Written February 11th, the story of February 10th; the day I met my biological father...
So, yesterday. The most momentous day of my life. Unless you have been there, I don’t suppose you can begin to imagine.
About an hour before I was due to leave the house my nerves suddenly kicked in. Thoughts of what the fuck am I doing? and I can’t do this came forth and would not leave, but rather, insisted on playing themselves over and over on repeat. I left the house, and walked to the train station. Same thoughts. I booked my ticket and felt an overwhelming urge to tell the guy behind the desk what I was about to do. I resisted. I was at the station even earlier than normal, and even after buying the ticket for which there was quite a queue, I had a twenty-minute wait for my train. I noticed an Ozzy Osbourne double getting on to the carriage next to mine and felt oddly comforted; I have no idea why. About twenty minutes into the journey I realised I was incredibly hungry. I was luckily distracted from thoughts of food by quite the rudest man I have ever heard. I daren’t repeat what he was saying down his phone, but it was very funny (evidently nobody else thought so) and reminiscent of Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It. By the time I arrived in Swindon I was ravenous and in the ten minutes between trains I ate an entire baguette, whilst it dawned on me that the next train journey was only fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes. And then it would be 3.15pm. And at 4pm I would meet my father for the first time. This is huge!
I arrived early with the sole intention of getting used to my surroundings and having a beer. I was shaking; seriously shaking. I think the barmaid recognised me from the last time I was in there, which is unfortunate because of the circumstances (when I got drunk whilst Al chased our lost Wedding gear to London and back) but also fortunate, as otherwise I doubt I would have been served. I know I think too much about what other people think, but that’s me – you would too if you’d had to consider another person to the extent that I have – and I thought the anxious look and the shaking hands screamed underage.
I sat down in the same seat I had sat in the last time I was in there. A stupid poem was going round in my mind… Roses are red, violets are blue, first you had no dad, and now you have two… and then I started to think about seating. I hung my coat over the chair at the end of the table, thinking then he would sit opposite me. Then I felt too conspicuous, and so I slid along the sofa (one side of the table was a bar sofa; the other chairs – it was a five-seater effectively). Then a few minutes later I moved my coat to the sofa next to me. Now I figured he would sit opposite me and we’d be in the corner. There was a man sitting on the table to my left with a laptop. I realised I was behaving most bizarrely, and I just hoped he wasn’t writing a blog and including my antics within it. If I leaned to the left I could just about see the door, and if I sat back I was hidden. A man came in with grey hair, ordered a pint and sat down, on his own. He kept checking his phone. Is that him? I kept leaning, and peeping, and then when he looked up, retreating. Again and again. Is that him? Two, three, four more people came through; I stopped counting, and then…, it happened. I walked in. Yes, me, admittedly older and greyer, but me. I shrank into my seat. And then started on my peeping exercise again. He was looking for me. He was nervous. I watched him from my hiding place for what felt like ten minutes but was probably only one. By this point I suspect the man on the next table was concerned for his safety, lest I should suddenly produce a gun, or similar. I literally took a very deep breath, and went over to my dad. He also recognised me. I held up a hand in an unmoving wave and said hello. He hugged me. It was like hugging a giant butterfly. I say that, for no reason other than I could feel his heart fluttering throughout his whole body. I said you’re shaking too! I pointed to where I was sitting, and went back to be seat and waited whilst he ordered a drink. A bottle of cider. I had been wondering what it would be. My ridiculous peeping behaviour started up once more. Sitting back in my seat I could just see his arm stretched out, leaning against the bar. If I leant forwards I could see him; his face. Damn! That face! I’ve seen his picture on facebook, but he is like me and does not look like his pictures.
Drink in hand, he came to the table, and was openly awkward about where he should sit. He started to sit opposite, and then said no, and came and sat next to me. I’m glad he made the decision, and I’m glad he made that decision.
And then we started to talk.
I can honestly say I remember little of what was said. There was mention of this being a big deal, of happiness, of excitement; there were various stories about our lives; discussion about my mother and him and a few bits and bobs of what went wrong. I also checked how his wife was with the situation (on the advice of a friend) and he confirmed she is fine. But generally, it was just normal. Comfortable even. So strange. And then he asked if I was staying with my grandmother. And I said Hell no! He asked how I was getting home, and when I said the train, he was quite insistent he wanted to give me a lift all the way back to Cheltenham. ????? I was taken aback. What???!!!! He can’t be serious!
After a short time, once he had made it clear that this was not a joke, we left, and got in his car. I pre-warned him that I could not map read and had a huge phobia of long-distant journeys in cars. I did not go into detail; only to say that there had been many bad car related experiences, and I could quite easily have a panic attack. We started to drive, and when he established that I really wasn’t joking and had no idea where we were or where we were going, he took me to his work, to print out some directions. We pulled up at the gate of a small industrial area. I asked him what I should do and he said go in with him. As we walked across the deserted car-park a rather inappropriate thought entered my head and I neglected to prevent it escaping. You’re not going to kill me are you? Fucksake! Ha ha, he laughed, I’d have to say a little nervously, and said No! I’ve only just met you. I managed to keep my response of so if you’d known me a while… inside my head.
Walking into his place of work was incredible. It smelt much like my luthier friend’s workshop. I said so. I looked around. I could’ve stayed there for hours. I adore workshops. He showed me some machines and said things about them which I don’t remember. He showed me the computer he has been e-mailing me from. Now, when I talk to him, I have a picture of where he is. I took a teeny piece of swarf, which will be added to my treasures forever.
Back in the car, we began the journey home (well, for me). And we talked the whole time. I talked more, admittedly. Too much, probably. There was a point where I was talking and we passed a turning and he said I think I should’ve turned off there. I went to jelly. Panic started to rise. What should I do?? Just be honest?? That’s what I went with. Just so you know, I’m feeling completely on edge now as I feel responsible for you having missed that turning and I am waiting for you to start shouting… I know you probably won’t… after all, it would be foolish for you to shout at me on our very first meeting… but then that makes me think that that’s the reason you’re not shouting, and that makes me even more nervous. That sort of thing happened a few times, but generally I behaved like an ordinary human, I think, I hope. I was gripping the door handle for the entire journey despite feeling safe, which I didn’t notice until we arrived back and I had to let go… and my hand had seized up around it! We were in the car for several hours as neither of us had any idea where we were going and consequently we were lost for much of the time. It was incredibly painful letting go but I managed to do so unnoticed and without grimacing, ha ha!
I had no idea how to say goodbye, or whether I was supposed to invite him in, or what was supposed to happen next. So I said as much and said I would just give him a hug and say goodbye, which I did. He tooted as he drove off.
And that was that.