In 1990 I was thirteen years old. An awkward teen with a younger brother, living with my mum and her new partner in Grimsby. I was never very happy. I resented the new man in my mums life. I idolised my Sgt Major dad. He was living in Germany or Belgium, had been living in Canada, and despite the distance was never far from my thoughts. My dad had remarried a German woman and I had a second brother, Josef. I never saw dad very often. He was a whole other country away, but he would write to me and in the summer we would go see him in whichever country he was currently making his home.
Thirteen year old me received a letter in 1990 from my dad. In it he explained that he would not longer have anything more to do with us whilst we lived with my mum. I’ve asked mum about this letter. All I remember is my gran coming over with the letter (he didn’t trust mum to give it to us) and me being sat in a wicker backed chair. I don’t remember the words. I don’t remember the tone. I don’t remember anything about the letter other than the core message; Alan, you will never see your dad again. He has decided he no longer wants you. You are rejected. You. Are. Alone.
And I had never felt so alone. My sour relationship with my stepdad meant that door was closed to me. My mum, I’m sure, saw this as validation of her opinion of the man. I couldn’t talk about it. What thirteen year old boy in the early nineties could discuss how he was feeling? Instead I internalised those feelings of loss. I withdrew. I had put all my eggs in one basket. It didn’t matter about my mum, about my brother, about school, friends, anything. I had my dad. It took me a long time to come to terms with just how central he was to my existence.
And then suddenly, he was gone. He made the conscious decision to abandon me. To reject me.
And for that reason I avoided emotional connections for a long time. I still do. If you don’t connect you can’t be hurt. If you don’t give yourself to someone they cannot reject you. I didn’t realise I was doing it, being cold, keeping people at arms length, but when I look back over the last twenty-five years I know that is exactly what I did.
What my dad did to me had an impact which has lasted twenty-five years and may last twenty-five more.
In part one I discussed how Tom’s mum made a decision to stop me seeing him. And how I refused to accept that decision, how I fought against it. Always in my mind as I went through that awful experience was the long term effects upon my son if he didn’t have his dad in his life. Having experienced first hand just how terrible that is, there is no way I was going to allow Thomas to suffer the same.