`There wasn't a day when I didn't ask myself: How could you give your son away?'

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The Independent Online
Last Thursday, news broke in The Independent of Clare Short's reunion with the son she gave up for adoption 31 years ago. The joy of that moment was shared by Andrew Moss, the boy's father, but it meant, too, that he and his family were besieged by the media.

He asked The Independent to shield his family from the unwanted attention for a few days. While we did he told us his own story. This is it.

As baggage goes, it could not have been heavier. For Andrew Moss, it weighed heavy indeed, and it hung around his neck for more than 20 years.

It was no more than a holdall, but its contents dragged down his life, his moods; it distorted the person he planned to be and destroyed the future he believed he had.

It contained 12 nappies and a baby bath belonging to his son before, after six weeks, he gave him away. This was the baby that was presented last week as Clare Short's long-lost son, a son who was secretly mourned over each day by his mother and father.

On Saturday, that baby, now 31-year-old Toby Graham, met Andrew Moss for only the second time - a father and son re-union that Mr Moss believed would never happen.

The two met at a railway station and spent the morning together before travelling to a hotel where Toby, a City lawyer, met his half-brothers, Edward, eight, and Benjamin, three, for the first time.

They formed a bond almost immediately, to the relief of Mr Moss, 54, and his wife of 17 years, Aileen, 47. But there was clearly much for Mr Moss to deal with.

"I put Toby's things - the nappies and the bath - in a bag and I kept them with me for over 20 years. I couldn't throw them away," he said.

"There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't ask myself, `How could you do that? How could you give your son away?'"

Mr Moss was 23 and Ms Short was 18 when, at Keele University, she became pregnant. They left the university and moved to Leeds where Ms Short took a year out while Mr Moss studied philosophy.

"We were both surviving on only my grant and we were living in these disgusting digs in Chapeltown," said Mr Moss. "We both had high hopes for the future - I wanted to be a drummer in a rock 'n' roll band. We were young and foolish, but more than anything we were vain and selfish. I remember the start of day we gave up the baby. We were numb. Silent. I have asked myself a million times how I could have done it but I just can't answer the question. As I say, I can remember the start of the day, but I can't remember the end of it."

Four weeks ago Mr Moss took a call from Ms Short, to whom he was married for seven years during the Sixties, telling him that Toby - originally named Benjamin - had made contact. But in the intervening years, there had been anguish and depression and an overriding sense of guilt.

Mrs Moss explained: "I knew just after I met Andrew that there was this great thing weighing him down.

"He is a good person but he spent so much time punishing himself. He kept the baby's things and couldn't throw them out until a few years ago when I told him to let them go.

"Rediscovering Toby has meant so much to both of us. He is a wonderful man, so like his father, and we are both very proud of him."

The guilt of letting his first child go prevented Mr Moss from having more children until late in life. "I didn't think I would make a good father - how could I be? I gave my first child away," he said.

But, eventually, Edward and Benjamin were born, two bright, happy and intelligent boys in whom Mr Moss has been able to invest years of pent- up love. "He is a wonderful father," said Mrs Moss.

The naming of the second child as Benjamin has been picked upon cynically by some newspapers but even in that, there was an attempt to purge feelings of guilt.

"Naming our second child Benjamin was an explicit and calculated and real attempt to try to make amends for what I had done," said Mr Moss. "With Aileen's agreement, I wanted to call this child Benjamin and give him the love and do all the things for him that I hadn't done for the first Benjamin. I had no idea that, three years later, the first Benjamin would come along."

Toby was brought up by John Graham, a company director, and his wife, Maureen in Cheshire.

"Toby is such a lovely boy," said Mr Moss. "We met for the first time at York station. We hadn't arranged a specific place and at first I thought he hadn't turned up, so I called Aileen, and then Toby thought I hadn't turned up, so he called her, and eventually we got together.

"We walked and talked and popped into the Three Horseshoes in Great Ouseburn for a pint and I just wanted to hold his hand. I am incredibly proud of him and I just want to do so much for him. Love is not finite; it is infinitely divisible and I have so much for him.

"He is a real credit to Mr and Mrs Graham. I can't thank them enough for what they have done. It sounds as though they were wonderful parents."

There is gratitude, too, for Toby's wife, Annie, and excitement over his two daughters, Alice, aged two, and Sophie, one.

"I have seen pictures of them and they look wonderful," said Mr Moss. "I am looking forward to meeting them, but it all has to be done patiently."

Mr Moss knows that too much must not be attempted too soon and there is an anxiety that people's feelings should not be trodden upon. But, gradually, things are working out.

"I was a little worried about how my boys would react when I introduced them to Toby," said Mr Moss. "But Edward just stepped forward and gave him a great big hug."

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