124618482I now know something. We judge ourselves through the eyes of others. And we learn most of those judgments in our childhoods. There are negative and positive judgments. But there is one judgment that I never received. The judgment of my father.

He did send me a postcard a few months after he abandoned us. He said I was now the man of the house and I should take care of my Mum. I was seven years old when I received that postcard and I still have it with me to this day.

That’s why I take care of people. My Dad told me to do it. But there is something else. He was never there to say I was doing a good job. He wasn’t there to tell me how proud he was of all the things I was doing to help my Mum. Like that time I planted sunflower seeds in the backyard so that their golden color would remind her of the sun and she wouldn’t be so sad anymore. But I forgot to water them and they died.

Or that time I tried to hatch the eggs from the pantry into chickens so that we could have eggs every day for breakfast and never be hungry again. I put them in my cowboy hat and wrapped them in Nana’s tartan scarf, the one with the tassels. Of course, they never hatched.

I met my Dad again when I was a man but it was too late. I was committed to a life of helping people and never to be praised by the one person who told me to do it. My father.

He cried to see the man who he last saw as a small boy. I wanted to cry too but I couldn’t because he was a stranger. But he was a stranger with a familiar face. A stranger who was inside my head but could never say anything about the things I did for my Mum.

Some of the most ambitious people on this planet are driven by the need for praise from the one person who will never give it. For some, it is a person who simply cannot or will not praise them. For others, like me, it is the praise of someone who is not there to give it.

So, we judge ourselves through the eyes of others. And I will never know the judgment of my father, even though he is still here inside my head.

My father died on my twenty-third birthday, destitute and alone. Perhaps one day I will see him again. Maybe he will know by then all the ways I tried to help as a boy.

And maybe we will look together at that postcard and agree that I did what he asked. As the man of the house, I took care of my Mum.


  1. Powerfully sad but at least you can take comfort that you know you are a good person.

  2. Thank you Ellen! Hope you are well. John

  3. Once again you’ve brought tears to my eyes John. Another thought provoking most that will make some think long after they finish reading… x

  4. John, You also took care of your Dad.

    My wild Irish Dad died in a Psychiatric Hospital where he was sectioned. I was 21 and had given birth to my first child six months earlier. Dad died with a quarter bottle of Jamieson’s tucked in his flannel PJ bottoms and had just placed a bet on a horse named ‘Close Call’. Mum was at Ascot placing bets too so’s her ‘ Ship would come in’ and had to be tannoyed.

    My loudspeaker was already tuned as I stood beside his corpse and feared God’s judgement. My conversation with him was not over. A year later I ended up in the same hospital – believing myself to be in Prison – I too was sectioned as family understood how I ‘took after my Dad’. I took after him alright – I lay for a whole night pleading with God for his release and salvation. Of course I could be deluded when I saw three hearts dancing with joy in the little cell radiant with light. It is my vision and they can’t take that away from me – oh No they can’t take that away from me. My wonderful Irish psychiatrist understood and had me released immediately to later declare me sound of mind but traumatised. I don’t regret that particular trauma.

    I don’t regret going beyond reason in the cause of Love.

    God bless your haunting, innocent reasoning.


    • Oh Rosie. You describe the events with such detail. I am glad that you escaped. Not sure if we ever escape inside our heads, though. John

      • You are so right John. I haven’t given you all the detail – rest is for my book! Some of it is hilarious. I don’t think we are meant to escape. In terms of stigma there was and remains no escape. If we did escape permanently we would unable to communicate the positive with any kind of integrity.Peace, Rosie

      • How far along are you with the book? It takes so long – mine took eight years!

  5. John, I think your’s took/takes a lifetime – an infinite lifetime.

    Mine is progressing but I am re-working stuff that seems brittle – tricky as it is a sort of memoir/critique on vocation and addresses some of my dis-ease with Church and their victims.I am getting better at relating the mid-life crisis stuff (permanent even in old age!) to the visionary child – the child that had a safe inner space and liked the adventure of the question, Searching for meaning in mine and other’s ‘ghosts’ is exhausting but hopefully worthwhile in unknown territory. Added to this – I have only had short churchy articles published before – nothing as scary as a whole book and my grammar is a slice short of a loaf!.My Bishop in Oxford told me to write and he has zillions of books published. He liked some poetry and other stuff I wrote.

    Am musing on this at mo as I look for the lighter side because it holds true in my experience:-

    ‘Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
    We have taken from the defeated
    What they had to leave us—a symbol:
    A symbol perfected in death.
    And all shall be well and
    All manner of thing shall be well
    By the purification of the motive
    In the ground of our beseeching.’ T.S.Eliot after Julian of Norwich

    May all manner of things be well with you and yours,

    Rambling Rosie

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