Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Episode 51 - Mailing home

Dear Dad

This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. Where do I start?

I suppose the best thing I can do is try to explain why I have done the things I have done in the only way I know how.

I suppose it all began in school, the name calling, the bullying. It’s very fashionable these days to say you have to be strong and stand up to the bullies. But you try standing up to the boys I was away at school with, they were a nightmare.

I know that you and Mum wanted the best for me and thought that being a weekly boarder at Ludworth would give me the best start in life but it was a nightmare. It wasn’t just because I was the only black face in the year, it was probably more to do with me. I just didn’t fit in with the whole sporty macho atmosphere.

You know that I have always been happier to sit and paint rather than go out playing cricket but to the other boys that only made me suspect, gay, what ever name they decided to give me that term. So I retreated into myself. It was easier to cope that way. Even when I cam home at the weekends I didn’t seem to fit in any more. I didn’t have any friends and pretending that I was busy with homework was easier than admitting to you both that I was lonely.

But you were right about one thing Ludworth was a ‘good’ school and with my A levels grades I was able to get into a good university. But I still felt apart from the crowd. I suppose that I had spent too much time at school avoiding people and I'd never learnt how to be that sociable but I was lucky and found people who had the same interests as me and I now have a few good friends.

That’s where I started planning this trip. Sitting alone late at night in my student digs I began to wonder about where I came from. Not in any deep philosophical way, just why I loved the things I do. I have always felt that you and Mum were disappointed that your only child was nothing like either of you. I don’t mean my looks, good god EVERYONE says that I’m the proverbial ‘chip off the old block’ even Mum thinks that I am the image of you when you were my age. No I mean more the things that interest us. You are both so gregarious and love nothing more to be surrounded by your golfing chums while I am happiest with a couple of close friends eating a nice meal having a quiet drink.

If you’re both honest you’d have to admit that you were always slightly puzzled why I wasn’t keen to follow you both into medicine. It would have been the most logical thing to do I suppose. Go to medical school. But I knew that I couldn’t be like you and Mum. I just don’t have it in me to be a surgeon. All I ever wanted to do was to make a living from my art work but first I had to find an answer to some of the questions that had been rattling about inside my head for years. Where do I come from? What is my family history?

I suppose that I was about eighteen when I found out that you had been adopted. I don’t know why you had kept it a secret from me, where you embarrassed about it or did you think that I wouldn’t understand?

Granny told me of course. I had gone to visit her one Sunday for want of something better to do. She was as usual moaning about you and Mum not visiting her often enough. I hated it when she criticised you, it was so unfair, when I was little we spent every holiday with her and Gramps when I knew that Mum found her constant grumbling such a trial. She was fussing about trying to wheedle out of me what you were doing that weekend and when I explained that you were both on duty at the hospital she said that she didn’t believe me and that I was covering for you. I was worried that she was going to explode and tried my best to calm her down. That’s when it all came out. How she and Gramps had adopted you as a little baby and had given you every thing and look how you were repaying her.

It was mad, she was ranting about how she had met Gramps when he was working in Bermuda and she was considered a real catch. She kept saying that she came from ‘good stock’ and her mother had had six children so she knew that she was fine. So it was all Gramps fault that they couldn’t have children. I had never heard her so angry, it was as if she had bottled all this resentment for years and now it was exploding out of her.

I hated her for saying all those terrible things and I screamed at her to stop. And then when it happened, she clutched her chest and fell. You know the rest, I got the ambulance and they rushed her off to hospital.

Dad I am so sorry, I should have told you all this before but I was ashamed. I could have killed her with my shouting. I was just so relieved when the hospital said that it was an angina attack and that she would be fine. But she did me a favour I suppose. If she hadn’t have lost her temper I might never have known the truth.

The story of your adoption made a lot of things clearer to me. I had always felt different and now I knew why. But I had to know more and I wanted to find your birth mother before it was too late.

I know that I should have asked you but I was scared that you would say no, leave the past where it is, but I could I had to find her. And I have. She’s here, living in Southern Spain. She’s married to a retired Headmaster and seems a good woman. I haven’t spoken to her yet, I’ve tried but each time I phoned her I lost my nerve and couldn’t think of what to say. But I’ve made up my mind I am going to go and see her tomorrow.

Wish me luck Dad

All my Love