On Tuesday 13 March my father died. I'm sure the title of this blog now has you puzzled. Let me explain.
I think that the majority of who we are is a product of nurture and that many of our personality traits and default behaviours can be closely attributed to our upbringing.
His demise has recently resurrected some difficult memories that I thought I had locked away, memories which are both difficult to recall and write, but I cannot make sense of this blog if I don't share one or two of them with you.
From a very young age he was regularly violent with me. He didn't drink at all, so his treatment of me was even more difficult to understand. My aunt reckons he was jealous of the love my mother gave to me, but I don't know for sure.
I recall on one particular day I was running home after school, desperate for the toilet. I didn't make it unfortunately. I think the phrase is, "followed through". Eventually I reached home, not at all happy at my predicament, and neither was my father.
He pushed me, together with a few choice expletives, into the bathroom ordering me to clean up in the bath. As the door slammed and I locked it, I recall saying out loud through my distress, that I wouldn't go to school tomorrow. What happened next surprises me to this day. He broke down the door, taking it clean off the hinges, and launched at me with his fists. It took me several days to recover. I was eight years old.
I could fill a book with these stories, such was the regularity of these events. Not the urgency for the bathroom you understand, but his beatings for no reason.
The worst event happened when I was 12. I don't even recall what I done to deserve it now. All I can remember is he kicked and punched me from one end of the house to the other, leaving a trail of my blood on the floor, walls and radiators. The following day I awoke with a face black and blue and two of the darkest black eyes you ever did see. The upside was I was kept off school, but I think that was more for his benefit than mine. I think it would be fair to say that if he had done these terrible things today to a child he would have been behind bars. But he lived the last years of his life quite comfortably and literally got away with it.
All this was compounded with constant bullying at school by fellow pupils and a few teachers as well. I had nowhere to turn. One of my coping mechanisms was to invent my own worlds and mini adventures, and I wonder if that is now why I pursue a career in storytelling and seek out exciting real life adventures.
I also now understand why I have so much difficulty in fully appreciating and holding on to love and I regularly respond negatively to anyone who puts even the smallest obstacle in my way, for maybe deep in my subconscious is the belief it is a form of bullying.
Of course we can change the way we behave, but something so hard wired at such an early age is difficult to alter fundamentally.
For 17 years I gave of my time to help run a local youth group, the Boys Brigade, and I often wonder if this was an attempt to experience something good of childhood through the boys I led.
Over the past years I've been lucky to receive love and support from some very special people, especially one in particular. I have not been very good at reciprocating, and though it would be wrong to blame the past, I apologise to them now, for my lack of empathy and appreciation and not doing enough to love them back.
I know I'm not alone with these type of negative experiences, and that it creates a predisposition to negativity in later life. It is enormously disappointing and upsetting and my thoughts and hopes go out to all who have suffered similar experiences.
Parenting is an enormous responsibility, and I marvel at how great those friends of mine are at taking on that difficult job, nurturing a new life to be all they can be. I am envious of the wonderful, loving family environments they have created.
Some would say I am a survivor. I would say, time will tell.