(The beautiful true story of an “old flame”.)
It was an ordinary 1963 day when it arrived, a bulky parcel wrapped in mundane, brown paper and string. He turned it over examining the post mark, Germany? His girlfriend looked up from her hot, buttered toast.
“Aren’t you going to open it?”
Hesitantly he pulled off the stiff paper. Inside the mystery continued – bundles of letters? He sat down an odd prickling sensation at the nape of his neck. Though intensely curious she left him alone. Whatever it was he needed space…
They’d met at a jumble sale, impoverished students looking for bargains, an unpretentious place to start a love affair. The art and music departments of their college, with their counter affiliations of rebellion and conformity, didn’t mix, but he was different. He’d introduced her to the world of classical music, charming her with the haunting notes of his flute. She’d introduced him to more earthy pleasures and beats.
From a rich and privileged background he’d long been at odds with his overbearing, violent father, finally running away, to work many years as a gardener, letting fresh air, hard work and greenery cleanse him of the past. Now he was free to follow his passion – music.
She watched as he scanned page after page, tears beginning to seep down his cheeks. Moving quietly behind his chair she linked her arms around his neck, laying her face along side his.
“What is it?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”
“I was always afraid I’d turn out like … like him,” he stammered, the long withheld confession wrenching forth. She knew who he meant.
“But he’s not my father. My mother married him because she was pregnant … and scared. The letters are from my father… My real father…” He passed a tear stained page for her to examine.
“He kept a copy of every one he sent, begging her to come to Germany. He wanted me, and he wanted to marry her, but he’d been a prisoner of war. Germany was in chaos, his mother living on the street. He had nothing to offer her and she was afraid, afraid to leave her privileged life and live in the home of her countries enemies, above all afraid to face poverty.”
“He’s successful now,” he continued. “He owns a photography business, married and has two daughters. He kept the letters till I was twenty five, the age he was when he met my mother. Now I’m a man, he felt I could handle the truth. He wants us to come to Germany; he’ll even help us settle there if we want…
A few weeks later they found themselves in a big, friendly old house, hand built of oak and stone, secure and comfy as its occupants. The two little girls looked hesitantly at their new brother as their mother enfolded him in apple arms of welcome.
The father? He was all that a father should be, as they say, like father like son.