Twenty years ago I took a trip to America. It was part of my exam process to qualify as a psychotherapist. I was fifty-two and it was my first visit. What an experience it turned out to be. Everyday for the whole week my emotions ran high. Filled with both joy and sorrow at the sights and sounds of San francisco. This was to be the start of a dramatic change to my life. My friends and I took our exams and had a great time sight-seeing and soaking up the experience. As well as crying for no reason at all I also laughed a lot yet all the while dreading the trip home believing it would be years until I could next afford to visit.
When asked by friends and family how it had been my response was always the same. Wonderful as if I had come home. My mother was in her late seventies and disappearing slowly into dementia and whilst doing her weekly hair do and helping her bathe she asked me about my trip.
I told her how I felt and what a thrill it had been and she listened in silence for a while then started to cry. It was the mention of ‘coming home’ that brought on the tears.
“I’ m sorry she murmured but there is something I should tell you’. Her voice was low from behind her hands which covered her face, until I sat down beside her encouraging her to explain her distress.
Eventually she talked of how she had met this lovely American airman whilst she had been working in London during the war. How she had run away from her husband Bill taking my brother Micheal who was almost 5, finding a housekeeping mjob. I was reminded of the regular pattern throughout my childhood to be running away searching for somewhere to escape our violent home life.
She talked of meeting Jack and of how lovely he was. She said he was my father but she had believed him killed in a bombing expedition because someone at the base had told had not come back, I believe she had not been able to tell him about me. I cannot be sure about that but think it likely. She decided to return to the North of England to be with her mother believing it the best option especially as she had Micheal to think of.
It didn’t work out as she had hoped and in 1944 life at the end of the war in the NOrth of england was poor and hard. Her husband (My dad as I believed), agreed to take her back as long as I never knew the truth or indeed anyone knew.
Throughout the years that followed my mother suffered untold abuse because now she was beholden. I could recall for you what it was like to live with a mad man, a sociopath who thought nothing of beating my mother in front of us, a man who never worked but spent what small income made by my mother on drink. She held a home together for us.
For much of my adult life I was angry with my mother because she had repeatedly returned to him I realise now that in the fifties there was little choice, Where ever we went he would find us and embarrass her in front of her employees begging her for forgiveness and pleading with her that he would change but of course nothing did. His own mother was no different from him and condoned his violence.
As a child I remember the constant anxiety I felt like a tight belt around my stomach, always nauseous unable to concentrate at school. Being absent for weeks then returning only failing to catch up with the lessons at a great cost to my education at the time.
My mother telling me this story all the years later has a major impact upon me. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t sad nor happy, just stunned and confused for weeks afterwards. I remember talking to my bother who is six years older than me, he told me of his memories of this tall fair American. Who gave him a wooden toy Tommy gun. This hurt because he had met my father and I had not. However that soon past and twenty years ago I attempted to find Jack my airman father on the Internet failing miserably. We have come a long way with DNA searches in 2017. Finding a first cousin with my father’s sir name almost knocked me over and introduced me to a whole new facet to my life.
How sad my mother died 10 years ago at 92 never knowing that this had happened. I wonder if it would have made her happy. It seems that finding out who my father is has laid something to rest in me although I don’t really understand quite what as yet. Maybe before I get too old there will be opportunities to see where he lived, his family and where he died. Time will tell. Watch this space.
In the pictures Jack is the one holding the dog and on the other he is on the end right wearing leather jacket. The third picture is my mother holding me at 18 months old with my brother Micheal.