Back in Nottingham, I had mentioned to Libby that I was thinking about looking up my uncle, whom I believed to be living in Sheffield, and giving him a ring. I didn’t know where to start looking for the number (I assumed the phone book) – but she told me she was visiting the library the next day and would check there. Apparently the librarian just looked up the phone numbers online for all of the B. Tomlinson’s in the Sheffield area. There were six of them.
I took that folded up piece of paper from her but didn’t work up the courage to actually call – until we reached London. (Sheffield is quite close to Nottingham – much closer than London – so that would have made more sense for arranging a visit).
But well, when you are calling a long lost relative out of the blue, sometimes it takes a week to work up to.
I haven’t seen my uncle Brian since I was two. Of course, I don’t actually remember meeting him, but I do have the photos to prove it.
Brian is my uncle on my father’s side (that’s how I was able to obtain my British passport) – but my parents got divorced when I was six. I didn’t see my dad much after that, even though we lived in the same town, never mind an uncle who lived across an ocean.
My parents had a pretty messy divorce, what with the adultery, the abuse and the alcoholism (all on the part of my father) so when I ran into my dad at the local mall four years later, I wasn’t too communicative when he approached and tried to talk to me. I saw him in the toy store and immediately left, only to have him follow and find me in the big grocery store engrossed in the ingredients on a box of cereal (not a very convincing way to hide for a 10 year old). He stood behind me for several moments, clutching his shopping bags. I could feel his eyes on me but I refused to turn around.
He finally worked up the courage to say hello and my automatic response to reply with my own hello followed. Then I turned back to the cereal section.
He continued to stand there for awhile before he spoke again.
“Aren’t you even going to say hello?” he asked.
“I said hello,” I uttered, in the hardest tone I could muster.
He gave me a defeated look as he shrugged his shoulders and turned to leave.
I never saw him again.
My dad died two years later of a heart attack.
It’s not the greatest last memory to have of someone. But more than that, all of my memories of him are of the first six years of my life. Some are good. Others are not.
So I think that my uncle, his older brother, may be able to shed some light on who my father was. As a child, as a teen, as a twenty-something, before he became my dad, before he became an alcoholic, before he died.
I had worked up the courage to dial the digits on the paper in front of me and as the first B. Tomlinson on the list answered the phone, I took a deep breath and asked for Brian.
“This is Brian,” came the response.
“Did you have a brother named Donald?” I asked.
Turns out he didn’t. It was the wrong Brian Tomlinson. The other five weren’t the correct numbers either.
Brian Tomlinson formerly of Sheffield, England might be too old to be web-savvy. But I know he has two daughters, and probably grandkids, who may stumble across this.
If so, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.