his own hard relationship with his father - about six years before dad died. The journalist's relationship was left unhealed and he exhorted the reader not to let the same thing happen to them. I took it to heart and was able to quit wishing my father was someone he wasn't.
I finally accepted him as he was - a flawed father but nevertheless, someone I loved.