MENZ Issues: news and discussion about New Zealand men, fathers, family law, divorce, courts, protests, gender politics, and male health.

How did your father handle your heart as a boy?

Filed under: General — fatheringadventures @ 10:18 pm Mon 22nd September 2008

G’day again men of MENZ Issues… it’s good to be back and sharing again.


I have been counselling men for nearly 10 years now, and whilst every one of their stories has differed, one constant remains… the way that their father handled their heart as a boy has shaped their life as a man. Masculinity is bestowed by masculinity, and a boy’s father is the single most important male influence in the first 2 decades of his life. So, I want to put it out there to the men at MENZ Issues… How did your father handle your heart as a boy?


To get the ball rolling so to speak, I thought I’d share a little of my story, and the role my father played in my life…


It’s been four years now since my father’s passing… Friday 13th August, 2004.  He was only 53 years of age. Sadly, the illness that claimed his life was self-inflicted… Liver Disease. That’s right… from as far back as I can remember, my father had been an alcoholic. He was good at what he did… he managed his own steel erection business. He was a hard-working man… that’s code for, he was a workaholic. He was just never home… and the absence of Dad in the home has a vacuum effect on a young boy. When he did finally arrive home, his first priority was to stack the fridge with a fresh carton of stubbies… that’s 24 stubbies every day. XXXX bitter ale (heavies) was his poison of choice. So that was pretty much a summary of what my relationship with my father looked like. Almost never home… and when he was finally home… he would just write himself off.


Fast forward to September 2003… my Dad was sick… very sick. He had very limited mobility in his legs, and he would frequently suffer from bouts of encephalopathy… basically his liver was unable to filter out the toxins in his blood, so when those toxins would reach his brain… he would become literally crazy and incoherent. From that point on, he was in hospital more often than he was out. I couldn’t change the past we had shared, but I could choose to honour him anyway, in the time he had remaining. So I was always there for him, and I am so glad that I was, because I can honestly say that I have no regrets.


One day I was taking him home from hospital after one of his many blood transfusions. I was walking a number of paces ahead of him, not wanting to be seen with him… embarrassed by the fact, that he had done this to himself. I knew it was wrong… I wanted to handle things differently… better… I began to pray. “Father, give me eyes to see my Dad as you see him.” I turned around and I saw my Dad as this 8 year old boy hobbling along… he could have been one of my own sons. You see at age 8, my father was asked by his mother to ride his bike across town to purchase a loaf of his father’s favourite bread. His father was the “town drunk”, and my Dad from a very young age despised him for it. So his response to his Mum was a resounding “NO!”. His 11 year old sister volunteered to go, and that was the last they saw of her. She was struck by a car and killed instantly. And so began my father’s journey of self-loathing and self-punishment, with no-one ever taking him in their arms and telling him that it was not his fault. There is always something deeper going on than a person’s behaviour or response. That’s why knowing one’s story is essential to really knowing the person. That’s why I offer this part of my story, and my Dad’s story.


About three weeks before my father passed away, we were called to the hospital to say our goodbyes. He had slipped into a coma, and we were told that he would pass quickly. I prayed for my father, and the next morning he woke. I had never heard my father tell me that he loved me, and I wasn’t about to wait for him to do so any longer. I decided to take the initiative. I told him that I loved him. He nodded. I told him a second time that I loved him. He told me that he liked me too. I told him a third time that I loved him, and finally… after nearly 34 years… the words that I longed to hear from him… “I love you too.” Both of us just wept together. He went on to apologise for not being a good Dad. I forgave him, and told him that he had done the best that he could, with what he had. I also shared with him a favourite memory that I had of him, and he thanked me for sharing. I asked him if he had considered eternity, and he went on to assure me that he had met his maker, and that he wanted to spend his remaining time with his loved ones. For nearly three weeks I came to know my Dad in a way I had always wanted to know him.


You cannot give what you do not have, and you cannot take someone where you have not been. So well done for frequenting this forum. You are being strategic and proactive in your approach to fatherhood, and your children will be the beneficiaries of your efforts.


Strength and Honour,


Darren Lewis

Fathering Adventures

email: [email protected]






  1. Personally, my father was distant and i could never speak to him. I always hated him a little to be honest. I resolved never to be like him. He never played with us or helped us much.

    But now i realise that he was a product of the age, and almost all fathers were like him. Men went to work in hard jobs with long hours, they brought in the income to feed , house and clothe the family. I found out that he was frequently working night shifts in order to earn more. You only realise this when you become a Dad yourself, that the father has a different function in the family, but invaluable one , at that. Since my mother has died , we have become quite close and he has explained many things, and i understand where he came from and why he did things the way he did, but in general it was just he was a typical father from that period in time. Fathers have improved much in 1, 2 generations, BUT THE LAWS HAVE NOT MOVED ON TO RELECT THIS.
    He explained to me that my mother used to be violent too (my ex was), once he was reading a paper and she cut it with scissors, and she threw things at him. I now understand why he was careful with money, and that in the 70s times were hard. My mother was always asking for houses that were beyond his income, and he was just being sensible. THAT’S WHAT DADS ARE !
    So, that is my tale, one with a happy ending really. I hope that I will get a chance to explain to my (stolen by family caught) kids one day, what i experienced, but i think that ONLY boys can understand the father’s position, and only then when they become fathers themselves.

    Comment by Perseus — Tue 23rd September 2008 @ 2:07 am

  2. Great thread Darren, why do Dads have to leave it to the end ?

    Comment by Perseus — Tue 23rd September 2008 @ 3:02 am

  3. Just to be the square peg–
    My dad was wonderful- he had no real role model, and so did what seemed right, and was pretty good.
    My ambition as a father was to be as good as my father was, and my children think I did pretty well.

    My reason for saying this is….
    There is a BIG STEREOTYPE of fathers being useless, unfeeling etc. etc.
    I encountered this when my family restructured.

    I told (by everyone) “Your children won’t miss you, you probably a useless father, so move on, the childrens’ place is with their mother because mothers know best!
    (Of course that’s not what happened, but that’s another story…)

    My point-
    Top marks for this contribution, BUT
    Take care not to reinforce the “Useless Father” Stereotype please

    Comment by John Brett — Tue 23rd September 2008 @ 10:05 am

  4. G’day guys, thanks for your contributions so far. What kind of Dad we are depends upon what kind of man we are. What kind of man we are depends upon what kind of dad we had.

    Perseus, thank you. Why do they need to leave it to the end? Sadly, even at the end, many fail to even offer their love and their strength to their sons and daughters then. I’m so pleased to hear of your new-found relationship with your Dad. I’m sorry to hear of your own story of loss, and I hope and pray that all that has been lost will be given back to you ten-fold.

    John, I was so pleased to hear of your good relationship with your Dad. I’m not about Dad-bashing here at all… just being real about the impact a father has in the life of his child… especially his son… for good or for bad. I’m so sorry that you had those terrible words spoken over you in regards to your heart as a father… and I’m so glad that you didn’t give away any power to those words… that you stood up, and that you made a difference for all of eternity. I honour you publically here John, and I also honour your father’s involvement in your life. Keep fathering John… both your own children… however old they may be… and the fatherless out there… both boys and men alike… you’ve been given a gift… and you have been called to offer all that you received to others. Well done!

    Comment by fatheringadventures — Tue 23rd September 2008 @ 12:34 pm

  5. Thank you for those kind words-
    I know that you are not about Dad- Bashing- I just wanted you to avoid giving ammunition to those who are.
    Let me tell a story about my oldest son Carl-
    When my marriage was ending, I was the subject of a false sexual allegation manufactured by my ex, with the help of my oldest daughter, regarding my youngest daughter Angela. I remember at the time thinking that I would rather be castrated, so that such allegations would be impossible, and I could still be a father! After several court cases, Angela finally made herself heard, and said “I know my dad loves me far too much to ever do me any harm”.

    That ended that nonsense, however I realized that I was under threat of similar allegations regarding my 5 grandchildren of the oldest daughter. I knew that an allegation is all that would be required to send me to prison, and I could not rely on the grandchildren to stand up for me. I decided that I would only see them if I had a “Safety observer” present, for my own protection.
    In consequence, I never got to see them grow up.
    My eldest son Carl has taken over my role for me, and has become a very involved Uncle to them. He brings me regular news, photos etc. He is acting as a very good surrogate dad to these fatherless children, and working to heal the damage caused to my family.
    I would love to see him have his own family one day, he would be a wonderful dad.

    Comment by John Brett — Tue 23rd September 2008 @ 8:11 pm

  6. My Dad was great. He worked hard and was devoted to his family. He spent time helping and encouraging me to be a better person. He taught me a great many things. Far too many to list here.
    My mother and father went though a really difficult patch when I was about 12. I thought they might split up. They didn’t. If that had happened, I knew I wanted to live with my Dad even though he worked full time and it would have been difficult. Nothing against my mother – she was great too – just what I would have wanted if given a choice.

    Comment by Dave — Mon 17th November 2008 @ 5:47 pm

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