I am glad I am able to address you by your name. It’s about all my birth-mother knew about you; that and the fact that you were a Welsh naval cadet (when I heard you were from Wales there was a fleeting moment when I wondered whether you were the Prince of Wales). She also knew your surname, of course, but wasn’t sure of the spelling. She said she couldn’t remember the name of your ship that docked in Durban‘s harbour around September 1963. It had to have been then because that’s when the two of you conceived me.
After you found out she was pregnant you left, and she never saw you again. Which suited her as she didn’t want anything from you anyway. Not even financial support, although legally she was entitled to it. But that would’ve required her to name you on my birth certificate and she refused to do that. Unfortunately, naming the father of one’s illegitimate child wasn’t a legal requirement in those days.
I wish it had been. Because then I would have been able to conduct a state-assisted search for you, officially request a DNA test and finally fill in the missing piece of my life puzzle. I know nothing stops me from initiating my own private search , but for some reason I am hesitant to do that, although I think about it often. Almost every day, in fact.
Mostly, I wonder what you look like and whether I resemble you at all. And I wonder what personality traits, if any, I have inherited from you. When I was younger I wanted to join the Navy as a diver (yes, it’s true), until I found out that women weren’t allowed on ships but only permitted to do office administration work, so I discarded the idea immediately. Today I wonder whether there is any connection between you being a naval cadet and me wanting to join the Navy. But maybe that’s just me indulging in fantasy.
I wonder other things about you too. Like whether you ever think about the child you conceived all those years ago. Do you wonder whether you have a son or a daughter and whether my mother kept me? Would you be pleased to know that you have a daughter? And would you like to meet me? Would you like what you see?
Would I like what I see were I to meet you? I cannot help but have my doubts about someone who gets a girl pregnant and then leaves as soon as he is told about it. But, like my mother, you were young then, and not ready for the responsibilities that go with raising a child, so I guess I can forgive you for that.
The question is, are you still the same today? If you had the opportunity, would you change anything? If you had stuck around for my birth and perhaps laid eyes on me even for a few seconds, would you have changed your mind about not wanting to have anything to do with me?
I like to think of you as someone who, as a young man, had an adventurous spirit (like me) which led him to visit foreign countries. One of these was South Africa, where I happened. Of course, the thought has crossed my mind more than once that you may have had a girlfriend in every port and I may be only one of numerous illegitimate children.
But, as most young and irresponsible adventurous types do, you matured with age and went on to enjoy an illustrious career in the Royal Navy. Eventually you married, had children and now live quietly as a retired naval officer somewhere in the Welsh countryside where, on occasion, you allow yourself to reminisce on the days of your youth, when you stole young women’s hearts and indulged in all sorts of mischievous deeds for which sailors are so notorious.
Today I imagine you as a witty, lovable old rascal, who still has a keen sense of fun. Someone with a limitless number of thrilling stories to tell of his days at sea in the Royal Navy, but who also harbours a little sadness and regret behind his twinkling eyes. And I like to think that the sadness is for me – the child you never knew but dearly wished you had.
This letter is also featured on the blog 100 letters to you.