Happy Father’s Day to an Unlikely Hero

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Happy father’s day to everyone that has a reason to legitimately celebrate it. For everyone celebrating the kindness and love of dads, step-dads (the dads who stepped up) and every father figure in the world out there making the world a better place for their kids, I salute you. Fatherhood, when done right by strong and loving men, is a beautiful thing – nothing in this world comes close, nothing as fierce and undying a love that a parent, no matter what form they might come in, can provide. Your partner may fall out of love with you, your friends and yourself might fall out, but your parents, and your da, will always love you. If you can celebrate today, do it. 

You’ll note that I began this piece by referring to “everyone that can celebrate”. Now there’s an unhappy blanket statement. I have never made any bones about it but me and my father have had a fractious relationship, if one can even call it that. I haven’t spoken to him for five years. As plain as I can put it, my father was emotionally abusive to my mother for years, and I never saw it. They separated 15 years ago and I never understood until much later how much of an important moment of emancipation that was for her. I was allowed to see him once every two weeks and when you’re young and impressionable, you think your da, who is more easy-going than your mother, who lets you watch more edgy films and TV shows, who talks to you like a human being, is the coolest guy in the world. 

It wouldn’t be until later that the mask slipped. I know and recognise that he suffered with his mental health, being diagnosed with complexed PTSD from his youth being severely emotionally and physically abused by his parents, compounded by heavy service in the Falklands. I have every sympathy for that, that’s a horrible thing for anyone to suffer through and I would never wish it on the people I hate the most, even himself. It still doesn’t justify a year of emotional abuse where I felt like I was walking on eggshells around him, having to be careful of everything I said around him lest he blew up and took everything out on me, ending it with a sweet little maraschino cherry of “Don’t you know I’m unwell?”. 

The tipping point came when I told him details in confidence of an argument my family had about me going to university in England. I told him everything as someone I thought I could trust. Those details became an affidavit to Social Services forged with my signature, and the rest of my family wouldn’t talk to me, thinking I’d betrayed them. I found all of this out on a single Friday night. I spent that time shaking and crying, and I had to muster up all parts of my composure and cool to tell him something had come up but I’d see him next week to meet up. He drove me 30 miles back home to my grandmother’s house that Saturday, I told him to take care, he drove away, and I never saw him again. I’d only been 18 for a few weeks. 

I feel like my head’s filled with concrete as I write this, but I promise there’s a happier, more amusing point to everything I’m saying to you right now. My father hasn’t really been everything I’d hoped for and in all honesty, I have spent my life desperately in search of a father figure. Not to sound like any male protagonist from any US sitcom, but that’s the truth. I will never have any will to reconcile with my father as I don’t think he’s capable of change, and to this day, whenever he gets bored and remembers I exist every two years, his lacklustre Facebook messages indicate a man who still thinks he was right. I often wonder about how it could have been, how things could have happened, if I should have been different? None of that matters though. He will always be my dad even if I don’t love that fact. You know who I do wish was my dad, though?

I wish Mick Foley was my dad. 

I love wrestling and by extent, I love Mick Foley, as a person and a performer. Mick Foley was the first example of someone in my life who didn’t have to be toxic to be masculine. Of course, I realise his wrestling personas are often bloodthirsty and misanthropic, but I’m really talking about the man behind Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love here. Foley is a loving father who put everything on the line to provide for his children. He has been an outspoken feminist ally for years, long before it was cool, having done extensive work with RAINN in the USA, as well as being the only person willing to do business with and take bumps for Chyna, a huge women’s star in the then-WWF. Every other man was concerned about “losing to a girl”, and even my perennial hero Chris Jericho described doing so as “disgusting”, but not Mick. 

He was happy to make Chyna look good; he was secure enough in himself to not worry about getting “beat by a girl”. Moreover, he has been on the forefront of developing and maintaining positive and lasting friendships with women, especially those he works with. He was the first man to show me I could be friends with women, as silly as that sounds; watching him at a young age broke down the idea that men were just supposed to court women, or be sons to them. This man is not a plastic ally or someone who just talks the talk one month a year. He lives it and I always respected him for it growing up. He was a man but he was never macho, never toxic. He treated women with respect. And my god, was he good at his job. Some of his matches, like his legendary Street Fight with Triple H at Royal Rumble 2000, just make me feel right as a human. His work is so good and watching Foley makes me feel at peace in an odd, paradoxical way. I aspire to be like Foley in how he gave everything for his passion project; being the absolute embodiment of the old hackneyed phrase, “leaving it all in the ring”. He is a personal and professional legend with a heart of gold and one ear. And that’s why I wish he was my dad. 

Plus, think about the stories he could tell you about 90s WWF, oh my god; I would bend his ear off asking him if “D’Lo Brown’s nice in person” and other assorted shite. 

I trust that everyone reading this probably will have had a great Father’s day, and my heart bursts with happiness for people that can. I don’t feel any bitterness for that. Just treasure it, treasure your da if you can and while you can, because if you have a dad that you want to honour today then he must have done something right. Tell you what, though. One good thing my dad did despite himself is bring me closer to my mother. For that, he has my thanks. And I think I’ll go and ring her now. 

Happy Father’s day, Mick Foley.

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