The Man Called My Father

December 1st, 2005
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v3-12-My Voice A curtain of winter white clouds covered Central Europe in the late part of December 2004. For five days, I saw no sun, no sky and no stars. But, after 25 years, I saw my father. Because we all have fathers, knowing them gives us an understanding of who we are. I was there to find out who I was and who I didn’t want to be.

I was in Lodz, a struggling, industrial city in Poland that is slowly learning how to deal with its past in order to find its future. For a hundred years the city was the textile capital of Central Europe. Almost as a by-product, the city produced a group of world class artists: director Roman Polanski, architect Daniel Liebskind, writer Jerzy Kosinski and make-up artist Max Factor.

I made the journey through adulthood without my “real father” and I had constructed my father as one does a mosaic. I had to create him, justify him, and assemble him from different characters that were more permanent in my life: my grandfather, my two uncles, several older friends and to a degree- my mother.

On my winter visit, I was hoping to fill gaps in my past that would allow me to close a long overdue chapter in my life. I wasn’t doing this just for myself, but for my future family. For their sake, I didn’t want to repeat the mistakes that my father had made. But in order to do that I needed to ask him “why?”

I didn’t have any expectations of meeting my father. I expected no particular answers. In fact, I was prepared to hear no answers at all. I only wanted to see the expression on his face, his gestures as I confronted him about my past.
I was willing to go a long way to get that opportunity. If it took patience, money, effort, I was going to do it. Anything short of lying, and stealing were costs worth paying. I would only leave disappointed if the conversation was not to take place.

We met in a neutral, transitional space- a Spartan hotel room. After a lot of listening, questions, and more listening I could finally make some informed opinions about what had happened when I was little.

As I told my father that the answers he was giving and the answers he couldn’t make himself give me were just excuses, I felt a sense of relief. Life is made of moments, and I knew that this moment was to be one of the defining moments in my life.

My father had remarried, divorced and fathered another son, now 18, with whom he lost contact, just like with me. I realized that there is a similar story to mine unfolding 20,000 miles away in Australia. That was my father’s inheritance.

As time passes, reality loses its sharpness. No one will ever know what really happened 35 years ago and there is no point in distributing blame. Still, I managed to construct my own version of the past. That is invaluable.

My father, like most fathers, is a deeply flawed man. In his life he was unable to learn from his mistakes, or even admit to them. There are demons in my father’s soul that I couldn’t describe, yet, I felt their presence. Still, the burden of facing them, dealing with them, isn’t mine.

I have no obligations to help him, as he did not oblige me in my journey through my young life. I have no interest in keeping a relationship with him, as he wasn’t able to be honest with himself and with me. Without judgment, I accept him for who he is- a father. [/private]

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