Did Your Mother Ever Tell You About Me?

I never stopped thinking and wondering about you and do so each and every day, month and year. What does she look like? How tall is she now? Is she happy and healthy? In fact, I have looked for you many times, but there will be more about that later.

The last time I saw your mother was not under the best of circumstances. We had a terrible argument and both ended up at the Station House. It was quite clear from that night that whatever we’d had in our relationship was now gone forever. So no, I did not know your mother was pregnant with you. The information about you was obtained in quite a round about way. Two friends of mine were the first ones to tell me of your mother’s pregnancy.

But please, allow me to tell you how I got to England in the first place. It had always been a goal of mine to serve in the military, so right after high school; I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Just before being sent to basic training in Texas, I proposed to my high school sweetheart and she accepted. Our plans were for me to finish basic training and technical school and then we would get married. Looking back on it all now, perhaps we were moving too fast. The excitement of being home on leave and my orders to report to England by Friday, December 20, 1968, probably sped our wedding date up.

Upon my arrival at RAF Mildenhall, England, and for the next few months, my head was full of dreams of my wife coming over to join me. But those dreams were short lived. Learning the Air Force way of doing the job, familiarizing myself with the new country, its currency, and the new base kept me busy enough that there just hadn’t been enough time to make new friends. So when my wife informed me by letter that she was pregnant with another man’s child, I had no one to turn to nor was there a familiar place for me to seek comfort for my wounded heart and soul. It was then I started drinking.

There must be amateur drinkers and professional drinkers. I say this only because the blind cannot lead the blind. My guess is that the professional drinkers make sure the amateur drinkers get home safely because I sure as hell don’t know how else I could have gotten back to the barracks. Needless to say, the next morning brought its own set of problems. The first problem was I had slept through the morning but the second and biggest problem was the 513th Maintenance Squadron’s Senior Master Sergeant (SM/Sgt) and I would soon get acquainted. Surprisingly however, I wasn’t really afraid, mainly because no one could hurt me more than my wife already had.

The SM/Sgt must have known about my “morning after condition” because he came to my barracks and sat on one of the empty bunks near me. He told me someone had informed him of my “Dear John” letter. But instead of getting in my face and yelling at me, he calmly advised me of the procedure to take when work is going to be missed. And because of the letter, he said he wanted me to take the rest of the day off and go see an Air Force chaplain. I did take the rest of the day off but didn’t go to see a chaplain. To my way of thinking, a chaplain is an agent of God and God had just allowed my wife to rip out my heart.

An Air Force Base is just like a small town, rumors spread quickly. Word was getting out about my “Dear John” letter and some of the guys were starting to befriend me. There was even a guy from my hometown who lived in the next barracks building, what a small world this really is. Making new friends really helped my loneliness but it didn’t stop my drinking. After work, I began to make a habit of stopping at the Airmen’s Club. Drinks were cheap there and you could always count on someone being there to talk to. It was at the Airmen’s Club that I met a guy from Kentucky, James Crumbie, who would end up being my best friend.

Crumbie introduced me to some of the other guys at the club and they too became friends. Two things we all had in common, we loved The Temptations, and we loved to drink. We would sit for hours and listen to The Temptations and everyone would take a part. The guys always teased me because they said I stepped on everyone else’s part but my own. Truth is I had never sung two part harmony let alone five part harmony like we were doing. It still amazes me how close the five of us got in such a short period of time. Unfortunately, Crumbie and I are the only ones who continue to be in touch all these years later.

You are probably asking yourself, why is he telling me about these guys? It was because of them I met your mother. By summer my divorce was final, now I could join the guys, Crumbie, Dawson and a few others, who were spending some of their weekends off in Norwich. Dawson had a girlfriend that lived there so we all helped with her rent and food in exchange for a place to crash. I can’t remember now if your mother was a friend of Dawson’s girlfriend Kathy or a friend of a neighbor, but the two of us met and eventually fell in love. What attracted me to you mother was her wild, free, and independent spirit. Your mother was pretty and proud of being a Scot. Most of the time we spent together was in Norwich but sometimes she would come see me at RAF Mildenhall.

She had the terrible temper of a Scot too and that was our biggest problem. Once, when she was visiting me at Mildenhall and we were in the Airmen’s Club, she slapped me and knocked the drinks off our table. I took her outside so she could cool down and she slapped me again. By that time I had had it with her and when she tried to swing at me again I blocked her with my hand. Just then a military policeman saw me and thought I had hit her and took me to jail because your mother wouldn’t open her mouth in my defense.

We did get back together but it never really was quite the same. Kathy, Dawson’s girlfriend, had a baby boy but Dawson never saw him. Dawson had rotated back to the United States by that time and Kathy still had not heard from him. Crumbie and I were still visiting Norwich so we went through that time period with her. Having seen the pain that Kathy went through, I made up my mind that if I had a child while stationed in England, he or she would always know who and where I was so that one day we could know each other.

As the winter of 1969 approached, my visits to Norwich had ceased. The Bird In Hand, a pub right by the base, became my new drinking place. It was at the Bird In Hand that I started chatting with a young woman named Wendy. She was a former beauty queen, a very beautiful woman with class, style, and grace. We did not start dating until the early spring of 1970 because it took me that long to convince her to go out with me. Wendy really didn’t care for Americans and had never dated one until we met.

Dating Wendy was like a dream come true. Every where we went people would stare because of her beauty. My hopes were to develop our relationship, marry her, and bring her back to the United States. But those were not Wendy’s plans. No, she did not want to leave England and my tour of duty there was getting short and my best friend Crumbie was going to rotate back to the U.S in a few days. While I was still reeling from Wendy’s refusal to come to America with me, Kathy and Linda called to tell me your mother was pregnant with you.
I was very happy and proud to know that I was going to be a first time father, however; the joyous anticipation of your birth I was told did not include me. Your mother didn’t even want me to know that she was expecting our child. Kathy called me because Crumbie and I had been there for her. Nothing Kathy and Linda said or did could change your mother’s mind so I was left out completely.

Thank God Wendy was understanding and supportive or I never would have gotten through the ups and downs of knowing and not knowing if I would ever see you. Then one day, about August 1970, out of the blue I received a phone call from a man (who implied that he was with a social service agency) asking if I wanted my daughter or not. My response was yes, but can I please call you back? I need to call my mother in America and see if she will help me with the baby. When I told my mother my situation, I was devastated by her response. No, she didn’t think she and dad could help because of their ages. That was not expected. Sadly I called the gentleman back and told him what my mother had said. I also gave him my parents’ phone number and address in America and told him that once I was out of the Air Force that is where I could be reached. He was to pass that information along when you were old enough to understand who I was and where you could find me.

Just before I was to leave England Wendy got sick and I spent the rest of my time visiting her in the hospital in Cambridge. As I boarded the airplane for America, tears started flowing involuntarily from my eyes. I cried all the way back to America because I knew that I was leaving two people who I wanted to be with yet might never see again. Little did I know at the time but my search for you actually began as I landed in America.

Spending Christmas and the New Year with my parents and friends was nice but I wanted to get back to England. Unfortunately, the Air Force had other plans for me. My new base was a five hour drive from my hometown so that wasn’t too bad. The base was called Whiteman and it was in Missouri’s no man land. (It was during this time I continued hear from Wendy, but your mother still had not responded to any of my letters.) At first, I was assigned to the missile maintenance squadron but someone there must not have liked me because I was soon transferred to the base motel as a billeting clerk. Working at the base motel gave me the opportunity to meet some really nice people. They, like me, were new to the base and just coming in from duty either overseas or some were just beginning their military careers.

This job was really the best I had had yet in the Air Force because I enjoyed meeting and talking with people. But something wasn’t quite right. It seemed that even though I enjoyed my job, was willing to work extra hours and always punctual, the officer in charge would never give me a decent job evaluation. A good job evaluation was critical for me because I had wanted to make a career out of the Air Force. I had hoped that one day instead of being an Administrative Specialist; the Air Force would send me to their photography school. My father was a professional photographer and so was I before joining the military but I had heard the Air Force’s School of Photography was one of the best in the country and felt that I could still learn a lot from it. Not only was that important to me but my promotion to sergeant was only two months away.

A friend of mine used to say sometimes you eat the bear and other times the bear eats you. Well, the bear must have followed me from England because one morning, after I returned to the barracks from my shift at the motel, there was a knock at my door. It was the squadron clerk telling me to report to the squadron commander. Yes, I had gotten into some trouble while in England but that was all behind me and I was determined to do my best at this base in order to re-enlist. But once again the Air Force had its own agenda and it didn’t include me. The squadron commander simply told me that my service was no longer needed and that I was being honorably discharged effective June 30, just two days away. I was pissed!

No explanation was ever given to me as to why that happened and just two more months and I would have re-enlisted. Some guys told me it was a government effort to cut back on unnecessary military personnel (an early out) and others were just as surprised as me. But whatever it was it left a bitter taste in my mouth for years. When June 30th came and my paper work was completed, I left that base just as fast as I had arrived there and never looked back. Even the mention of the name, Whiteman Air Force Base, causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. However, the good news was I was going home.

Once home my search for you began in earnest. The plan to return to England started to take shape. What needed to be done was to find government jobs there and apply for them. When at Mildenhall, there were several Americans working on the base that were not members of the military, so that is the type of job that I wanted to start looking into. At first I sent applications and resumes’ only for jobs in England, but that was too small of an area, so I looked and sent applications and resumes’ for any openings in Europe. This went on for months and months and not once did I ever get a response from anyone. Because there was no response from your mother or the job market, I gave up hope.

Years went by, Wendy had stopped writing to me, but I did meet a very nice lady and we married and had three children. I told your half sisters and brother (Eddie died in a car accident at 17 in 1998) about you when they were old enough to understand and as they got older they started asking questions about you that I could not answer. After the girls were in their twenties, they were more determined to look for the sister they had not met. Even though I had continued to think about you, I had not renewed my search for you. However, with computers and the internet now in the picture, I thought it would be perhaps easier to find you.

I searched first for your mother’s name then went to the Norwich web page and left a message there explaining that I was looking for you. No responses came from that attempt nor did any come from my search for Kathy, whom I mentioned earlier. Finally, in the spring of 2004, I did something that I should have done in the first place, I went again to the Norwich web page, and this time looked for Norfolk County Offices in hopes that they may have a record of your adoption. This time I had a small bit of luck.

There are privacy laws in your country and mine and certain information is hard to come by without proper procedure. The people I talked to were very kind and understood what I was looking for and why. They did the best they could without violating anyone’s confidentiality including yours. I asked them specifically to search for my name and your mother’s in their records pertaining to births and adoptions. Because of confidentiality, there wasn’t much they could tell me but because of their facial expressions, I walked away with the feeling that you never had been adopted.

And so daughter, that left me right where I was in 1970, leaving England, and not knowing when or if I would ever meet my daughter that I never wanted to leave behind. 2008 and you will soon be 38, but at last I hope you know that in America there is a former serviceman who truly did and still does want his daughter and that is something your mother probably never told you. Not only does your father love you, but your sisters are also waiting to embrace you with open arms and hearts.

Did Your Mother Ever Tell You About Me?

Jim Helm

Springfield, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Former serviceman still looking for his daughter.

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