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telephoneYou know how it is. It’s the end of the year and you’re taking stock of the past when something that happened years ago suddenly jumps back into your mind from seemingly nowhere. That happened to me on New Year’s Eve, and for the fourth consecutive year it concerned a phone call I received towards the end of 2009.

I picked up the phone, asked who was speaking, and was rather taken aback to hear the timid, hesitant and awkward voice of a young girl.

Here is a summary of the more pertinent things that were said during the rest of that phone call, to the best of my recollection.

Hello, My name is ****** ******, I am 13, my mother’s name is ****** ****** and we live in the Ain region. Is your name ****** ******?

It is, yes. What can I do for you?

Are you my father?

Your Father? What makes you think I’m your father?

Your name is my father’s name, and he left us a few years ago. We have never heard from him since. Are you English?

Euhh, yes.

Have you ever lived in Nice and worked there, in a fairground?

I’ve visited Nice but no, I’ve never lived or worked there. Nor have I ever worked on a fairground. But just a momen…

Have you ever worked at Disneyland?

I haven’t. No, sorry. How did you get my number?

I checked with the phone directories from all of France and there are just five people with my father’s name. The others weren’t my father and you are the last one. 

I’m sorry to hear that. Does your mother know you’re making these calls?

No. I don’t think she’d be pleased. But are you sure you aren’t my father?

I’m more than sure I’m afraid. I am very sorry you haven’t found your father yet.

Oh well……(silence)

Can I ask you to do something for me? Could you phone back and let me know if ever you find him? I’d be so relieved to learn that you found him. But no, I am not your father.

Ok then. Goodbye sir..

Goodbye young lady, and good luck too.

She hung up and I fell back in my chair, my mind full of conflicting emotions, all clamouring to be adressed at once.

The first of those emotions was, of course, that of shock and sorrow upon learning about this young girl’s plight.

Admiration too, for her plucky courage. She wanted her dad back and she was methodically and determinedly pulling out all the stops to find him.

I also remember panicking at the beginning of that conversation. I was scrambling desperately to remember the names of girlfriends I had about 8/10 years ago. Had I split up with one of them only for her to find out after she or myself had moved to another town that she was pregnant? And if so, what should I do? This would change my life forever and I was in a situation of great responsibility. All this ran around my neurones in a few seconds but then the young girl went on to say that her father had lived with her before leaving. Phew. Talk about being relieved.

But I regretted having felt that way the second I heard her broken and bitterly disappointed “oh well…..” I’ll never forget the devastated tone and forlorn manner with which she uttered that.

That’s why my most abiding memory of that phone call is of how I felt a couple of minutes after having put the phone down and taken it all in. I remember wishing with all my heart that I had been her father and that she could have been a happy girl………

She never phoned back.