Lost and found

It's been 12 years since I have heard the voice of anyone from my father's family. Now suddenly I have the cacophony of dozens of rolled 'r's and hearty, shrieking laughter in my ears. My cheeks are warm with pressed kisses, my limbs are wary from countless hugs and my soul is fulfilled with the love of a family I never knew I had missed.

Four and a half decades on from when Dad left Cape Town's shores, I have returned without him, with the hope of meeting him. I was entering my awkward adolescent years when he left me behind in this world and his father, his brother, followed him out of my grasp. The freshest memories are of my oupa or Papa as I called him. It's his voice that lingers, his arms that last held me.

I saw him, I heard him in my great-Aunty Alice as I embraced her tiny frame and in the sparkle in her eyes as she smiled at me. "I never thought I would meet you," she cried, clasping my hands in hers. I could tell this moment was as momentous for her as it was for me.

But as the shadows grew longer on this summer's afternoon and the last biscuits were snaffled by the little children, as the women fussed and packed up picnic items and the men stood around chatting noisily - I, at last, caught a glimpse of my father. In the meandering conversations that refused to wind down, the chaos of the family needing to leave but reluctant to say goodbye, the hubbub of voices wanting to be heard more than they seek to listen, I could hear him. I could see my Daddy.


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