They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
Larkin's poem is so true. And Christmas is an odd time, because you get letters and cards from people you haven't heard from for a long time. Like from my dad. My dad (who lives in London), is very peculiar. For one thing he is under the impression that we have a 'normal' father-daughter relationship. I.e. he writes to me sometimes like we have a whole history of jolly outings and family holidays and wonderful warm memories, when we don't, or at most, maybe a tiny sprinkle of them.
My mum and he dated for a year or so when he was a student at London University in 1970, and she was working as an au pair (she's Austrian). Anyway, she got pregnant, he freaked out. She had the baby (me), he didn't want to know. But in any case, I did see him now and again while I was a child and I was quite fond of him. Although mostly I remember going to visit him in his flat which was full of dusty wine bottles, and him being at a loss as to how to entertain me, which is quite endearing really. But visiting him wasn't so bad, it wasn't awful, although he did cook some weird meals like boiled fish.
But the whole situation was very antagonistic between my mother and him, and eventually she said he couldn't see me any more (not that I think he particularly cared one way or the other). And even though he is an eccentric composer who is totally self-centred and has really never done a thing for me (the only thing he has ever done was let me store my belongings in the basement of his house when I moved to the States). Even though he has really ever expressed his love for me, I still love him, and that is the strange thing about life. Even though the relationship is totally non-existent in any concrete way, it still moves me when he writes in his letter:
"I often go through or past Regent's Park, and I remember so well you playing there when you were about 6 or 7. Do you remember hunting for the Easter eggs? I do. I also remember playing in the sandpit."
You can never not love your parents. Well, unless they did something really awful. But they do fuck you up, they may not mean to but they do. Or at least mine did. Only at some point you have to stop blaming your mum and dad and start defining yourself, don't you? But it's hard, I guess. When you don't really have a dad, I think in some way, some totally irrational way, you sometimes think you are unlovable. And all the love from your mum, from friends and boyfriends and then your husband and kids, and all the rest, I don't think it ever compensates. And you think, why should it matter, that he didn't at least try to love me? And then you understand that maybe he did try, but couldn't manage it. Because, I think that despite everything, it is there. He does love me somewhere, buried deep. Maybe that is all that matters.