Alex Kane: An open letter to my newborn son
The writer and commentator tells baby Indy Kane how he wept with joy when he was born, his regret that he'll never meet his adoptive grandparents, and why his arrival made him long to find out about his own birth parents.
This letter is just one item from a pile of stuff I store in a box in my study. You’ve now reached the point at which I’d like you to read it and your mum will have left you alone with it. It was written on July 31, 2017.
You’re 12 days old and I’m still staring at you in awe; using every gurgle, grunt, squeak, snort and rustle from the Moses basket as an excuse to pick you up for yet another snuggle.
You were placed in my arms at 11.15am on July 19 and I fell in love at first sight. It didn’t matter that you were a crumpled mess (it took a couple of days before you began to fill out and pink up), you were still breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly beautiful.
And, yep, I wept; wept without embarrassment. You’ll probably be surprised to hear that, because, as you’ll have discovered by the time you read this piece, I rarely cry. But you were worth a waterfall of love in those first few minutes.
It took us a while to settle on your name. I had been playing around with Sherlock, Happenstance, Copernicus and Mycroft, but your mum gave me that look she gives at certain moments (and by now you’ll know exactly what I mean) and suggested Herbie.
But Herbie, even though I liked it, didn’t quite do it for me. We both liked Independence — and it went well with the Liberty in your sister’s name — as well as Atticus, a character we both loved from To Kill A Mockingbird. So that’s how you ended up as Indy (Independence) Atticus Kane-Dunn.
What you will also have discovered is how wonderful your mum is. I had reconciled myself to a solitary life of Holmes, newspapers, politics and Pimms; and I had no problem with that. I didn’t expect to find my soulmate: indeed, I was pretty sure that such a person didn’t exist.
I didn’t expect to be a dad either, and again consoled myself with the fact that I wouldn’t have to endure the sleepless nights and relentless demands. I was an island.
Then, at the age of 45, I met your mum. She changed everything, stood everything in my life upon its head and gave me purpose and happiness.
Extraordinarily, she was 24 years younger and yet blessed with maturity and wisdom. For us there was no gap. Within months of meeting we knew that we wanted to be together.
We also knew that we wanted children, something that turned out to be far more difficult than we could have imagined. We endured four miscarriages: horrible, soul-destroying experiences. Four little heartbeats on a scan one day and then gone a few weeks later.
You and Lilah-Liberty are a triumph of love and determination over what seemed to be serial tragedy. And you have your mum to thank for that, because she bore the brunt of the emotional and physical toll. She has never allowed barriers to become insurmountable obstacles.
More than that, though, she always had my hand and my back during my bouts of depression and the nightmares I have lived with since my time in an orphanage. You are blessed to have her.
Your sisters Megan and Lilah-Liberty changed your first nappy, during which you managed to both pee and poo on them.
They spent those first 12 days fighting over which of them would hold you — and for how long. They couldn’t wait to show you off to their friends and wheel you in the pram. Again — and yes, I’m pretty sure you’ll have your squabbles and tantrums over the years — you are blessed to have them in your life.
They are entirely different characters (partly to do with the 11 years between them), but they both have that inner goodness inherited from their mum. I have no doubt that they will always be there for you. You’re lucky, Indy. I didn’t have brothers and sisters, so I envy you. Keep them on side.
And what about me? Well, people told me I was mad having Lilah-Liberty at 54 and you at 61. I didn’t give a damn what they thought. I was placed in an orphanage when I was four and, two years later, adopted by parents in late middle age. They were wonderful. They gave me time, love, confidence, patience and security. They were there when I needed them.
A few months after Lilah-Liberty was born I gave up full-time work so that I could be with her. I took a financial hit but gained an emotional high.
I took her to school or picked her up every day. Played with her. Talked to her. Danced in the rain with her. Planted a garden with her. Took her to the BBC with me when Kerri was busy. Joined a Laurel And Hardy society with her. Tweeted and wrote about her. And sang her to sleep with Bring Me Sunshine.
Wonderful, wonderful times, all of which I’ll be doing with you. I’ll be a lot older than most dads — and will be mistaken for your grandfather. So what, Indy? All that matters is the love I have for you and my determination to be there for you.
In the box in which you’ll find this article you’ll also find stuff about Sam and Adelaide, my adoptive parents. I wish they had lived to see you. And I wish you had been able to talk to them.
They were extraordinary people who demonstrated extraordinary courage and love in order to rescue a lonely, terrified boy.
On the day that you were born someone mentioned that you looked like a “mini-Alex, the spit of his dad”.
That got me to thinking about August 13, 1955, the day I was born. I wonder if someone looked at me in the same way and said the same thing to my birth parents?
It also made me wonder whether I should do what I have resisted doing my entire adult life — finding out about those parents. In the same way that you and Lilah-Liberty exist because of me and Kerri, I exist because of them.
I haven’t made the final decision about it yet, but since time isn’t on my side it might be the right time to answer the questions which have followed me for decades.
When you and Lilah-Liberty were born I had established a reasonably high profile and like to think that I had earned respect from my peers. But for most of my life I suffered from depression, lack of confidence and chronic insecurity.
Your mum’s love helped me deal with a lot of my ‘baggage’ — but it still haunted me, particularly the recurrent nightmares.
I wonder if I’m strong enough now to get answers to those questions. If so, you’ll find the answers in the box. If not, maybe you and your sisters could find those answers?
I don’t know what age you will be when you read this, although you’ll probably be in your late teens. So, let me give you some advice. Don’t ever be afraid to stand alone in a crowd. Value knowledge more than opinion. Value books more than computer games. Value love more than income. Refuse to see the world in black and white.
Don’t dismiss people because of their background or profession, and similarly, don’t elevate them because of it. Don’t bear grudges. Offer help before it’s asked for.
You’ve started gurgling again, so here’s my excuse to stop this letter. I love you very much, Indy. Having you, your mum, Megan and Lilah-Liberty in my life has been the best thing to have happened to me.
All I can hope is that, after our years together, you’ll be able to say the same of me and remember me with love.
Take care, Alex
PS: Look after my Sherlock Holmes collection.