You know that saying, ‘Anyone can be a father, it takes a special person to be a Dad’? Well from personal experience, I can say that truer words have not been spoken.
Well it’s not exactly personal, but it’s what happened to my neighbour. This poor lad, Callum (Cal) Grey, grew up with a dad. Not a perfect dad, but still, a dad. He’d see his dad when the man came home from work, after 8pm without fail. Then it was the family dinner, after which Cal had till 10pm until he’d have to go to bed. Cal at least got the weekends with his dad. We’d often see them going out together as a family. But eventually even that changed.
Mr. Grey rarely showed up at school events. He was relatively strict and had quite the temper. He paid good money for his kids’ education and he wanted results to prove it. He was quite the traditionalist, so sports and co-curriculars didn’t count for nothing. It was academics all the way. He expected a lot from Cal. Maybe too much. See, Cal’s sisters weren’t stupid. But they weren’t excellent either. They were average students. Cal’s dad seemed to almost give up hope on his sisters. But Cal, he was the bright one. Naturally Mr. Grey had high hopes for him. And Cal? Well he didn’t disappoint. Straight A student, quite good at sports too, but never joined any teams. But none of this warranted any reaction from his dad. It was what was expected.
Mr. Grey worked for a big multinational company, so he was often travelling for work. Naturally he missed a lot. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. This didn’t exactly help to foster a great ‘father-son’ relationship. Obviously Cal was never particularly close with his dad. By the time Cal hit his teens, his dad was just somebody he lived with. I think that’s when Cal started to resent his dad, because let’s face it, which little boy didn’t want to hang out with his dad?
It all changed when Mr. Grey got fired and started working for a local company (I think). He didn’t travel as much anymore, but his hours got longer. Now even weekends were spent at the office. Cal never saw his father, not even the 2 post-dinner pre-bedtime hours he used to get. Mr. Grey was for all tense and purposes, a ghost.
Now you might be thinking, ‘God, what a tool.’ But Mr. Grey worked hard. He worked hard and he excelled in his field (I assume, since he got promoted). So what if he was never home? He was providing for his family the best he could. He went out and brought home the bacon, so he expected his kids to work hard in exchange for the bacon. Anything below perfection, and you weren’t working hard enough. Cal knew from an early age that daddy worked hard so he has to work hard to deserve him.
And Mr. Grey never let him forget it.
Cal’s dad went from being a barely there dad, to a father. You might be sitting there going what the hell is the difference? Well, anybody can father a child. All he needs to do is donate his sperm. Hence the term ‘to father a child’. Cal went from being a cheery little kid to a surly teen. That probably wouldn’t have been cause for concern if he wasn’t the sweetest boy around his mom. He wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t his usual surly self. When we’d see Cal smiling we’d know that Mr. Grey was travelling. This transformation in their relationship didn’t happen overnight. It was more gradual. And I think that’s what made it hurt all the more.
See being a father doesn’t just mean being a provider. Or it shouldn’t. Every little boy needs his dad. And when a man isn’t around for his kid, well then he’s not really a dad is he? As Cal grew older, he acted out more. It got to a point where the kid that was once on track for the ivy leagues, hadn’t applied to any colleges at all. Mr. Grey just didn’t care anymore. Or maybe he did, but he didn’t have any time to spend worrying about it. Cal once told me that he wished his parents would get divorced so he could live with his mom. We were shocked to say the least. But Cal just shrugged and said “it wouldn’t be much different than now, he’d pay my mom money to take care of me, and I’d get to see him a few times a week.”
Something has to be wrong when a child dreams of his parents’ divorce. Either something was wrong with the kid, or the parents. I’ve known Cal almost my entire life, and Mrs. Grey is the sweetest lady ever (and she makes a mean chicken cacciatore). So even if it’s blasphemous to say this on father’s day, I blame Mr. Grey.
He was what I would call a grade A ass. All he cared about was his work. But he lost sight of the reason for which he worked so hard. Was it worth it being and absent father just so his kids could live in material comfort? Cal felt like he was a burden, an obligation. That his father only cared about him when he did something that would affect society’s perception of the Grey family. To the world Mr. Grey was a good man. He did everything society had asked of him. He’d married a respectable lady, had kids, and educated them. Along the way, he had somehow managed to do all this without investing any of his emotions.
I’m not saying that Mr. Grey is the worst father out there. God no. But sometimes not caring can do a lot more damage than outright hate. Someone once told me that not everyone was meant to be a father.
I couldn’t agree more.