Dear Santa, Dear DadBy: T.J. Masters
Two days before Christmas, widower Steven drives to the North of England to meet his estranged son, Andy, hoping for a reconciliation. Steven rejected his son when, as a nineteen-year-old student, Andy came out to his parents. Andy now enjoys a happy and fulfilling relationship with Peter, who initiates contact with Steven by forwarding an almost childlike letter to Santa, in which Andy asks for a father who loves him.
Andy isn’t quick to forgive his father, but the bad weather conspires to strand them all together over the holidays. Father and son experience a steep learning curve, not helped by Steven’s realization that his son’s lover is older than he is. But proximity and familiarity have a way of breaking down barriers, and if all three men can work together in the spirit of cooperation, this Christmas might be one that changes their lives forever.
For Sean. He convinced me I could do it.
I hope you’ve stayed fit and healthy since last year. Are all the reindeer looking forward to their long night out again? I’ve tried to be good all year, so I hope you don’t mind if I ask for just a few special things this Christmas.
First I would like my amazing man, Peter, to have everything he wants at Christmas and throughout the year. He deserves so much for being so kind and loving and for being the greatest thing that’s ever happened in my life.
Second I would love to have a black Labrador puppy to love and care for.
I know my last request is the hardest one of all, and I am sorry for asking, but I wish I had a dad who loved me.
Thank you for reading this, as always. Please say hello to all the elves for me!
About two weeks ago I was surprised to open a Christmas card from my son’s lover. The greater surprise was finding this letter to Santa folded inside it. When the kids were young, they had dutifully written their Christmas letters to Santa every year. The excitement of Christmas morning always reached fever pitch with the discovery of the replies from Santa left with their gifts under the tree. I still don’t know if they ever guessed that the treasured letters were in fact written by me. Both Andrew and his sister carried on writing their wish lists every year, long after they had grown out of the belief itself.
It appeared that Andrew, at least, was still writing his, if only as an annual nod to a much-loved family tradition. This latest note filled me with shame when I read it. How could I have loved him so much for nineteen years and then rejected him completely just because he chose to love differently from me?
It was dark and bitterly cold as I exited the motorway service area to drive the last twenty-five miles or so before throwing myself on Andrew’s mercy. Snow had been falling steadily for a couple of hours, and I was putting my trust completely in the satnav.
Peter had informed me in his card that they were staying at his cottage over Christmas. He sent the address in the hope that I might send my son a Christmas card there. Never wanting to do things by half, here I was driving hundreds of miles to a cold and remote part of the North of England to surprise them, hoping for some kind of doorstep reunion .
I wasn’t normally one for impulsive actions, but we had closed the office for Christmas, and since Margaret’s death I did little to mark the holiday at home. I was very much looking forward to spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day with my daughter, Claire, and her family, but that was still a few days away. Rather than twiddling my thumbs at home, I had packed an overnight bag and pointed the car north in search of the son I had rejected some seven years ago. His letter to Santa had been the tipping point. For too long now I had procrastinated between my need for forgiveness and my fear of outright rejection. The letter had given me a foot in the door. Andrew clearly wanted a loving father. Now I had to convince him I could still be that man.
I left the A1 motorway and drove northwest through driving snow toward Gateshead. Then, skirting the western edge of Newcastle, I headed west along the A69. I was leaving the security of the cities behind and was very soon passing remote villages in the hills of what I assumed must be the northern reach of the Pennines—the “Spine of England.” The driving and the weather had occupied my mind until the satnav announced “Right turn ahead.” Then I knew I had only about five or six miles to go, and my apprehension welled up again…. What if he refused to speak to me?