As we come to resemble our fathers, so we re-encounter the individual who reared us. I turned 42 four years after my father died. Since then, with each succeeding year I feel I’ve come to know him better and better: I feel him in my habits of mind and my physical quirks.
It's true that many of us, after a youth spent trying to be as little like our parents as possible, come to accept, even to celebrate, the similarity. But it seems that parenthood is a necessary condition for this process. Suddenly you become much more aware of the struggles they'll have had - and much more sympathetic to them. (But in my case, my father having left when I was three, it was my mother who was the influence. The influence of my father was that on becoming a dad myself I was determined not to do what he did.)
"Just you wait 'til you have children of your own" said my mother. And would you believe it, she was right.
I noted during a comment debate at Philobiblon "it’s only when I became a father that I realised just how many of my mother’s attitudes and ideas I’d absorbed". I would imagine that if you don't have children, it's possible to forever remain disconnected and even to celebrate that deficiency - like Janet Street Porter.