Father Christmas

Father Christmas

The snow fell gently that night. A wind chime tinkled. Rainbow coloured lights blinked and winked, illuminating a single line of footprints that led down the side alley of the house.

The rusted lock had been opened with ease – the intruder had the key and grease he’d needed – and the tangle of bikes and garden implements had been silently avoided, even in the darkness.

He’d slunk across the patio and made for the laundry room, where he’d found the window with the loose latch through which he knew he could enter, silently, even though he was drunk.

Inside, there were clothes hanging to dry: a child’s snowsuit, a woman’s underwear, a man’s overalls. The intruder breathed deeply and shuddered in the darkness.

She deserved to suffer. But it was the child he wanted.

In a moment, he realised where he was and remembered the need for speed. He slipped off his shoes – a desire to leave no trace – and, clutching a pillowcase like a swag bag, he gently eased open the door and entered the house…

He wasn’t inside long, and he exited the same way he’d arrived, vanishing into the night.

He knew he’d pay for the visit, but it didn’t matter. He knew he’d never see their faces when they saw what he’d done, but it didn’t matter. Because he also knew that, on Christmas morning, she’d awaken to an unexpected gift beneath the tree, with a label on it that read simply: Love, dad xx

 

As I said in the recording, I wrote that a while ago for a story competition that had to be exactly 250 words. It was really about remembering not just the perspectives that we often have on dads – and men in general to some extent – that men are a threat, a danger.

But hopefully it will also remind is that for a lot of dads – myself included – Christmas can be an intolerably lonely time, one marked mainly by absence. The loss of children always brings about a kind of grief, and even if the children are “ok” – living as they are with their mother – their absence is always accompanied by a deep and profound kind of pain. 

So maybe, while we celebrate Christmas this year, we could remember those men who are refused access to their children, or whose children have been taken away from them by mothers who decided to live abroad, or across the country.

Happy Christmas anyway xx 

International Men’s Day 2018: Four Men

International Men’s Day 2018: Four Men

I knew a man once whose wife left him.
She said he was boring and she wanted no more of him.
So she took his daughter to a commune in Wales,
And to see his child he drove four hundred miles.

For seven years his girl was raised
by a poet half his age;
A man who worshipped Ferlinghetti,
And spent his nights getting drunk and sweaty,
While he just prayed that she wouldn’t forget him.

The poet left them in the end,
Too young to be tied down, he said.
And the wife returned to town,
And nothing more was said.

The father and daughter still get along,
But she wonders why the bond’s not strong.

The second guy I met, had a face as white as milk,
‘cause he’d had a call from a former boss
– they’d had a Christmas fling –
And she phoned ‘cause she said
It was finally time to tell him
The truth:

“I’ve got a fucking kid! A baby. Holy shit!”
For a long time he just swayed and swore
Like a twenty-one-year-old confused
Who’s woken up on the morning after
And realised he’s just been used.

“She was thirty-fucking-five!” he spat,
meeting my eyes, with fear.
“… she was minted, she bought all the drinks …
… It was Christmas, I just didn’t think …
… I don’t even remember half the night …”

He didn’t even remember half the night.

He didn’t even remember half the night.

And so a little later
I started to wonder
whether calling it rape
just might be right.

The third was in his sixties,
Bald all over with alopecia,
He’d had a stroke some years ago
And had cheeks that were grey and sunk like stones.

“Sheeee… but sheeee… I don’t care!
He’s still my son!”
But he wasn’t really.
Oh no, not really.
Not when all was said and done.

The real father of the boy he’d called his son since birth
Was some guy his wife had known from work,
Who’d kept his picture by his computer
Along with all his other squirts.

“He’s still my son,” he said.
“I raised him!” Then he hung his head.
And I wondered if he had the strength
To live that lie until he was dead.

The final man is famous,
With a son who surpassed us all,
But he was written from the scriptures.
Eclipsed by the ghost who made us all.

He’d taught his son some handy-work,
Maybe how to build a dresser,
But he was nothing next to mother dear
The Virgin Mary, bless her.
And don’t talk about his real dad
He missed most family get-togethers.

But is that the perfect father?
A mythical creator;
An invisible provider;
Like a just supporting actor,
Or a car’s optional extra;
Who’ll come inside
Then step aside
To make way for the oppressed. Hah!

Being a dad’s like being a ghost.
So don’t tell me how it feels
to sit round a board room table and talk about the way we deal
with something so important,
but be dismissed with a smile.
I may be a man but I still understand how it feels to feel futile.

Now, misogyny is not for me
– I don’t blame a gender for their behaviour –
But let me make this plain:
If you really want equality,
Let’s talk about child custody
And we’ll change the world all over again.