We had searched for him for years. Numerous phone calls, visits to varied locations after persons reported seeing him, interviews yielding new clues presenting us with a glimpse of hope every time we decide to close the case.
I was sitting at my desk when the call came.
“Jen, a David Pottinger is on one”.
My heart skipped a beat. There was only one David Pottinger that I knew and after all these years, I don’t know that I wanted to hear from him.
“Hi, this is Jennifer. How may I assist?”
“Bubbly, it’s Daddy”.
An eternity stopped for me at the sound of his voice. It was, without a doubt, him. He was the only person that called me by that name and though it had been fifteen years since I heard his voice, I recognized it immediately. A range of emotions flashed through me. Elation. Fear. Anger. Loss. Relief.
Daddy? How DARE he use that name? Where was he all this time?
“Daddy?”, I whispered, unsure of what to say. “You’re alive? Where have you been?”.
“Meet me at our favourite restaurant in an hour. I’ll explain then.”
I hung up the phone, head pounding, unsure about what had just transpired. I called my sister and told her. She responded with screams: years of uncertainty, anger, fear, frustration and disappointment coloured every note. She wanted to come with me.
“No”, I said, “You have to break it to her. I can’t. This complicates things”.
Mom’s emotional state was too fragile for me to handle now. It had always been and when he went missing, she quickly deteriorated. I often wondered if that was her way of coping with a life that gave her so many opportunities for heartbreak and loss. The line between reality and her world was non-existent. I couldn’t face him and deal with her at the same time. It was too much for me.
The drive to Maddy’s felt like I was walking through gallons of molasses. Heavy, thick, sluggish, with a sweet sticky scent of anticipation and uncertainty wafting in the air. It felt as though there was a weight on my chest – I struggled to breathe and my legs and hands felt weak. I could hardly lift the coffee to my mouth as I looked around anxiously for him. There was a nervous fluttering in my belly.
Suddenly, there he was. The same tall, lanky body with some weight added over the years. His face was just as I remembered it, though time had etched lines of experience into his forehead and around his eyes. They shimmered with tears as he stood there, looking at me, uncertain of what to do.
“I’m sorry”, he whispered. “I couldn’t take it anymore”.
I stood and opened my arms, welcoming him home.