My father is dead, and has been dead for a number of years now, about eight. That is a fact of life I will share with many, a dead parent is not unusual. What may be more unusual is that I will tell you how he was dead to me for more like twenty years. It is a sadness that does not go away, a facet of my life I have to come to terms with. As a result of his seperation and divorce from my mother, I believe he found it too difficult to remain on parental terms with me, his only daughter. I was incidentally, understanding about his removal from my mothers life, I had felt that their marriage was unsatisfying to both parties. I think part of his decision to alienate himself was to do with his new partner, who did not seem comfortable with my father having a meaningful relationship with any of his family, but as a female, I was marked out. Nevertheless, until he died , we continued to see one another perhaps twice a year, never satisfactorily, and always in a spirit of discomfort with one another. On one particular occasion I remember feeling particularly disturbed by his conversation and his manner with me, I was a young mother at the time, at home with two toddlers. I decided to tackle him in the kitchen, and enquired whether it was the case that he was disappointed with his children, myself and my two brothers, and in particular myself and my eldest brother, since we had not ‘shone’ in a career environment. He concurred, without any hesitation, and I suggested to him that both Simon (my brother) and I had very different criteria of success. We were both intimately bound up with our respective families, and understood the demands of a young family had to sometimes interrupt demands of the career. In other words, we were at ease with what he viewed as our inability to measure up to his measures of success. I don’t know whether he ruminated on that, or whether it bothered him, but I felt pleased that I had communicated to him, how I viewed both mine and Simon’s success in recognising and acting on the needs of our children, and our partners. We had made our own decisions where to spend our energies, and our time, and in doing that, we had made a success of our lives to that date. I truly believe my father was a deeply unfulfilled man, a sad man, someone who was unable to find his inner core, and to respond to it fully. I am grateful to him and my mother for the gifts they did give us, but I am indebted to the other people throughout my life too.
Some of the people who have had an impact on my thinking, and on my values, are writers. One of whom is Alain de Boton, author of ‘Consolations of Philosophy’, a valuable read to me, when I was in my thirties. He continues to interest me, and this talk about Success and Failure is a commentary that I think is worth sharing. I hope you dip into it, it isn’t long, but it is good. He does talk fast though. I always find the transcript on the right hand side really useful, since I can go back and read any nuggets of the talk that I want to reflect on. Below is a link that will take you to a talk by Alain de Boton. I had trouble uploading it so the link looks different to the usual link, but it will work.