She told me that he had written back to say he was indeed very much alive and would like to make contact with me. Suddenly I was transported back to that rainy afternoon so many years ago and the small black and white photo looking back at me, all mixed up with the stories I had been told over the years and the father I met so briefly 45 years ago.
"Do you have an address or telephone number?" "Where is he" "Is he married" were some of the questions I remember asking.
I asked for his address and almost reluctantly she gave me his details on a small piece of paper headed "JRD", his initials
"Why didn't you tell me?" I asked and she replied that I seemed so upset at my mother's death and that she had planned to tell me soon. I was too emotional to argue with her once again and to try to understand her reasons for keeping her secret from me and as my bus stop was the next stop, Serge and I rushed off the bus. Whilst I explained the news to him we arrived back to where we staying and I immediately and without hesitation 'phoned the number written on the small piece of paper.
I had not anticipated what I was going to say to him, I was so anxious to speak to him. My sister had told me his wife was called Cynthia and it was she who answered the phone. "Hello" I said. "My name is Diane and I would like to speak to ......?" but I hadn't thought what I would say. Cynthia quickly and in a gentle voice responded "Your Dad?". Just as if they had been quietly waiting all these years and expecting my call
My father came on the line and it was such an emotional moment for both of us with much blowing of noses and tearful voices. His second sentence to me was an attempt to express his regrets and remorse and I quickly reassured him that I understood and that we should put the past behind us and be glad we had now found each other.
Over the next few days I sent a letter saying how delighted and happy I was to be reunited with him and enclosed a photo of Serge and me. He wrote back quickly and sent a newspaper cutting of his retirement party along with lots of info on what he had achieved in the intervening years. He also enclosed a DVD of him speaking of his memories of the War, filmed as part of a Remembrance Ceremony and I watched it with tears running down my face as I saw him now as a fine looking man of 90 with those same blue eyes I so remembered.
A few weeks passed and our regular 'phone chats grew longer and easier and I tentatively mentioned that we would be returning to Spain from Manchester which was a very short distance from his home in Earby, Lancs.
Without hesitation he said he would be delighted to meet me and a two day stopover was quickly arranged with us staying in an hotel nearby
Before returning to Spain I knew that my mother's ashes were to be consecrated and she would be finally laid to rest in my sister's family plot, so when my sister phoned to give me details, she asked if I been in touch with my father and this gave me the opportunity to ask her how long she had been in touch with him without informing me. To my utter horror she told me it had been approximately 9 months. I could hardly believe that she had tried to keep us apart so long and asked her why, but she remained silent on the phone, unable or unwilling to give me any reasons. I was deeply hurt but above all hurt for my father, a man of now 91, who had patiently waited for so many months for my call, perhaps thinking I did not wish to be in touch.
My emotions during these days were very raw and I knew that I had not only lost my mother, I had now lost a sister as I would find it almost impossible to forgive her actions. I had nevertheless found my father and could begin to look forward to our reunion and gained strength from the fact
Before our meeting my father and I were both very nervous and emotional and worried that we might disappoint, but of course when we saw each other, the years all slipped away and we hugged each other and held hands, laughed and cried a little. We discovered that we had walked similar career paths in life, shared the same opinions, ethics etc. and in fact had almost everything in common which was wonderful and made us giggle. We now talk easily, reminisce and are able to share small endearments with ease.
Today we continue to enjoy each other and have become much less tentative and I have arranged to spend a week with him and Cynthia very soon when we can try to catch up on all those lost years and hopefully at last can make each other happy.