Today, February 5, is a day I usually prefer to ignore if not simply forget. For on this day, twenty four years ago, my father died. Nearly a quarter of a century – I can’t believe it. I don’t usually talk about it and the details aren’t important. Let’s just say he died too young and I was also too young to lose my Dad. As an only child, his passing hit me in the guts and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t remember him in some way. He was the best of fathers and provided for me to the very best of his ability.

I tend to keep busy on February 5 so as not to dwell on the past. And today I’m focusing on the very near future – February 12 – for that’s the day I’ll be going up to Levin in the North Island to meet my Uncle Peter. Dad had two brothers, Peter and David (who died in 2006). Both of them remained in New Zealand, while Dad moved to Australia with my mother and my maternal grandparents.

I have only met Peter and David a handful of times in my life. Not even a handful really. I think I’ve only met Peter twice. I have no idea why he, David and Dad never seemed to be close. I never heard them speaking on the phone; I never saw a letter arrive from NZ for him. I guess maybe because Dad never returned to New Zealand after his stint in World War II. They simply lost contact. When Dad died, I had a hard time trying to track Peter and David down and they didn’t hop across the ditch for the funeral. David apparently hated Australia with a passion.

Anyway. I phoned Uncle Peter a couple of weeks ago. I am chairing a conference in Wellington and I thought to myself why not see if he would be interested in meeting me? I guess this is what happens when you have no relatives left except this one uncle who you barely know.

I wasn’t really expecting much enthusiasm because the couple of times I’ve met him and the few times we’ve spoken on the phone – well, he has never sounded all that interested. He did ring me though after the February earthquake last year and sounded a bit concerned. Mind you, my family has always been British stiff upper lip and all that. We’re not into Group Hugs or displays of overt affection.

But when I spoke with him, he not only sounded happy to hear from me, he was delighted I was coming up to see him and even offered for me to stay overnight with him and his wife. From memory, he’s four or six years younger than my father. Dad would now be close to 92 years old, so that would make him 88 or 86 years old. Surreal. Life passes by so friggin’ fast. I think I was about 10 years old when he last saw me.

What I’m curious about is how much like my father does he look? I never saw my father grow old, so I guess to some extent I’ll catch a glimpse of what he might have looked like when I meet Peter. Note to self: remember to get some uncle and niece photos.

He’ll be picking me up in Levin when I arrive. I doubt he’ll recognise me so I’d better do the spy thing and tell him: “I’ll be the one lurking around the station wearing a bright pink scarf and dark glasses”. God knows what the conversation will be about. You know, I don’t even know what he has done in his life. Guess this topic could be the start of our getting to know each other.

I have a blog dedicated to my father’s WWII exploits as a fighter pilot if you’re interested.

In memory of my father, Flt Lt James Evans Jenkins NZ402670.

He never returned to New Zealand to live after WWII but I know he missed NZ very much.