I Found My Father


In 1950—a few days before Christmas, when I was six years old and living in Palma de Mallorca, Spain—I stood on our living room balcony and watched a ship leave the harbor. On board were my father and my brother. With me on the balcony were my mother and my sister. My father, a chemist of perfumes, was leaving to pursue opportunities in Uruguay, South America. He never returned to his children or his wife. Several years later, he and my mother were divorced.

In the years that followed, I rarely heard from him. In the meantime, my mother took us to her native country, France, where, in 1964, I was baptized a member of the Church. One year later I left France for Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In time, I served a mission, pursued graduate studies, and married.

Although my father had been almost completely out of my thoughts up to this point in my life, soon after my marriage a desire to do genealogical work for my ancestors made me think of him more and more. My patriarchal blessing told me that the time would come for me to do the work for my ancestors through genealogy and temple ordinances and that “means and opportunities” would be provided for me to accomplish that work.

After I had joined the Church, my brother, who had moved by then to France, had informed me that my father had accumulated facts, names, and dates on the Ainsa family. I resolved to write to my father, hoping to gain the necessary information to tie my genealogy from my grandparents to my paternal great-grandparents. I sent him a letter asking for details.

His reply consisted of a letter with only general information—and a request that I not bother him again. I felt resentful and angry, but I continued to pray that the “means and opportunities” necessary to do my family history work would be provided.

Sometime in March 1986, while we were living in Arizona, my father wrote again during a family crisis in which my mother was losing her sight. I was comforted by the care and concern that my mother’s second husband showed her and was again offended at my father’s critical letter. I sent it back to him and indicated that if I couldn’t receive pleasant letters instead of criticism, I would rather not communicate at all. Within three weeks, my father answered the letter, telling me, “Your brother will inform you of my death when it occurs. I don’t intend to write to you again.”

Nine months passed after I received the letter. Again I prayed about the admonition in my patriarchal blessing. The answer came unmistakably from the Spirit—I felt I should apologize to my father. I consequently composed a five-page letter to him that detailed the events of the year and that included an apology for my erratic behavior in my previous letter. When I mailed the letter, I prayed that the Lord would soften my father’s heart.

More than two months went by with no answer. Then one day a registered letter arrived. In it, my father asked, “Would you spare ten to twelve days during your upcoming summer vacation to visit me? If you accept, I will send you the money to help meet the cost of your expenses.”

I called my brother in Paris, France, who suggested that I wait a year, since my father had waited thirty-five years to try to see me. But as I prayed with my wife, Angie, we both thought of my patriarchal blessing and knew that my ancestors had waited long enough. I would go this year. My mother’s husband offered to pay for Angie’s trip, as we couldn’t afford it ourselves. My mother-in-law offered to care for our four children in her home in California.

Everything went according to schedule—everything, that is, except for feelings of apprehension. I started worrying that my father might criticize my mother, my wife, or me. He had done it before. How would I handle it this time?

Only when two dedicated home teachers—to whom I will be eternally grateful—came to our home a few days before our departure and gave us a priesthood blessing, did I feel at peace. They blessed my wife that she would be a source of inspiration to me, and they blessed me that I would be receptive to the promptings of the Spirit and would know what to say. I then knew that everything would be all right.

When we arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, I nervously looked for my father and saw him standing with his wife. He waved his cane at me in recognition. I waved back. Finally, the customs officer told me to proceed. As I walked through the customs door, my father eagerly came toward me. We embraced and kissed each other. As we left the airport terminal, the Spirit told me that the man walking beside me was a different person than I had imagined.

We spent the next few days getting acquainted with one another, laughing together, discovering what we had in common, and becoming friends. Angie and I asked him to record on tape his experiences in his youth and in courting my mother, and we discovered many things about his past. Then, one morning, Angie and I prayed that we would be blessed that day with the right words in asking my father to share with us the Ainsa genealogy and history.

It was my father’s eighty-first birthday. After opening presents at breakfast, he excused himself and came back with an object hidden underneath a towel. He handed me a box and said, “This is the least I can do after all these years. Somehow I feel that I have to make it up to you.” Inside the box was a beautiful watch.

Thirty minutes later, as we were upstairs sitting around my father’s oak desk, I inserted a blank tape into the cassette recorder and asked him to tell me about my ancestors. He talked for a few minutes, then stopped. “It’s a waste,” he said.

I panicked. “Lord, please help me,” I prayed. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for years.” Then I asked my father, “Why do you say it is a waste?”

“Because I have it in print,” he replied. My heart began to beat faster as he reached for a drawer in his desk, opened it, pulled out a folder, and handed me a sheet of paper with a list of names on it. “These are your ancestors on my father’s side,” he said, “and you’re welcome to this list.” I glanced quickly through it; it contained the names of his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, as well as those of distant relatives.

“What about your mother? Have you compiled a list on her side of the family?” I asked, my voice trembling.

“Your grandmother’s lineage is not important,” he muttered, brushing aside my inquiry. I replied that were it not for my grandmother, he wouldn’t be here, to which my father said, “Well, if it is that important to you, you can have it.” With that, he gave me an envelope containing names scribbled on several sheets of paper and said, “As a matter of fact, you might as well have everything.” He placed the folder in my hand.

I opened it and, as tears began to blur my vision, I read through several lists of names of distant relatives. Inside were pictures of my grandmother, my grandfather, and others. I wept openly. During the past twenty-one years, I had prayed on many occasions for this day. The Lord had heard my requests and had answered them at the appropriate time.

“Why are you crying?” my father asked.

“Because I am happy to be here,” I said.

At that moment, he, too, began to cry. He leaned his head on my shoulder and took my hand between his. “I am sorry,” he said. “I am sorry for what I did. I was wrong. I was never a father to you. During all those years, I never bothered to find out who you were. Will you ever forgive me?”

“Of course I forgive you—it is forgiven and forgotten,” I uttered between sobs. As I embraced him, the Spirit whispered softly, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10). We were at peace. All the years of separation, loneliness, and turmoil melted away. He knew who I was. He had found a son. And I had finally found my father.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Snow

Serge M. Ainsa is a member of the Willow Creek Ward, Prescott Arizona Stake.