It was the last time I saw him, stood alone in the centre of an airport lift as the doors closed on him.
He was dressed casually, jeans and a white cotton shirt, his two suitcases at his feet. His dirty blonde hair was ruffled and unkempt, as if he had just tumbled out of bed, and equally blonde stumble covering his chin only added to that impression. He stared at me with those dark intensely green eyes, a small and sad smile on his face.
He raised his hand and waved me goodbye, as rueful and sad as the smile on his face, as the lift doors closed. Slowly but relentlessly those doors closed and separated us, cutting us apart with their polished stainless steel.
I’d wanted to run to him, to throw my arms around him and be taken away by him, not to be parted from him by those closing doors; but she held on tightly to my arm so I couldn’t.
He was gone from my life and I’d never see him again.
I was aged seven and, taken there by my mother, we were seeing my father off at the airport. He was going to work in America, a teaching job in San Francisco, and my mother bluntly told me we couldn’t go with him.
I’d stood, staring at the closed lift doors, willing them to open again and my father still to be there, but they didn’t and eventually my mother had to drag me away from them.
I didn’t speak to her, barely acknowledging her presence, on the journey back home.
Two weeks later my mother told me that my father had decided to stay in America and wouldn’t be returning home, but she refused to answer any other of my questions. I’d felt betrayed and abandoned, my father had gone from my life with barely a goodbye.
Six months later my mother met Derek and within another six months they were married, no mention being made of my own father.
After their marriage, my mother and Derek both wanted me to call him “dad” but I refused. Derek wasn’t my father, and would never be.
Aged seventeen, I was sent to meet my Aunt Megan from the same airport.
She was returning from a six month “holiday” in America and my mother felt she needed bringing back into the family fold. Megan is my mother’s younger sister, by nearly ten years, and she didn’t stop disapproving of what Megan did, but family was family in my mother’s eyes. She’d never let Megan go, so I’d been sent to make sure she came home.
When she came through the arrivals gate again Megan looked different. Her red hair was cut short into a school boy style, her skin had been tanned a dark orange in colour and her clothes looked so worn and faded that I wondered if she had kept them on through her whole six month “holiday”.
“Hi little cousin,” she greeted me. “Does your mother, my beloved sister, want me back in the family bosom, again?”
“Something like that,” I muttered.
“Then push my trolley,” she said, indicating the luggage trolley she was holding.
Her luggage trolley was surprisingly heavy, she must have had everything packed in there from the last six months. When we reached the lifts I just pushed the button to call one of them.
Inside the lift, after the doors closed, Megan said to me:
“I’ve got something for you.”
“You didn’t have to,” I muttered.
“I did.” She handed me a small, black leather bound notebook.
“What’s this?” I turned the book around in my hands.
“I went to San Francisco, when I was over there. I’ve always wanted to see the city and I wanted to see Bill again.”
“Bill?” I asked.
“Your father and he wants to get back in touch with you. That book’s from him. It’s got all his details in it, even his email, and he’s written to you in it. Mainly about why he left, but other stuff too,” Megan said, the normal sarcasm gone from her voice.
“He left me,” I muttered, trying to keep the hard edge from my voice.
“Bollocks!” Megan snapped. “Your mother drove him away because he’s queer. He wanted a quiet divorce but she wasn’t having that. She demanded he have no contact with you or else. That’s why he moved to America, to get away from her not you.”
“He could have fought for me.”
“God, how long have you lived with your mother? That’s no option.”
We stayed quiet for a moment, as the lift took us down to the train station. Then, with a mechanical voice announcing our floor, the lift stopped and its doors slide open. I took hold of the trolley again and said:
“I’m queer, too.”
“Then you really need to get in touch with your dad,” she replied.
I just nodded as I pushed the trolley through the lift’s open doors.