“I met my father for the first time after 27 years”
A young woman’s agonising search for her father
By Dale Andrews
For 27 years she carried that burden of not knowing who her father was. But the burden was lifted on April 19 when she finally set eyes on the man who was responsible for her coming into this world.
She is Rhaenae Waldron John, a mother of four, who now resides at Roxanne Burnham Gardens.
All her life Rheanae only knew her stepfather as father but deep down she knew he was not the biological link that many have come to cherish. She longed to find out.
It was not as if Rhaenae and her father were oceans apart—they both resided in Guyana all their lives-she was in Georgetown and he was in Berbice.
But yet that gap seemed like millions of miles apart.
Initially, her mother, Judith John, was not cooperative and for some strange reason she refused to disclose the identity of the man whose child she had mothered.
It was as if Judith John wanted to erase that part of her life even if it meant that her daughter would suffer the consequences.
But Rheanae persevered and was rewarded after 27 years when she finally met Rudolph Tappin, the Berbician with whom she immediately bonded.
Their first meeting was more than just a happy homecoming— it was like the happy ending to those fairy tales that always seem to bring a tear to the eye.
Rheanae’s resolve to seal that missing link in her life was ignited two years ago when for some strange reason she began feeling an emptiness inside, although she was happily married with four “beautiful children”.
“I felt something was missing in my life. When I got married I felt that my real father should have been there.”
It was not as if her stepfather was not nice to her. In fact he was and during the time she lived with him and her mother she never felt like an outsider.
In the early 1980s, Rhaenae’s mother, Judith John, who originated from the interior, had travelled to Berbice to work with a family there.
During her stay she met Rudolph Tappin and a brief relationship commenced. It led to John becoming pregnant. But before Tappin knew what he had done the young John left and went back to Georgetown with her unborn child.
From all appearances, she took that course of action because she found out that Tappin was already living with someone and an outside affair was not something that she wanted.
But she was determined to keep her baby despite the objections of her relatives. She gave birth to her first child, a daughter whom she named Rhaenae.
“I believe that she really did not want to talk about that part of her life. I never really asked her about it much. My father did not know she was pregnant. He later told me that he thought she had died or went back into the interior,” Rhaenae told Kaieteur News in an interview last week.
Rhaenae grew up accepting her fate until she was old enough to realise that something was missing.
Two months ago she confided her feelings of longing to meet her father, to her husband.
“I had that feeling about eight years ago that my father had died. I asked my mother where he was and his name and it was as if she did not want to talk, so I left it at that,” Rhaenae confided.
But a month ago, she again called her mother and almost demanded information on her father but again Judith John was reluctant to divulge.
Needless to say that Rhaenae was angry but she did not let her mother know that.
Instead she prayed to God that her mother would reveal that secret that was eating at her insides.
That proved to be the masterstroke, for one week later her mother had a change of heart and contacted her and gave her some information about her father.
“I was so excited. I was not too sure if he was alive or dead but I immediately went to the telephone directory. I was not sure what I would find out.”
Rhaenae’s search for her father had commenced in earnest but it was not straightforward, since her mother had only provided her with information about the last person her mother had lived with in Berbice.
And even so, the name she had was not the correct one. However the address she was given provided a clue for she eventually made contact with a woman who provided her with the right name of the persons her mother had stayed with.
Rhaenae went back to the telephone directory and she was soon rewarded when she made contact with a male.
“I asked him if they knew my father. Mind you, I only had his surname. He said he knew my father, that he was a relative. I asked him if my father was alive and he said yes. Then I told him that I would like to make contact with him. The man said that he did not have a telephone number for him but he would find out.”
Now Rhaenae did not leave her name nor did she say who she was but she anxiously awaited a reply from the contact.
“I purposely did not leave my name or anything. I wanted to speak to him first,” Rhaenae said.
She had found out that her father worked at the GUYSUCO, Blairmont Estate.
“I was so overjoyed to know that my father was still alive. I was thinking, though, that I might be rejected- that he would say he does not know my mother,” she said.
Rhaenae could not bear to wait so she tried to contact the man she knew was her father at his workplace via telephone.
Her efforts were unsuccessful though so she resorted to leaving messages although she still did not leave her name only saying that she was a relative who had not seen him for 27 years.
Tappin, meanwhile, was told by his workmates that a girl had called for him but he had no idea who this strange girl was nor what was in store for him.
He had also learnt from the relative who Rhaenae had initially contacted that the same girl was trying to make contact with him.
She continued to call the estate desperately hoping that she would soon get lucky, and she did.
She spoke to Tappin’s manager and impressed that she really wanted to make contact with him.
As she was speaking to the manager on the telephone, Tappin walked into the office.
“He told him (Tappin) that someone was on the phone to speak with him. I was nervous. I was just thinking ‘what would he say now that I’m talking to him.”
“As soon as he came on the phone, I said ‘hello’. I don’t know how to describe it. I did not put a face to my father but I always imagine that he was tall. I said ‘Hello’ and greeted him I asked him about his family and he said that they were okay. He asked who he was speaking to and I gave him my name and whose daughter I was.”
That must have sent tremors down Tappin’s spine for there was complete silence and although she could not see him, Rhaenae had a fair idea of the impact it had on her father.
“I felt it through the phone. I went on to tell him that I was married and had children but I guess he still was not switched back on,” Rhaenae stated.
When she asked him if he knew her mother by name, Tappin replied in the affirmative and it was only them that Rhaenae told him that she was Judith John’s eldest child and that she was his daughter.
Again there was a long silence and Rhaenae had to check to see if her father was still on the line.
“I said ‘hello, are you there? What are you going to say?”
According to Rhaenae, Tappin revealed to her that he had always had a feeling that her mother was pregnant when she left Berbice in 1983 after their brief relationship. He added that Judith John did not tell him anything.
“I explained to him what she told me about her reason for leaving Berbice and why she did not contact him. He said that it was possible that I was his daughter and he started crying. I started crying too. He told me he was shaking and he does not know what to tell me because of all these years,” Rhaenae explained.
She in turn told her father that she did not really want to know what had happened between him and her mother, all she wanted was for him to know her and her four children.
She also wanted them to meet as one happy family.
She arranged to have that meeting on Tappin’s day off April 19.
The wait was agonizingly long and Rhaenae kept asking herself what would happen when they finally meet.
“When I told my children about their grandfather, they were all excited because they do not have a grandfather from my husband’s side.”
Rhaenae took a day off from work to meet with her father and from the time she got up, she began her preparations for what would turn out to be an unforgettable day.
Even her husband was excited to see his father-in-law and although he did not take time off from work, he eventually returned home to keep the date.
Meanwhile, Rhaenae changed several outfits as she tried to look her best for the first meeting with her father.
Tappin was scheduled to arrive in the city from Berbice around eight o’clock that morning.
“It was as if I was meeting my husband for the first time. I put on makeup and took it off. It was one of those mornings when you want it to come quickly and then again you want it to go by slowly. I was watching the time anxiously.”
Then she received that long awaited telephone call from her father—he had arrived in the city and although Rhaenae had willed herself to remain calm, the hour had finally come and she could not hide her anxiety.
To make it easier for her Tappin described the clothes he was wearing, down to his hat, and Rhaenae started to picture what he would look like.
She however did not describe the clothes she was wearing since she wanted to pleasantly surprise him.
To add some spice to the event, her sister (mother’s daughter) accompanied her to take pictures of the moment.
“She too wanted to see what my father looked like.”
Rhaenae sat in a restaurant near the Berbice Bus Park and contacted her father on his cellular phone to tell him where she was.
Sitting by herself she was so nervous that she wanted to turn her head when her father walked into the restaurant.
But as Tappin got closer to her, she could not help but stand up and they finally hugged each other and Rhaenae summoned the courage to speak.
“I asked him, ‘now that you see me, what do you think?’ he said that from the time he saw me he knew I was his daughter,” Rhaenae recalled.
“My sister was videoing and she was happy for me. I can’t describe the feeling.”
Rhaenae took her father home to her anxiously waiting children, where they spent the entire day together.
“My children were waiting and as he entered the yard and saw them he started crying. He said that they resembled some of his children in Berbice. All the time I was crying too.”
Strangely enough, Rhaenae’s youngest daughter—a two year old— who would not normally go to strangers, took to her grandfather as if they had known each other all her life.
“She sat and played with her grandfather and she did not even cry.”
Rhaenae had cooked up a storm and after eating, she took her father back into the city and showed him her place of work so that he could always check her out whenever he came to town.
After an enjoyable day in which they shared how they had spent their lives during the 27 years, Tappin left around 19:00 hours for his home in Berbice, with the promise to always keep in touch with his new- found daughter.
Rhaenae even planned to travel to Berbice to meet her other siblings who she was told were also anxious to see her.
“He would call me every day, if not in the morning, it would be at nights. I spoke to my other siblings and they told me they are all excited about seeing me. I even spoke to his wife.”
She eventually told her mother about the meeting and Judith john expressed happiness for her daughter.
“I asked her if she would like to see him and at first she said no. but I really believe that she would someday. She saw the photos.”
She said that her father had asked her about her mother and she told him that Judith John was happily married.
“This whole thing has opened up a whole new world for me. I just have to soak it up and make all the connections for the missing 27 years of my life,” Rhaenae told Kaieteur News.