’I reunited my boyfriend with his Dad’
Trish Lee reveals why 2009 is such a special year for her partner thanks to her, he'll be spending it getting to know his father. In December 2007, Trish Lee took her boyfriend, Matt Sadler, to her parents' house for a Christmas Day with all the trimmings. Little did she know, however, that her good will would see the start of a personal quest to reunite Matt with his father after more than 25 years apart.
Trish's crusade began when she asked her 29-year-old boyfriend, who she lives with in Lancaster, about his family on the drive to her parents' on Christmas Eve. "Whenever I asked him about his dad, he would just go quiet," says student advisor Trish, 29. There was never a good time to talk about it".
Matt last saw his father when he was a few years old before he moved to Germany with his mother and stepfather. "He never knew anything about his dad other than his name and a rough idea of where he lived in south-east London 27 years ago," explains Trish. "Matt's mum rarely spoke of him, so I asked Matt if he'd ever tried to track him down. He said he didn't know where to start." This was all Trish needed to appoint herself as detective and find Matt's father.
"As soon as I returned to work in the New Year, I began searching on the internet. Armed with only a name - John Sadler and knowing Matt spent his first few years in Greenwich, south-east London, I trawled through websites, posting messages and asking questions." says Trish. "Eventually, I came to 192.com, which allowed me to search for John using my basic information."
Launched more than ten years ago, 192.com has helped to reunite thousands of friends and family and on this website Trish found her key piece in the puzzle - Matt's parents' marriage certificate. It provided more information about John, most importantly his middle name and date of birth. Trish then scoured the electoral roles until she stumbled upon something crucial - Matt's father had never moved; he was still living in Greenwich.
"I couldn't believe it" says Trish. "As soon as I told Matt, we decided to write to him. We contacted the Salvation Army for advice and then carefully composed a letter. We explained that Matt didn't have any expectations from him and gave him a get-out option, saying, "You might have moved on; have a new family; be the wrong person; or maybe you're just not interested, but if you are Matt's father then please let us know so we can stop searching." They waited anxiously for a reply for days, but heard nothing.
"Matt was trying to play it cool," says Trish. "But he would check the post three times a day, just in case he missed something. It wasn't until the following week that I remembered we had included Matt's email address on the letter." Trish promptly checked the email account and saw the response they'd been waiting for - and it was sent the day after they had posted the letter.
"The email was sent by John's friend. He insisted that John was pleased to receive our letter and said we should phone him straightaway. At that point, I realised John not only wanted to know Matt but he'd told a friend about him, too. It was a great step." Matt was overwhelmed and the dream of speaking to his father was fast approaching.
That evening, Matt made the phone call he'd been waiting for all his life. "He's never really been an emotional guy," says Trish. "He used to be in the army and is a typical bloke in many respects, but when he spoke to his dad for the first time, the smile on his face was just amazing. He was grinning from ear to ear and he couldn't stop!".
Soon after, Matt travelled to London with Trish to meet his father. "All the way there he was saying, 'I'm not nervous, but what do I do? Do I call him Dad?'".
When they finally came face to face, John introduced Matt to his friends, saying, "This is Matthew, this is my boy," and the bond between father and son quickly developed.
Also, Matt had never seen pictures of his father's relatives and was astounded when John presented him with old photos of Matt as a toddler with his dad and his aunt John's sister, and his paternal grandparents. A whole new world was opening up to him.
Trish and Matt returned from the reunion happy and excited. "We phoned John to let him know we'd arrived home and Matt ended the call with, 'Okay, see you later, Dad,' and John replied, 'See you, son...'".
Trish hasn't stopped there, though, she's continued her detective work and has a talent for it, too, after reuniting friends with their long-lost relatives or birth parents. "I'm like a dog with a bone," she says. "I'll never leave it" And it's a good thing too as, thanks to her, Matt is looking forward to spending the New Year getting to know his father.
Source: Story featured in Hello! magazine 13th January 2009