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Story 5

I’m a dad. 

I’m a dad, I keep telling myself.  Bloody hell, I would never have thought it, I’ve lead a lifestyle which never really had kids in it.  Never had a brother or a sister, well, I did have a sister for a few minutes but she did not live very long apparently; nor did I have any inclination to become a parent.  Moreover, as a young man I even considered joining a group for non-parents but I never did because it was a stupid idea.  I certainly wasn’t going to meet a girl and have a child with her so it seemed unlikely that kids would ever figure into my life. 

To make matters more difficult for myself, I suppose, I had not babysat for anyone before and only ever had friends among my peers about the same age or older people who were friends of my parents, including a strange man who lived alone and had health problems.  I seem to recall he went to the darts club round the corner every evening and drank a lot.  He occasionally babysat me and lived a couple of doors down.  He was a nice man and I remember hiding under the big square seat cushions when my parents were coming to collect me, pretending I wasn’t there. 

Tensions at home were such that my parents put me off somewhat from ever having a stable relationship with someone.  They argued a lot and mother drank a bottle of sherry every evening.  Both of them smoked and I had lung health problems, like asthma and bronchitis.  I developed a very healthy fantasy life and did things like write stories to pass the time.  I also developed a few crushes on lads who were around but never did anything about these infatuations, other than remain acquainted with the lads who fuelled them. 

I remember sending off for a men’s underwear catalogue from the newspaper ads and then fantasising which ones would look great on which guy I fancied.  There was one guy I really liked who worked in one of the local supermarkets, and in the school changing rooms I surreptitiously stared while he undressed after P.E. lessons.  He wore loose cotton boxer shorts and I wished he would wear something shiny and tight.  So there my fantasies developed, as did my interest in men’s underwear. 

I left school with fewer qualifications that I’d hoped and life at home became fraught with constant tensions.  My parents divorced when I turned 18, and my father moved out of the house to pursue a new relationship with a woman he’d introduced us to.  It was not a very auspicious start since she was invited over for dinner and brought a gateau with her that I was allergic to.  Because my father stayed away, my mother accused him of various things including abandoning me, which I honestly felt.  Eventually, my father re-married.  I had to live with my mother whose depression and emotional blackmail turned my life into turmoil.  However, during this time, I met Steve (one of so many gay men called Steve I hasten to add), who found me suffering from a lot of stress and related health problems, and yearning to reach out to someone who shared the same desires. 

This Steve helped me to express myself more fully and explore my needs, wants and feelings.  I began to assert myself more at home, and was able to secure voluntary work for a mental health charity running their coffee shop.  Through this voluntary work, I met some new friends, acquired some new skills and moved on to volunteer at a couple of other places.  I moved out of the family home for about a month and my roommates were two guys who’d just got together, so I suppose it was destined not to work out.  I moved back in again with mother. 

Eventually, with the help of a counsellor, I moved into my first rented place.  I started to attend a local gay social group and volunteered for various duties.  At this group, I met several men, including a young man who had attended with his father.  I became acquainted with him and his father and began to visit them.  The lad confessed he was bisexual and didn’t want to pursue any kind of physical relationship.  His father, on the other hand, was interested in me and one evening I stayed the night, ending up in the older man’s bed. 

This was the first gay man I knew who was formerly married and had several children – he had six kids in all.  I learned that married fathers could be gay which completely changed what I had been taught, that things were not just black and white any more.  He was subject to a lot of homophobic abuse from gangs of prejudiced kids due to one of his sons’ foolhardy admission at school about his father’s sexuality.  Perhaps he didn’t know what would happen; that would make it unfortunate as opposed to foolhardy.  But whatever the reasons, it was the cause of our breaking up and I did not expect it to happen the way it did. 

The lad I had befriended became jealous of his father’s relationship with me and was the catalyst for the decision to end it with me.  I was surprised when the lad came to deliver the news.  I was disappointed but realised the pressure they were under would preclude me being any closer with them.  Some time after ending the relationship, I saw the father in the street and we had a long talk, we discussed our feelings and agreed we had moved on.  I still feel sad that we are no longer in touch as I feel I have so many gay dads as friends and acquaintances now that I would like for him to meet, I know he could have certainly used the support they could have offered him back then. 

After meeting several different guys during my voluntary work for the gay social group, I met another man named Steve, someone who would become very important and very close to me. 

We started to see each other and I learned he was married with children.  Even though I had been in a similar situation before, the ages of his children were much younger than I was used to and forced me to deal with my own fears and prejudices about interacting with young children.  At the time, I was also trying to cope with my mother’s illness and being alone.  Dealing with real issues was hard – tempting, as it was just to lose myself in some television programme.  Being with Steve helped me to sort out many issues so that I could become less selfish and more driven towards attaining goals. 

My relationship with his wife and children grew and I was becoming accepted as part of the family.  So much so, I was persuaded to move in.  This was excellent timing because my mother started to go into hospital for longer stays and it was becoming clear to everyone except me that she may never come out.  Sadly, one morning I received a phone call to come to see her, too late to be present before she died.  I had very mixed feelings from this, I had lost someone very close to me and I grieved for a long time, but I also possessed feelings of relief and freedom.  I couldn’t believe how much I was independent and free to explore my own feelings. 

However, I found it very difficult to control my emotions or even to first recognise how I behaved under their influence.  It was some time after my mother’s passing, that my relationship with Steve took a downturn, the pressure of living with a married man took its toll, to the point where we agreed I should move out.  Within the family home, there were 6 individuals who were very sensitive to my moods and it became a very challenging place to live.  The pressure of living within an intense emotional zone was too much for me to handle and I resumed living alone, still hoping I would get back with Steve.  After several months apart, we started seeing each other as friends, and Steve had met someone else.  Someone who was more like himself in that he was married (separated though) and had kids.  I joined them both occasionally on social events.

After some changes in my own life, seeing a couple of guys that didn’t lead to anything other than friendship, Steve and I started to socialise more.  His relationship ended with the new guy following tensions that were not unlike when I moved out, only this time they were a lot worse.  My relationship with Steve grew, where we confided in each other and could see how we had grown whilst apart. 

Steve and his wife decided to divorce and throughout this time, we grew closer and soon got back into a relationship.  I was happier with him this time round and we eventually agreed that I would move back into the family home.  The kids loved the idea and helped me to see how much life would be dull without them!  My feelings for them all have developed to the point where I cannot possibly visualise a future without each one being a part of my life.  I will look after them, teach them, play with them and learn from them.  I am content to be a dad. 

I’m a dad, and I love it.