It was only years later, I was eighteen, when I found out the truth; I discovered that my father had written to me. For several years, and to begin with not only on special occasions, though this soon apparently petered out. He had sent money orders, which Grandma had saved for me. She told me all this on my eighteenth birthday, so matter of fact she was about it, as if it really was of no consequence at all.
“Catherine“ she began, in that let’s-have-a-chat voice she would use “You may occasionally have wondered what became of your father,“ and not pausing for my response she rattled on, “Well of course, we all know about Cyprus, don’t we. It was considered best to cease all contact. It was best for everybody, but especially for your mother. She was really quite ill after leaving Cyprus you know, so it was considered best to cease contact. I have the sum of three hundred and twenty five pounds, plus interest, in a National Savings Account for you. That is the accumulated total of certificates and money orders, which he has sent you over the years. Now I know this will come as something of a shock for you, Catherine, but you have always been such a sensible girl, you were never prone to emotional outbursts, and you are eighteen now after all. Your mother had you when she was eighteen, you know. We decided to wait until you were eighteen to apprise you of the facts. Your father did send you money, mostly on your birthday and at Christmas. We didn’t tell you at the time – you would have been too young to have understood; to have appreciated the money or to comprehend his motives. Anyway that all stopped several years ago and he has never tried to contact us since. Catherine, look at me my dear, are you alright? Now you may have the money in your own bank account, or as much of it as you may need. You only have to say and I will have it transferred straightaway. It is your money after all. So now, that’s that then. Well well, my girl, eighteen and the whole world ahead of you. My, what a lucky girl you are. By the way do those earrings your mother chose (well I helped I must confess) go with the brooch I bought you? Go and fetch them so I can see them on you; they were bought at different times and I was so worried they would clash. You know how particular I am about jewellery clashing. Well hurry up child, we haven’t got all day.”
And off I trotted to get the damned brooch and earrings. And I was so angry, all I kept repeating in my head was, ‘Yes we do have all day. We have all day of every day. What a stupid thing to say. We have always had all day.’ It was to hide my real anger of course that they had never told me. All those years and they had kept it from me. My father had written to me, his daughter, and had sat waiting and wondering if she would reply this time, or ever. And he had never known that I’d never received a single letter, not even a paltry Christmas card. A Christmas card wouldn’t have hurt, would it? Would it have hurt so much to have allowed me one pathetic Christmas card? I cried into my pillow for nights after. I was so angry, angry at my Grandma for not telling me. What right did she have? How could she just assume she had the power to stop a father from writing to his daughter, and a daughter from even knowing if he was alive. I hadn’t even known if he was alive. I know I hadn’t thought of him in ages; I couldn’t really remember him or what he looked like but he was my father. The father I had never had. I used to tell Jennie and Penny that he wrote to me all the time, and that I would soon spend a holiday with him in Cyprus, a holiday that was always being put off. Pointless lies – but they both had fathers you see, fathers who could and did ignore them, who could afford to ignore them. My father had written to me for years and probably out of a sense of sheer helplessness had given up. Maybe it was too painful for him, never getting an answer. Maybe he had assumed, so mistakenly, that I was ungrateful, that I didn’t care. I didn’t even know. That is what hurt the most, that he had stopped because he thought I didn’t care. That I hadn’t replied because I didn’t love him. That’s what hurt the most, what I was so angry about. But no, what hurt most was of course that I had said nothing. When Grandma told me I hadn’t screamed, I hadn’t shouted. I hadn’t torn her eyes out. I had sat as I always sat when Grandma talked to me, when she ‘apprised’ me of the situation. I subdued my anger, saved it all up for myself. My stupid, stupid self. I saved it all up for later, in my own bed where they couldn’t get away with it anymore. Where they couldn’t hurt me anymore. Why had I said nothing when I was bursting to ask the one question I couldn’t pluck up the courage to ask.
“Where are the letters? Could I have them. Please? My letters. Please.”
I never saw the letters. Grandma had destroyed them after banking the money. She was quite certain of her priorities, quite methodical, my Grandma. She did it to protect us, you see. To protect Mummy, who used to get so upset, so very depressed at the very thought, the reminder of Daddy. She did it to protect me, because what sort of a ninny would I have been if I were always wondering about a father like that, it could only upset and harm me, fancy holding out a torch for a father who had treated her mother so badly.
So we cannot really blame Grandma, can we, she was only doing it to protect us, yes all of us; Mummy and Catherine, and most of all to protect Grandma.