You were born on 1 March, 1942. If you had lived, today would have been your 81st birthday. You were William John Guillum – Scott, Jr. You were my father.
For most of my adult life, every time I think of you, the words of Mike Rutherford have echoed in my mind. Every generation blames the one before. You were my father, yet I felt as though I grew up without a dad. Up until I was five years old, I was the apple of your eye. You would show me off every chance you got. You would take me on ward rounds with you. You were my first hero. I wanted to be just like you. And then, a day came – then nothing. All of a sudden, you pretended like I didn't exist. What did I do that was so bad? How did I embarrass you so much that, in an instant, you no longer wanted to be my father?
I asked you once, shortly before you died – what was my first word, dad? Your answer; I don't remember, that wasn't really my thing. Did you know how cruel you were? Did it ever cross your mind that you could crush me in an instant? Did you even care? I have wanted to say so many things to you for so long. For most of my childhood, I never found the courage. I remember the day you left so vividly, how you shoved me to the floor, how you kicked me in my stomach. As an adult, I get it. Your wife had chosen to divorce you. She had embarrassed you in front of your friends and colleagues. But, tell me this – what could a 10 year old little boy do to deserve that kind of a sendoff? Why did you hate me so much?
It wasn't long after that I made a promise to myself, if ever I was blessed to have a son or a daughter of my own, I would move heaven and earth to be the sort of parent to them that I never had. The sort of parent you never were. Why did you have children, dad? I feel the worst for your second son, of course. You chose never to devote a single day to him. At least I had those first five years. What made us such a burden to you? How were we such an embarrassment? Up until today, I still ask myself if I did anything to make you proud. Never once did you lower yourself to the point of actually telling me.
Yet, I exceeded everything that you had accomplished up until the point that I broke my neck. You never congratulated me once. My school marks were better. My sporting accomplishments dwarfed your own. Clearly, my heart was bigger than yours ever was. And yet, I find myself in the moment of writing this piece pitying you more than I ever have any other human being. You died alone with nothing. Even when you were living in England, and my brother had just welcomed your first grandchild into the world a mere 20 minute plane ride away, even then you couldn't bring yourself to go and meet your granddaughter. What was wrong with you? It was as if someone had killed any inkling of love for someone other than yourself that you may have had within you at one point or another.
The Bible commands me that I should honour my father and my mother. In your case, this passage has posed a very unique challenge. I can only ever honour you by saying that you taught me about the man I never wanted to become. You showed me how you could take a whole lot of talent, combine it with a multitude of blessing, and come out on the other side with absolutely nothing to show for it. So, for that lesson, I thank you. You showed me what a life of selfishness and self-indulgence amounts to. And I feel sorry for you. Did you ever know how much I loved you in spite of the heartless person you were? Did you know how much you lit a fire under me to distinguish myself, to conquer the world? I guess you never will.
Despite all the things I wish you were. Despite all those moments I wish we had had together. Despite the fear that I had for you as a child, growing up. Despite it all – I want tell you that I love you, dad. Happy birthday. I miss you. I wish I had had the courage to say all these things to you while you were still with me. Today, I do. Today, it's too late.