Read part one first
We decided to meet in the station pub. I'd got his number a few days before to arrange it. He'd told me he'd never stopped thinking about my sister and I, and what we were up to. It seemed like a generic thing to say, but it'd probably taken him a while to text, and it was touching.
I had a few other things going on in my life (worthy of other blog posts one day, maybe) in the days and hours leading up to Saturday, at 4pm, when we would meet. For so long I still didn't believe it would happen, but as I text him what I was wearing (we wouldn't recognise each other after nearly 30 years apart) those weeds of doubt wilted and blew away. Then the magnitude of the situation hit me. This was actually happening. I was about to meet my real dad. Why was I doing this? Was it really necessary? My heart was racing and I felt sick.
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But I knew I shouldn't shy away from it – just because, at the very least, it would teach me something. Having massive, once-in-a-lifetime things like this happen to you is good. How else would you grow as a person? And how would you be able to cope with the unexpected challenges life throws at you, if you can't handle the expected ones? Life's all about having experiences that make you stronger, yada yada.
So I walked right into the pub, and took a good look around. There were a fair few candidates sat around the bar. A roll-call, in fact, of 50-odd-year-old men, sat alone, watching the world go by. All potentially my real dad. One or two of them looked up curiously, but none of them said hi. I walked around the bar, which was empty, and turned back and... yep, that's probably him, walking slowly towards me, in shades, a misshapen jacket, with a cautious, disbelieving smile, I thought.
"Steven," he said. "Hey, you alright?" I said. "It's been a long time..." he said. "Yeah, ha," I said. A few moments passed. Then the nerves lifted a little. "Fancy a drink?"
We sat down and chatted about what we'd been up to in the past three decades. I told him about my childhood, my career, my friends, and he told me about his stepdaughter, his alcoholism, and the boat where he lives with his wife.
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We also caught up on what happened between him and my mum, back in the day. He'd really struggled with the booze – somehow drinking a bottle of whiskey and a box of wine, every day. "I loved you all but I couldn't kick it. I wasn't good enough," he said. "Your mum made a great decision in taking you away from me. I knew you were in good hands."
After losing his house, his job, and his family, he was determined to kick the habit – and decided it wasn't fair to be in our lives until he had. But he struggled, and the mornings that started with a Stella and nights that ended in the shakes continued for the next few weeks, months, and years. By the time he was sober, I was 16. I'd grown up without him. So that explained the not getting in touch.
As all this was coming out, I couldn't help but notice our physical resemblances – or the lack or them. Our eyes were the same, but that was about it. Different nose, jawline, general build... and I'm still wondering where I get my curly hair from. Our mannerisms and personalities were very different too – but then they would be, wouldn't they?
In the end, it wasn't weird or awkward, at all. It was a pleasant encounter that ended, as it started, with a handshake. Until he came back and gave me a hug. And that was that. A massive thing crossed off my life to-do list, some big lessons learned, and a valuable bit of perspective gained.
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