Father and Son – Two Grown Men Saying Goodbye 

Father and Son – Two Grown Men Saying Goodbye 
My Father died three and a half years ago. I wasn’t at his side. 

We had a typical father and son relationship for our generations. He was absent for a lot of my childhood, working two or three jobs to keep food on the table and paying off a home loan. He worked hard. Survival and pride kept him away. When he was home he was also working: decorating the house, gardening, growing food, helping neighbours, fixing the car, repairing bicycle innertubes, scolding us for this, that and the other. I didn’t feel close to him. But I didn’t feel distant either. We watched each other like ghosts for the most part. 

It’s only with adult eyes and the gift of hindsight that I truly learned what an exceptional man he was. He was, above all else, a kind man. He put others before himself. He wasn’t perfect and he and I had some confrontations, especially in my self-obsessed arrogant teenage years. I am not proud of how sometimes I treated him coldly. I took him for granted and I was entitled. I could be so detached as there was no emotional landscape for us to meet. I felt nothing but confusion around my expected masculine emotional language. My Father came from a harsh and poor working-class background. One of ten brothers and sisters. He had no time to finesse his emotional intelligence or expression. He was a survivor.

My father was born in 1943. World War II and its bitter hangovers instructed him about lack and sacrifice. His own father died in The War while he was in his mother’s womb so he missed a father’s love and touch. His mother remarried, had seven more children and died young. He had no time for therapy, self-enquiry, or words like trauma, overwhelm, grief or hardship. He learned about life the hard way. In the light of all he endured, he really did turn out okay.

“…”No need to forgive, no need to forget – I know your mistakes and you know mine. Image: Paul Pritchard

He loved my mother and he loved us kids in his own way. I was a child in the ’70s and ’80s. The world was recalibrating. The social injustices and inequalities were under the microscope. Everything was being questioned. Especially gender roles, both a man’s place and a woman’s place at home and at work. 

He and I leaned into the new era of the ’90s around the importance of expressing love and showing it. He took to it like a duck to water. He didn’t say sorry for the times he’d been gruff and I didn’t say sorry for the times I’d been dismissive and cold. We didn’t need to. We both, without a word, implicitly, signed up for the zeitgeist course in how to be more gentle with each other; how to redefine what it means to be a ‘man’, how to examine what was hurting our relationship in the name of inherited acceptable familial interactions of post-War England. In short, we began to open our hearts and let all that we shared in DNA, love, family, joy and pain mumble and scramble for words until we became fluent in our own language of love and support. 

My Father died three and a half years ago. I wasn’t at his side.

I grieved a little. I was happy that he had finally left a failing body in pain. I was happy for him. But somehow I had put all the deep grief away. Even now when I write this I can feel my old conditioning of what’s appropriate or acceptable in how a grown man grieves his dying or dead father. When I feel into the grief that I will feel when my mother dies it has a different nuance entirely. It is allowed, it is proud, it is strong and belly-deep. I’m expected to grieve this way for her. But with my father there is shame attached. Shame at how much I loved him and how much he loved me. And I am curious why this love for most men in Western culture feels so taboo. Why that lump in my throat stays in my throat. That the honest, raw and public expression of grief for him is something to keep hidden. Why does it have to feel courageous to let it out, give it a voice, let it be heard?

“…”Let there be no darkness in your heart. Image: Paul Pritchard

This is a big thing for me to explore. I have worked on so many layers of my Mother and Father complex issues. I’ve made peace with so many of the great pieces. And yet recently, when I came across the video of James Blunt’s new hit song, Monsters, it stopped me in my tracks. It literally went for my jugular. Went straight for that tightly wound lump in my throat that I’d managed to ignore. I knew it was there, there since my Father’s death, but I had successfully relegated it into an abstract denial. 

James Blunt wrote and filmed the song for his father who is dying of cancer and does not have long to live. He asked his father to be in the video. The words, ‘You’re not my father, I’m not your son. We’re just two grown men saying goodbye.’ astound me. The spiritual significance in these words is monumental. The dignity and the honour that is imbued in these words is so humbling. I interpret those words as: beyond our assigned Earthly roles of father and son, as equals on this spiritual path, I salute you and I set you free.

This is what I am saying to my father now.

I believe this video, not the song alone, but the video is a gift to all of us. But especially Men. My prayer is that all boys and men watch this video and can resonate. And when it’s their time to say goodbye to their father, their sons, their brothers, grandfathers or best mates, they can unreservedly weep and release all the sorrow and pain, all the stifling grief and rejoice in the liberation that comes from those connected, heartfelt, expressions of Love. 

My father died three and a half years ago. And I am now truly at his side.

James Blunt – Monsters

Monsters by James Blunt (Lyrics)

Oh, before they turn off all the lights
I won’t read you your wrongs or your rights
The time has gone
I’ll tell you goodnight, close the door
Tell you I love you once more
The time has gone

So here it is

I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine

And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

Oh, well I’ll read a story to you
Only difference is this one is true
The time has gone
I folded your clothes on the chair
I hope you sleep well, don’t be scared
The time has gone

So here it is

I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine
And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

Sleep a lifetime
Yes, and breathe a last word
You can feel my hand on your arm
I will be the last one, so I’ll leave a light on
Let there be no darkness in your heart

But I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine

And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

~

How did this video make you feel? How comfortable was it to stare into James Blunt’s eyes and witness his emotionality? Did it awaken any repressed feelings of grief or fear of loss for your father? Do you recognise that perhaps there is a difference in the ‘permissions’ you have in how you express grief for your mother and father?  We would love to hear your experience. Please share in the comments below. 

Much love and masculine tenderness to you all.

Team UPLIFT

BY Paul C Pritchard
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fatman
fatman
1 month ago

so touch!

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