It’s common knowledge around these parts that my family is full of eccentric-type nutters, myself included. Not that it’s a bad thing but it has its moments. In a world where mental illness and mental stress are now the norm – some members of my family can give those categories a run for their money, be somewhat challenging or at the very least, downright entertaining. I’ve managed to keep a lid on most of mine over the years but I suspect that if I had ever done drugs or alcohol I would be spending a bit of time in the local mental health unit by now.
My father is no exception. I wouldn’t call him crazy but he is definitely out there. I suspect he has undiagnosed adult ADHD from my stints working with psychiatrists and my discussions with them about him over the years. He has managed to navigate through his life in blissful ignorance in times of stress with a somewhat childlike attitude to problems and an attention span of a mudskipper. Mum undoubtedly has shouldered most of the day-to-day burdens, bills and disasters and would probably only now just be getting out of prison for murder if they hadn’t separated twenty years ago.
I get along pretty well with Dad although it can be hard work keeping up with a conversation with him as he flits from one subject to another, talks loudly at lightspeed, looks blankly at me when I ask him a question, says “eh?” and then answers it.
Shopping is fun with Dad albeit a little scary because I never know what he is going to do next. I have lost him in department stores because he has wandered off or stopped to have a detailed conversation about almost anything he can think of with somebody he doesn’t know. Going to the cinema is a real challenge as I can’t hear the dialogue over my father’s constant queries about what is going on.
I often take him with me when I go to buy something because he gets bored and has nothing better to do but I try to refrain from taking him into electronic stores because he is likely to come out with something that he didn’t want and knew nothing about but just had to have because it was shiny and had a lot of buttons he could press. I took him with me once when I went furniture shopping and he managed to smash a three hundred dollar lamp because he was so excited looking around at all the fancy items he wanted to buy he didn’t see the two-feet-tall designer lamp sitting on a side table near his gesticulating right arm. The manager insisted, however, that we didn’t have to pay for it after I purchased a very expensive guilt-driven dining suite and my father purchased a plush leather recliner that he said he was going to buy anyway.
They certainly broke the mold when they made my father – and for all his oddities and foibles growing up with him was never dull. He often took me on his adventures and I always returned home not always unscathed but still alive. He added to my childhood ideals and experiences. To me being different, odd or eccentric is just another facet of being human. Thanks to my father and my family I don’t really believe that there is an ideal to live up to. Human beings are made to be faulty – it’s just the way it is. We break, cope or strengthen in different ways depending on our map of the world.
I’m not even sure that there is such a thing as being ‘normal’ or whether it is just a media-generated phenomena that the disillusioned and brainwashed feel the need to aspire to. Thank God for weird dads.