|Image copyright www.flickr.com/photos/kimjohnsonimages|
I don’t know my real dad. Really, I don’t have a clue who he is. I’ve not met him, not spoken to him – I’ve not even seen a photograph of him for the best part of three decades. Honestly though, it’s fine. Yes it’s unusual, but you might be surprised how little it’s mattered to me over the years. I’m already feeling self-indulgent for having mentioned it, because it often provokes needless pity. However, I’m told that this story is worth sharing, so stay with me here…
Here’s the background. My mum and my real dad got married and had me and my sister. Then, when I was two years old, and my sister six months, his violence and drinking got too much for my mum to handle. One day she took us and fled our home in Moss Side, Manchester, to be closer to her parents in leafy North Yorkshire. Really close, as it happened – we moved into a house right across the street from grandma and grandad. Soon my mum met another guy, who my sister and I have called “dad” since our conscious memories began. He adopted us when we were about six and seven, and that was that. (They’re now divorced too, but that’s another story.)
My mum has never hidden anything about our real dad, and she’s always been happy to answer any questions we’ve asked about him. For example, when I briefly returned to Manchester for work a few years ago, I asked her for our former Moss Side address so I could pay my old stomping ground a visit. On Letchworth Street, near Manchester City’s old Maine Road ground, I spent a rainy afternoon standing outside a two-up, two-down mid-terrace, with cast-iron bars over its door and windows, thinking about what could have been.
|Moss Side, Manchester. Image copyright www.snipview.com|
But any curiosity about how I was brought into this world never inspired me to get in touch with my real dad. I’ve always thought the burden is on him to make the first move. Surely it wouldn’t be too difficult for him to do so. He knows where my grandparents live, so he could start there – but he hasn’t. Besides, any contact we make would risk confusing all sorts of relationships that have been built in his absence – notably with the man I have always called “dad”.
Then something amazing happened in a pub. I was having a drink with one of my best friends, and ended up talking about everything I’ve just said here. I was sure he’d heard it all before. After all, we’ve known each other since we were 10 years old. But somehow he’d never once been told the story about my real dad – with whom he shares a surname. Yes, I think you know where this is going…
So it turned out we’re second cousins. Totally bonkers, totally one of the weirdest things I’ve known to happen to anyone. Imagine how surreal it would feel to find out your friend’s dad’s cousin’s brother is your dad? We went to scouts together, had to be separated in all of our secondary school classes because we messed about so much, interrailed around Europe, visited each other at university… and we’d been relatives the whole time without knowing it.
After this revelation, I knew that, if I wanted to, it would be easier than ever to get in touch with my real dad. My friend is very much part of the family that my I was (understandably) taken from as a two-year-old, so there have never been so few degrees of separation between my real dad and I. And that’s even more the case now that my friend and I have become flatmates. Living under the same roof for the first time, the subject has cropped up more regularly than ever before.
At a family gathering over Christmas, my friend bumped into my real dad’s brother, who was keen to know what I was up to and what I looked like. Apparently my real dad and I look very similar – not a great surprise perhaps, considering my mum has straight ginger hair, and I… don’t. Crucially, though, he said that my real dad really wants to meet me and my sister.
So that’s it, the first move has been made.
Click here to read part two
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