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28 January, 2011


(This can be read without being gender specific)

Our parents have to go, but they never really leave 

There are three cusps in a man's life. One is when he realises he's exactly like his father; the second when he realizes he likes being his father; and the third is when he looks for his father and finds he's no longer there. 

All three are fulcrums around which revolve this character-building exercise we call life. At different stages maybe, but all equally important. Growing up, most children come to rebel against their parents' values and ethical code. Some do so with the knowledge that the code is flawed, some do it simply because… well… that's what youngsters do. What the scowling EMOs don't realise until it's too late is that no parent (unless they're gibbering sociopaths) set out to hurt their children or bar them from the pleasure of living an independent life. The code that they seek to impress on their offspring (and yes, some do so far too vigorously for anyone's good) is one born of experience, reflection and huge spoonfuls of regret. Nevertheless, it's a doctrine written in the sweat and tears of years.

 We all have traits of our parents within us, some will stifle them to a point where they cease to grow traits of their own; others learn to live with the fact that they are their parents' children and meld their own unique traits with those that their genetic lottery has tossed at them. It is the latter who emerge feeling a lot better. When a man realises he's like his father, he should embrace the best parts of that. By all means, discard those that don't conform to your lifestyle, but the process of ejection should be done with an absence of malice.

 At the second crossroad, you will realise that your father wasn't really the ogre your mind made him out to be. That his foibles were exactly that, and there was never any malicious intent involved. Teenagers reading this may snort in disgust, but believe you me… growth, both emotional and mental, comes from understanding familial history, not by shutting it out. The parental protective instinct is strong, and at times tempestuous, but it always leads to protected shores. When a man realises this, it is also the time he understands that the line "you're just like your father" is not an insult, but a compliment measured by a yardstick of affection and sacrifice. 

The third crossroad is arguably the most important. Because it is at this stage that the man usually has children of his own, and is fighting battles that he never thought he would when he was a pup snarling at the big bad world outside his mental kennel. He's fighting his blood, his genes, his very nature; that's what your children are. And so you look for the one person who can understand exactly what you're going through, and hopefully open a path through the labyrinth of parenting. You turn; you look; but there's no one there. Mortality can be a brutal mistress, but she is a fair one too. Now you must find your own path. At some point in all our lives we have looked at our parents as invincible, people for whom the hands of time bow down and grovel. And then, the seconds fly by with barely a whisper heralding the oncoming hours, days, years, decades. The fa├žade of invincibility begins to crack — slowly at first, but then with a sadistic abandon.

They say parents should never outlive their children, but I reckon that's unfair. The line implies that the death of a child is one of the worst tragedies that can affect a human being, and it maybe so. But, what of the death of a parent? Does that not sound grieving knells in a hollow soul? The duckling that finds itself alone in the middle of a road with no one to guide him across is a sad sight too. But herein lies an Absolute. We all die; some in their sleep, dreaming dreams of peace; others violently and painfully…we all go. 

Our parents are here to make sure that we find the firm footing needed to scale this seemingly insurmountable mountain. If they were always with us we would never find the courage to help those that we create; they would become our crutch. That's not what we need. What we need is exactly what they have given us: Unquestioning, unfaltering love (whether we like to admit it or not); a map of their world, pitfalls and all; and the wherewithal to do the best we can (or at least give it a damn good try). And even after they're gone, they never disappear. That's the beauty of the helices inside you, they're eternal, and will forever carry the thoughts and dreams of those that went before. In the end, the duckling does make it across the road. All it did was look inside itself, and found its parents smiling back. They had never left its side.

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