Posted by: Rob | June 23, 2009

Ask the Blogger – Answers Part Two

Today is the second instalment of my answers in response to “Ask the Blogger”.

Today’s question was asked by daisyfae: thinking back to childhood, can you identify a ‘defining moment’ that was absolutely invisible to family and friends? one of those things that made you who you are, but no one else caught at the time?

A defining moment? Invisible to family and friends? An interesting question, to be sure.

The first thing to say in response to this question is that I am now in my late forties. That means that, for me, I have long ago exceeded my memory’s capacity. Like a too-small computer hard drive, room for new memories is made at the expense of purging old memories. While that sounds a bit cold, I suppose, it is a little bit accurate. Unless prompted or triggered, there are many, many things that I no longer recollect.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this question and worried a multitude of various possibilities that might provide an answer. And yet, I can only conclude that there was no single defining moment. Honestly, I don’t know how that could be true for any one other than a one dimensional fictional character.

To be able to begin to explore the question of origins, though, I think one must start with an assessment of who they really are. Today. In the now. And that, too, is a very complicated question to answer. Not to mention the fact that, in my culture, to overtly describe oneself and, more especially, to draw attention to one’s especially positive attributes is not the norm. In short, we do not care to “toot our own horns”, if you will.

So, where do you start? What defines me and who I am?

I was born to youngish parents, a first born male. My father was an ex-RCMP member with no formal training in any other trade or career but with a natural penchant for sales. My mother was a naïve young woman, the baby of her family and totally unschooled in the ways of the world.

Dad had a travelling sales position, selling pre-fabricated home packages, in a broad territory encompassing most of northeastern Ontario. My earliest memories of him were his absence.

An extrovert, and naturally aggressive, he could be very charming. But he had his own demons too, and he self-medicated with alcohol trying to tame them. A side effect of these treatments, however, was meanness coupled with a tendency for physical violence. This was not improved by an innate foul temper.

When he was at home and not on the road for his job, he preferred to spend his evenings at one of the local pubs. This was during the time that most drinking establishments had a “Men-Only” side and a “Ladies and Gents” side. Dad’s preference was the “Men-Only” side. I don’t know how Mom dealt with this situation, although she can not have viewed it positively. Another faint childhood memory is of one occasion when Mom, sick and tired of Dad’s behaviour, drove my sister* and I down the pub. She walked us up to the window and bade us to look inside.** Although I don’t recall exactly what I saw through those gauzy curtains and I don’t know that I actually saw my dad, the scene in my memory is of several men seated at a round table. Details of what was on the table are unclear. One of the men may have been my dad, but I just don’t remember.

Now that you have a slight flavour*** for what my main role model was like during my formative years, you might begin to understand that most of who I am today is a result of beginnings where I wanted to be the exact opposite of my dad. Simple things, really, but I vowed that, when I was a grown up man, I would stay home and spend my time with my family. I wouldn’t drink.**** I wouldn’t smoke.***** I wouldn’t hit my wife.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The narrative continued but as I read it over trying to figure out how to tie it up, I realized it was going in a direction other than in any kind of answer to the question. So, as I have absolute veto on what I write and publish, I am cutting off and deleting the narrative that followed and will summarize my ‘defining moment’ unseen and unrecognized by anyone:

a small boy standing on tip toes outside a pub window in the dark next to his sister, fingers on the sill, peering through gauzy curtains at a man who would rather carouse with acquaintances than spend time at home with his family.

* There was only the two of us at the time. Eventually I would have another sister and a brother.
** Apparently, there was a time when there were windows that you could look through and see into a drinking establishment.
*** Very slight, I know. But it would take pages and pages to fully develop the character that was my father. And he had some good qualities, too, as Mom says. Otherwise, why would she have married him in the first place? And, let’s face it, if Mom and Dad had not had a relationship, where would I be?
**** Didn’t quite succeed with that one. However, nowadays, there is very little alcohol in the house and I partake only rarely. Despite genetic or hereditary potential, alcohol abuse has never been an issue.
***** Tried it. It didn’t stick.


  1. Powerful stuff, Rob, and that one sentence says it all.

  2. Nail on the head, dude. Great post. All of what Alicia said. I’d just add that sometimes people get married for all sorts of reasons, not neccessarily the right ones, and stay together, for some strange ones too. Oh and I am fortunate to have a father who was and is an excellent role model, support, source of strength and a virtual saint. Yours sounds to have been somewhat of a challenge. You turned out good though [always good to learn from the mistake of our fathers) *pat* 😉

  3. This post has really stuck with me, probably because it strikes very close to home even though my story is altogether different.

    In some ways, I think my boys have it BETTER than you and I did. They may never “know” their father, but they will always know that he loved them beyond all telling; they will never think that he chose some other life over being with them.

    And for that I am grateful.

  4. I worry about my parenting choices sometimes- this is a good nudge to remind me that there may be faces peering through a gauzy curtain, watching and assessing what I do. What I do may not matter much to me, but it may matter immensely to two small, very precious people- thanks.

  5. Your father sounds like my mother. I went out of my way to not be her, too. Interesting post.

  6. should have been more clear – i know that there are numerous moments. as a parent i’ve been vexed, wondering what toss off comment uttered in a moment of distraction would send my children down a new (and perhaps worse) path? and would i ever know? have a chance to explain? put it in context?

    this was a great reflection. and it further convinces me that sometimes knowing what you DON’T want is a good step toward figuring out what’s important to you…

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