When we're young, we are always warned never to talk to strangers. We are taught ways of avoiding every scenario where a stranger may put us in danger. But the scenario that they never prepare you for as a child is if the stranger is someone you know. Someone that you are meant to look up to and be the first man that you will ever love or rely on, before any other breaks your heart. What if the stranger is your own father?
Stuart was born in 1949 to a loving mother and a not so interested father. Jim found it more entertaining to play snooker and smoke in the local men's club then to stay at home with his wife and two children. As Stuart grew up he began to realise for himself that his father was not the loving or paternal type of man. When he got up to go to school his father was never there and when he got home he was always greeted by his mother and his father would not return home until he was in bed and asleep. That's when he would hear the rows. The ones where his mother, Lynne, would plead with her husband to be home more and remind him that he was a parent to which he would drunkenly respond with a mumble of obscenities and then stumble upstairs to bed. Stuart would always wait for his door to open in the hope that his father would come in and wish him goodnight. It never happened. Even though Jim lived with his family, he didn't live with them in the sense of knowing anything them. He was never abusive to his wife or children, that would involve some form of engagement or communication with them, but for Stuart this was just as bad. By the time he grew up and got his first job at the age of fifteen as an apprentice at his local butchers, Stuart still didn't know his father beyond the non speaking kind of chit chat that they would sometimes have over breakfast or dinner.
When his sister Sue had her first child, that's when Stuart felt true resentment and bitterness towards his father because he doted over that child as if she was his own. He used to take Hayley to the park and she would be on his shoulders as they walked back through the garden gate. Stuart would watch this and deny to himself that it effected him, but every moment that they shared together felt like it was a moment that had been stolen from his own childhood.
The only special moments that Stuart could recall with him were at Christmas where Jim had been begged to stay sober so as not to embarrass himself in front of the rest of the family, who were not aware of his drinking habits. Christmas was the happiest time of the year for Stuart and that's when he was played with and cuddled by his father. Birthdays were the same as any other day because Jim would generally forget and when Stuart would get upset, Patricia would make up an excuse to soothe him like 'Your father hasn't forgotten, he is tricking you into thinking that so he can surprise you when he gets home'. Stuart would again stay awake and excitedly wait for his father to return home, eventually falling asleep and waking up to a card on his dresser that would read:
Stuart would sit and silently weep the morning after every birthday. His father not only missed it but didn't even attempt or care to make it up to him. Of course it was the same for his sister Sue, but she had her mother to talk to, Stuart desperately wanted his father. He needed him.
Stuart formed a very close bond with his boss at the butchers, Johnny . He could see he had potential and would treat him to lunch sometimes or tickets to a football game as a reward for his hard work. Stuart felt he had finally found his father figure and valued his relationship with Ronnie above everything else. For the first time in his life he felt whole. He had the closeness and guidance of a father that he had always craved.
When he was a lot older, Stuart became indifferent to the relationship he had with his father and his indifference to the situation made him realise that he had stopped loving him. As the years went on and more grandchildren came that Jim would dote upon and love unreservedly, there became an unspoken tension between the Jim and Stuart for a time. Stuart felt bitter and angry whilst Jim felt guilt and regret. Becoming a grandfather made him realise just how much he had neglected his son. Stuart never confronted his father about his behaviour, by the time he was old enough to stand up to him, he had stopped caring.
Some years later when Jim's body was overcome by cancer, he apologised to Stuart for his neglect and explained his regret for never getting to truly know him. To aid his pain, Stuart said that he forgave his father as he watched him slowly die in his hospital bed. Stuart didn't forgive his father, he never would. A person should never bring a child into the world and make them feel that they weren't wanted or loved.
The indifference came about because he fell in love for the first time. It was such a overwhelming feeling that it consumed him entirely. His life had changed forever in one significant moment. All the bitterness and hurt that he had carried with him faded away because it was replaced with a new emotion, he was happy. So incredibly happy that he could not imagine life without her and he knew that he would be utterly destroyed if she was ever to leave him.