John and Alfie Lennon

When John was only five, his father arranged to take him on a trip to Blackpool with the covert intent of emigrating permanently to New Zealand. Hearing of these secret plans to take John away, an auburn-haired Julia raced to Blackpool to reclaim her son from the merchant seaman she'd had a difficult on-again/off-again relationship with. Yet it was poor John who was made to decide his own fate. His first choice was his father, but upon seeing Julia turn away, the child ran after her in tears. It would be years later that Alfie Lennon was to come around again, thick into the circus-like atmosphere called Beatlemania.

In 1964, Alfie walked into the NEMS office to speak to Brain Epstein, journalist in tow. Perhaps he knew his odds of meeting up with John were greater under the protective umbrella of the press, and he was right, it worked. But not as planned. John showed up, refused to shake his father's hand and promptly ordered the man out.

A few weeks later Alfie appeared in the affluent suburb of Weybridge, where John and his wife Cynthia lived, but it was Cynthia who met him at the door. Shocked to see a short, homeless-looking version of John in front of her, she let him in and cut his thinning, scraggly mess of hair. The fair and gentle-spoken Beatle wife later convinced John to call his father and make amends. John did, but the subsequent release of Alfie's record, That's My Life (My Love and My Home), must have been too much to bear. Rumors are John demanded his father's record stay off the charts because he couldn't stand the embarrassing comparisons that were sure to come, and it worked. The song promptly disappeared and a heartbroken Alfie went off to find relief in the arms of an 18-year-old girl named Pauline. Perhaps because of guilt, John employed her as a fan mail assistant in his home for a short time. A nice gesture, and one of the last to come for many years.

Alfie Lennon's childhood was fraught with trouble. Developed rickets, wore leg braces which stunted his height to a mere 5'4", was an orphan, ran away to work with a theater company but was caught and thrown into the orphanage again. Became independent at 15 and worked to support himself. John's childhood, while cushioned in a semi middle-class affluence, was burdened with rejection and absence. The death of his mother in 1958, after many years of being forced to live down the road with his stern Aunt Mimi, became his biggest factor of heartbreak. Neither one had it easy, and neither saw first hand what it was like to be a good, decent father. That, unfortunately, was a role both had to learn the hard way.

The most enduring element that binds these two together is just how much they look alike. And the music, of course, is obvious. If you listen to Alfie's record it's impossible not to catch a hint of John's wistful tenor, via Imagine. Here, I'll let you decide for yourself.

While battling stomach cancer in 1976, Alfie spoke to John and it was here that the ex-Beatle found out the missing details of his father's erratic yet fiercely directed life. Gaps were filled and apologies were made. John said later, "You know, all he wanted was for me to hear his side of the story, which I hadn't heard." While Alfie lay dying, John sent a bouquet of flowers to the hospital.

We can't change the past, but we can accept the past. In that moment, John--who was now a father for the second time--must have come to accept that this man loved him as much as he could, and that he had done the best with what he had. I'm sure that speaks for many of us, is various situations all over this planet we call home.

Thank you so much for reading, and I wish you a wonderful day!


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