Beautiful dadsWhen I pass Zenita in the hallway, I touch her arm, or stroke her hair, or bend to kiss her. I was looking at her at the breakfast table and she is growing into a beautiful little girl. She is the spit of her mother. It is curious that she and Naughtyman were born at the same time because they are so different.
I hug Naughtyman too, when we are in the same space. He will not always let you hold him -- he has so much else to do: usually involving the computer. But Zenella will always stop to be cuddled. She craves affection, the constant demonstration that she is loved. When you upset her, she will shout, you don't love me.
I do love her. She cannot doubt it. It is part of who I am in the deepest sense to want to show people I love that I love them, to give them affection, to be close to them and let them feel wanted and needed. It was one of the hardest things in my failed marriage when Mrs Zen turned away from me in our bed and stopped wanted to be held at night. There is nothing worse for me than for someone to tell me, to show me, I do not want you to love me any more.
I did not know this so clearly before I moved back here. But I learned it when I had children, how important it was to me. I understand it very well, why it is. When I was a little boy, my dad would often show me physical affection. When he came home from work, he would have us one by one in his lap and cuddle us, and he would often play roughhouse with me on the carpet. My mum would be angry because she thought it was dangerous, but I wasn't fragile, and I was delighted to be close to my dad. I would kiss him goodnight every night, until he told me not to.
I don't know why he stopped wanting me to know he loved me. I don't believe he stopped loving me, but it felt like it. I think the only times my dad touched me in my teens were the couple of occasions he punched me. I remember, very distantly, his talking to me about how men kissing each other was gay, and I think that is why he stopped wanting me to kiss him goodnight. I would not have stopped. I didn't stop loving him or wanting him to love me, no matter what he did or said to me. Today, we sometimes have a stiff, uncomfortable hug when we meet. It doesn't come naturally to him but it means a lot to me: I know he loves me. My beautiful dad, that damaged little boy who seems forever distanced from himself, inside him a soul that no one can touch, I know he loves me and that is all I want, or have ever wanted, from him.