Richard wasn’t the type of father to do things with his kids. I don’t ever remember going to any type of event with him as a kid.
That’s one thing that social services mentioned in their paperwork when they became involved with my family in November of 1981. “There’s not one single activity these people seem to have in common”.
Never went to a hockey game with him.
Never went to a football game with him.
Never went to a baseball game with him.
He never came to a school performance or recital.
Never came to a cadet night.
Never went to the Ontario Science Centre with us.
Never went to the CN Tower with us.
No matter how many times he dropped us off at Canada’s Wonderland, he’d never come in with us. And no, my brother and I had no choice with Canada’s Wonderland. As my brother said, Canada’s Wonderland was Richard’s “discount babysitting service”. Seasons passes were $29.95 for the ’83 – ’84 season. He’d give us ten bucks each and drop us off at 9 a.m. and pick us up at 10 p.m..
Never went shopping with him at Active Surplus or College Electronics or any of the other electronics shops that we both used to buy supplies from.
I actually went to more football games with my grandmother when she’d score Edmonton Elks tickets (formerly the Edmonton Eskimos) for underprivileged families from the Bissell centre.
And it wasn’t just outside activities that Richard wouldn’t partake in.
Acknowledgement of birthdays was pretty well non-existent. I had one birthday that he acknowledged that I can remember. That was my 14th birthday in Sept of 1985. As I would discover later in life, the only reason for this acknowledgement is my family was under supervision of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and Richard was obviously buttering me up just in case the Toronto Police Service notified Children’s Aid about the massive domestic fight between my father and step mother in the summer on 1985.
Christmas, as my brother refers to it as, was “socks and underwear day”.
Richard didn’t like Father’s Day cards made at school, Richard didn’t mark his birthday. I didn’t actually learn Richard’s birthday until 2005 when I had to get my birth certificate replaced.
I tried to pick up electronics as a kid. I guess that my way of thinking was that if Richard and I had something in common that he’d love me or something. Didn’t work.
The same thing with computers. I never really had an interest in computers.
Electronics was something that I picked up, especially digital electronics and digital logic. But I had absolutely no interest in it. And I learnt quickly not to ask Richard for help with math related to electronics as this would cause him to blow his lid. Again, I would learn much later in life that his formal education was grade 8 with an upgrade to grade 9 to get into the Royal Canadian Navy. When we moved to Toronto he started taking mathematics upgrading courses at York University and Seneca College. These upgrades were more in keeping with the more “administerial” roles he was taking in the Canadian Forces.
Almost all of the electronics that I learnt as a kid came from magazines like “Popular Electronics”, “Radio Electronics “, “Elektor Electronics”. Even before I started servicing video games, I always had after school or weekend employment.
Computers were much the same thing. Richard would spend literal hours programming his computers. I could pick up programming from the magazines that I’d buy at the magazine store, but not once ever did Richard ever sit down with me and teach me how to program.
Richard had a knack of buying stuff that was on sale or had been discontinued. I could participate in computer lab at school, but the machine I had used a version of BASIC that was just modified enough that it wouldn’t work flawlessly with the lessons in computer lab. Almost all of the kids in computer club at school had Apple IIe or Commodore 64 computers. I had a TRS-80 Color Computer. And no, the other kids didn’t come from rich or affluent families. Elia Junior High and even Pierre Laporte Jr. High were in very working class neighbourhoods. These were families that really didn’t have the money to waste on novelties.
Most parents as I’ve learnt in my life put their kids above anything else. Not Richard. Richard is all that mattered in Richard’s life. My brother and I were Marie’s problem. He kept us because it was cheaper than giving us to our mother. One of Richard’s Air Force buddies once asked Richard why Richard did’t give my brother and I back to our mother if we were causing Richard so much trouble. Richard’s response was that as long and my brother and I lived with Richard, Richard could control the costs but that if Richard gave us back to our mother that he’d have to sign his paycheque over to “that bitch”, and that was not going to happen.
Around the time when I was 14, I started repairing arcade video games. Even though I didn’t have a passion for electronics, none the less I could do it. And I was good at it. I repaired CPU boards that guys with technical diplomas from DeVry couldn’t service. Having employment meant that I had money. And having money meant that I didn’t have to live on the non-existent allowance that Richard never offered.
Around the summer of 1986 I bought a 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit for $175. The car was a rust bucket piece of crap. The floor pans were rotted out. The rocker panels and the rear wheel arches were rotted out. This car would have never passed a safety inspection. But that was fine. I just wanted a car so that I could get a membership at the base auto hobby club. My thinking was that I could get Richard to teach me how to work on cars and we could spend time together. That didn’t work out quite the way I planned for it to. I learnt how to work on cars from Bill Parker, Bob Wrightson, Bob, Stephan, and a couple of the other service members at the club.
It’s obvious now looking back that Richard was far too damaged to be a functional parent.
Was it the fact that his father left him as a young kid?
Was it the fact that his mother was emotionally damaged from Residential School?
Grandma had a fierce temper and she was not above using physical force. Did she beat on Richard when Richard was a kid?
Did Richard’s misogynistic views of women come from his dependence/defiance relationship with his mother?
I barely play around with electronics anymore. I never really had an interest in it.
I stepped away from electronics around 1989 when I asked one of the employers I was servicing video games for if I could have a pay raise. His response was that as good as I was at electronics, and sure I could fix equipment that others had given up on, I didn’t have a degree or a certificate from any college or institution and therefore he couldn’t pay me more than what I was making. It was this that prompted me to quit working and to try going back to school.
The last time I programmed a computer was back in 1989 when I was enrolled in the Alternative and Independent Study Program in North York trying to finish off my grade 9 and 10 in the first year and grade 11 and 12 in the second. I took Fortran, Cobol, and Autocad 10.
I haven’t touched BASIC, Fortran, Cobol or any other computer language since.
Cars? The last time I owned a car was 1998. I don’t mention to anyone that as a kid I used to do brake jobs, clutch jobs, and electrical troubleshooting as I really don’t like cars. I can barely be bothered to do my own oil on my motorcycle.
I just don’t have the interest electronics, computers, or cars.
In 2006 I took up figure skating. That was a blast. Now that’s an activity that I wished I could have done as a kid. But I also have to realize that there was no way on earth that Richard was going to allow his son to skate like a girl.
When I was in Sea Cadets, I loved sailing. I knew of a sailing club on Centre Island in Toronto that specialized in sailing programs for kids from low income families. There were a lot of kids from the different Greater Toronto sea cadet corps in this club. Richard refused to cough up the menial fees that George was charging.
Learning to fly would have been cool. And yes, my father had his private pilot’s licence. Although he only ever took me up in the air once. You don’t have to own a plane to go flying. Most small charter companies will rent small planes to licence pilots. Especially to members of the Canadian Armed Forces with their pilots licence.
After I had left sea cadets at the Dennison Armouries in the spring of 1987, I joined air cadets at the Moss Park Armouries. All Richard had to do was sign the permission slip to allow me to take gliding instruction and pay the minimal fees for glider access, and I could have started on my pilot’s licence. Nope.
I had to wait until I moved out of the house in early 1988 before I could get my driver’s licence. Richard had promised me that he would sign me up for “Young Drivers of Canada”. Nope. Another false promise.
So, I’ll never know what it was with Richard and what it was that made him a defective father. Why he’d promise so many things and yet only deliver on disappointment.
Growing up with Richard, it was to the point that if I really wanted something as a kid, I usually wouldn’t get it. So I took that and turned it around to the point that if I wanted something, I would hope really hard that I wouldn’t get it. So that way, when I didn’t get it I wouldn’t be disappointed. Twisted? Yep. But it was a coping strategy.
Allowances were another constant let down with Richard. He’d promise you $5 or $10 if you did this or that. But when you did this or that, there was always some excuse as to why you didn’t earn the $5 or $10.
All I know is that looking back on things, I sure did waste a significant portion of my life trying to connect with a person who didn’t want any type of connection.
And maybe it’s that rejection of any type of connection that causes me to be isolated from others to this day.
When I went up to Morinville, Alberta in 2003 to see my father, my stepmother said to me that I should try to see my father more often. But the thing is, Richard didn’t want to be seen more often. When I became a 5th class Power Engineer in 2004, he didn’t care. When I became a 4th class Power Engineer in 2005. He still didn’t care. When I landed a power engineering position in the hospital where I currently work, still didn’t care.
Even when I got my grade 12 back in 1991 he just didn’t care.
So, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
He just couldn’t be bothered.
And I was the idiot for having looked up to him as a kid.
So yeah, it was a lonely and isolated childhood. And I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed single to this day. It’s not for a lack of trying. It’s just that being alone is all I’m used to.