Lacking simplicity, some goodness and mostly truth, who’s the father?

tolstoy quute, illustrated by anne corr

Tolstoy was on my mind this morning, waking from a troubled dream of being bitten by fleas, leaving a home, my dead father ignoring my pleas for him to remove a mosquito sting from my finger (fatal) and making choices about what to abandon.

I draw nothing from the dream except the recurrent disquiet about a father who died over a decade year ago having a greater presence in my life than the father who lived and chose to have very little to do with his offspring once we had left the parental home.

The biggest legacy my father left me was the doubt he placed in my heart that I am capable of loving.

In response to his approach to parenting, I have held it forever in my head that the only real success is to love and be loved.

Where does Tolstoy come in?  He has replaced the parental authority with the narrative of a faithful, dependable mentor.  His attempt to understand how to live a meaningful life is not my answer, but it resonates with me that others have the same painful search for meaning in their lives.  He is more than a collection of quotable phrases; he brings us back to our own wrangling with the complexities and paradoxes of being human.

I recognise this may seem tough on my own father, maybe. I don’t know. I am both grateful to him for his fathering when I was a young girl, and angry with him for his refusal to have any intimate connection after I had grown into a fully fledged adult.

My father whisked hair
from teary eyes,
soothed my nights,
stuck as I was
in fright of darkness,
and unknown.
Never the mother,
then remote,
submerged and distant.

His was a lighter touch.
Lighter, and more temporary,
lasting the length of  moments
preceding infant slumber.
It didn’t last the journey,
away from childish
delightedness.
His sorrow grew,
years adding inevitably
to his progeny. It was
our innocence he loved,
and not our selves, cloaked in
mysterious adolescent armour
of insouciance, sex and rock
‘n roll.  His loss, our youth, his
own undiscovered clamour
for rebellion, and lost cause.

I know more the man, and as
I grew, so did the distance. It
was not his death that parted
us, but time and choice.
I spin in orbits outside his own,
but missing the shadow of
his sun.

Anne Corr

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4 thoughts on “Lacking simplicity, some goodness and mostly truth, who’s the father?

  1. Pamela Baker

    Ominous as we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day. A day I have always blocked from my life, as my own father left his responsibilities before I turned 1 yr, never to return to acknowledge our existence. Only to be repeated a generation later as my own children, aged 2, 3 and 7, experienced the same fate. I too believe I was left to explore my own thoughts through words and books, and writers like Tolstoy.

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