I haven’t quite decided how personal I want this blog to be, but I would like to share some thoughts I had last night about Father’s Day. And fathers in my life.
I have grown up in Germany, where Father’s Day, the ‘Vatertag’, is a much older, somewhat embarrassing tradition, different to any other country in the world. It is celebrated on Ascension Day, a national holiday, and has nothing to do with family but is more about groups of men getting together for a big drinking binge out in the country side.
On this day, also called ‘Gentlemen’s’ Day’ or just plain ‘Men’s Day’ (‘Herrentag’ or ‘Männertag’‘) in some regions, men will walk around pulling small hand wagons loaded with beer or wine, or travel in a decorated horse carriage. Some dress code might be observed (it used to be straw hats, now it’s more bogan chic). The only goal is to get really drunk together. It is said that the tradition goes back to Ascension Day’s processions which somehow seem to have transformed into drinking sprees as early as in the 17th century.
Although the majority of fathers in Germany nowadays spend the day with their families, after all, it’s for most the start of a 4-day weekend (Ascension being always on a Thursday), there are still many German males that keep the tradition up … Getting pissed in public is just too much fun, I guess.
Now comes the personal part : In my family, no father disappeared with his mates and a load of booze. They all ended up disappearing somehow though.
It’s sobering, really, but it seems that the one thing they all have in common is their relative absence from their family:
Both my parents are born during WWII. None of them really got to know their father. My father’s father died on the Russian front under unknown circumstances. My mother’s dad, who had been home for 2 weeks to see his newborn daughter, would have thought himself lucky to be stationed, as a drafted foot soldier, in France. He was killed after D-day and is buried on a German war cemetery there. I visited the grave with my mother as a teen, we felt a bit lost between all those uniform crosses.
Both my grandmothers remarried though. My father’s mum married a widower with 3 daughters. He died the year of my birth when his motor scooter crashed into one of the tilia that so beautifully frame many old streets in Northern Germany. My other grandmother was lucky to live a long life with ‘uncle E’, they died at 82 and 84 with 3 days of interval. My mother loved him like a father, he was a gentle, also very eccentric little man. He was a great granddad. Mom never called him Dad though, he always staid just ‘uncle E’.
My parents divorced when I was about 8. My father went abroad and had a new family. I guess you could say that he showed himself unable to keep in touch. My older brother suffered a lot through that, I might just be less aware of it. My mother had two long-term relationships. The boyfriends were both cool, but none of them became really a Dad.
My brother got married when his girlfriend (parents divorced..) fell pregnant, just after school. They divorced after a few years. I think he is doing his best to be a good father. As good as you can be, when you don’t live with your child.
And my boy ? .. Now, here’s the good part and it might get a bit corny after all. I was pretty much set to be a single parent, let’s just say that, and I was glad about it, for many reasons. I seriously thought I might never be able to trust a man, for my own but also for my child’s sake. So, again, no father.
I was wrong. I stumbled into what’s real love, found a new life and a great father for my son. Oh, he is not perfect, but he is loving and caring with both of us, as he is for his own kids. He’s also smart and funny, sensitive and really strong!
Yeah, well, we call him ‘Mr Awesome’ at times. Because for us, he is.
This weekend, he’s travelling for his job, so we can’t really have father’s day with him. It doesn’t matter. I’m just so happy there finally is a real father in our lives.