Inadequate, not.

3 Nov 2021

I'm filling in for Mary today. While I was wondering what to write about, I remembered an incident that concerns my father. I'm not quite easy talking about it, because it is very private, but given that Dad passed away 17 years ago, and that neither his name nor where he lived are easily traceable from here, I hope he will forgive my telling of it.

This matter gave me an unpleasant shock at the time, and it is still emotionally tender, even after 40 years. About that time ago I worked in a government department that dealt with claims by war veterans for disability pensions. Part of my job was to research the medical files (which could become amazingly thick) of claimants. Well one day my father's file came up. As a matter of routine propriety, his claim was dealt with by someone else on the team, but I snuck a peek at the file nonetheless. Most unethical, I know, but the deed is long done now. Anyway one of the things I found was a diagnosis of ‘Inadequate Personality Disorder.' This actually is, or was, a bona fide medical diagnosis. Nevertheless it is a hurtful form of words. None of us relish being described as inadequate in any particular!

I loved my Dad, and I still miss him. He was one of those many men who are perhaps not well suited by nature to be parents, but he tried his best all the same, and I think he did pretty well. I know that, again like many men, he had a grim war, in Dad's case as a naval gunner, which situation I could guess might be something like being confined to prison, with all the dangers attendant for young lads (he joined at 17) jammed in among older males under conditions of enforced celibacy, only with added danger from enemy guns and torpedoes. After the war Dad had a successful career in the peacetime army, followed by another in mining. He retired on a comfortable amount of savings and lived to a good old age - happily, so far as I can judge. I know he was a shy man, disinclined to engage in either much talk or much emotion, but on the other side, he could talk to anyone: knew all the neighbours, and was on good terms with most of them. He had his faults as a person and as a father, as do we all, but I never felt that he would be fighting in my corner when the chips were down. So where does the 'inadequate' come in?

It feels like the conclusion I am working towards is something like, "Doctors, huh, what do they know!" Of course, clearly they know a lot. But maybe not everything. Personality is complicated; I'm complicated, and so are you. So let's not take even expert diagnosis to heart -- because life as it is lived always has the last laugh.


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