Christmas is always special but this one will be a real red letter day for Katherine Drake.
For the first time in more than a decade, the 23-year-old from Tennyson Road in Luton will be spending it with the father she adores but thought she might never see again.
Eyes shining with a combination of excitement and unshed tears, she said: “I still can’t believe it and I can’t wait.” She’s already bought him a ‘Dad’ ring and intended getting a commemorative tattoo but confessed: “I chickened out at the last moment because I’m scared of needles!”
Instead she’s written a heart-warming story that details her 13 year search for her dad, Peter Drake.
The two were estranged when Katherine’s parents split up and her German mother Regina took her back to Paderborn.
Katherine, who’s currently unemployed but hopes to find a job as a carer, said: “My time there was chaotic because we moved several times.
“When I was 19, I decided to make a fresh start in the UK. I was sofa-surfing between friends but all the time I was searching for my father, my rock, my one and only.”
She’d written to him as a child but he’d never got her letters. She also tried to trace him through the British Army in Germany but again drew a blank.
The pair made contact earlier this year after Katherine managed to trace him through Google and Facebook.
“It was so frustrating looking for him,” she admitted. “But I never lost hope, there was always that spark there.
“I even signed up to go on Jeremy Kyle – I would have done anything to try to find him.”
Then she and her cousin discovered his name on the electoral roll.
Katherine said: “He was living with a lady named Paula and when we Googled him, there was a message from her saying he was looking for me but had suffered a major heart attack.
“It had been posted some time ago so I didn’t know if he was alive or dead.”
Father and daughter finally made contact earlier this year.
Katherine recalled: “He phoned and said: ‘Is that my baby?’ and I started crying my eyes out.
“We were both so happy to be reunited.
“We talked for about an hour and he asked me what I’d been doing, if I was married and whether I had a driving licence – no to both.
“He came to Luton about three weeks later and I honestly thought I was going to faint.
“He hadn’t changed much although he’s got a bit chubbier. He always used to light up a room and he still does.
“He never used to cook and now he’s like the next Jamie Oliver.”
She added proudly: “We’ve got the same smile and the same shape eyes.”
Peter Drake invited his daughter to live with him and Paula at their home in Wolverhampton but she decided against it.
“I wanted to be independent and not depend on anyone,” she explained. “That’s why I moved to Luton Community Housing female hostel which is helping me become more self sufficient.”
But she’ll be travelling to Wolverhampton this week to spend a joyful festive season with her dad, his partner and her five children.
“This will be the best Christmas ever,” she beamed.