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I found my son on Facebook!

After 33 years, Michael Butwell had no idea he'd find his son on Facebook.

Michael Butwell, 68, Deception Bay, Qld

Wiping sweat off my brow, I took in the Aussie heat. 'This is it, boys,' I smiled. 'The land of opportunity.'

It was 1979 and I'd just arrived in Brisbane from Portsmouth, England, with my two sons, Michael, six, and Kurt, three, from a previous relationship.

I was excited but a part of me was missing. I'd had another son, Darren, 14, with my first wife, Pauline.

We'd been close when he was young but when he turned eight, Pauline and Darren had moved away and we'd lost touch.

Now I was in Australia, my family kept me updated. One night, I rang my brother Gerrald in England. 'Darren's joined the army,' he said. I gasped as I realised Darren would be just 16 years old.

As the years passed, Gerrald heard less about Darren and then nothing at all. I was heartbroken.

Years later I met Louise, 29. 'Your boys are terrific,' she said after meeting Kurt and Michael. 'I have another son in England,' I said. 'But I don't know where he is.'

'You'll find him,' she said.

That year, I contacted the UK Salvation Army to find Darren. After an agonising nine months, the news wasn't good. 'We can't find him,' they said. I was devastated.

Two years later, on Valentine's Day, 1989, Louise and I married.

'I wish he was here,' I sighed, thinking about Darren.

I searched for Darren on various ancestry websites. Please let him be here, I thought. But sadly, each Darren Butwell I uncovered wasn't my son.

I tried to get on with life but Louise could tell I thought of him often. 'Let's visit England and search for Darren ourselves,' she said. 'He could be anywhere!' I exclaimed. But I had to try.

In October 2007 we arrived in England and saw Gerrald. It had been 33 years since I'd last seen Darren. He'd now be 41.

'Once Darren had joined the army, everyone lost touch with him,' Gerrald told me.

In England, I tried everything - from phone books to electoral rolls - but I couldn't find Darren.

'I've lost him forever,' I cried to Louise. 'Don't give up hope,' she comforted.

Back home in April 2008, Kurt came bursting through the door. 'Dad, I think I've found Darren on Facebook!' he cried.

My heart skipped a beat, but I was a bit confused. 'What's Facebook?' I asked and Kurt explained how the social-networking website worked.

'I got a friend request from a Darren Butwell,' he said. 'You have to sign up and reply.' I was willing to give anything a go so I quickly set up a profile.

Suddenly I was nervous. What if he wants nothing to do with me? I panicked. I pushed the thought away. I'd come this far.

On Facebook, I scrolled down the list of Darren Butwells. 'That's him,' Kurt said, pointing to one picture. There was no mistaking Darren's beaming smile.

Nervously, I clicked on 'Send Friend Request' and typed a message. Is your Mum's name Pauline and were you born on May 16, 1965? I wrote.

A simple click of the send button could reunite me with my son after 35 painful years.

I just hoped Darren would let me be the father I'd always wanted to be and, together, we could make up for lost time.

facebook sonDarren Butwell, 44, Portsmouth, UK

Staring at the computer, I couldn't believe my eyes. 'Look!' I said to my wife Janice, 40. 'Michael Butwell,' she read. 'I think it's my dad,' I told her but there was no photo on the profile.

A few days earlier I had come across a Kurt Butwell on Facebook and he had a striking resemblance to my family. Going out on a limb, I requested him as a friend.

Now there was a message from Michael Butwell. 'I don't believe it,' Janice cried, amazed.

It hadn't been easy growing up without Dad but I'd got on with life. I'd considered trying to find him but with Janice and my four daughters, Louise, 22, Lucy, 18, Julia, 17, and Jasmine, 13, I had my own family to think about.

I knew he had moved to Australia but that wasn't much to go on.

Excited by the thought of finding my family, I eagerly typed back. Are you who I think you are? I wrote, accepting his friend request.

The next day, I got a reply. Yes Darren, I'm your father, it read.

I was thrilled. I hadn't seen Dad for 35 years and there was so much I wanted to tell him.

Holding back tears, I wrote back. Wow! That's great! Can I send you an email?

I couldn't believe I'd found my dad on Facebook.

That night, I told my daughters what had happened. 'We have a grandad in Australia?' Lucy beamed. 'Cool!' they all cheered.

It was no wonder they were so excited. We had discussed moving to Australia but now we had family there, it was even more appealing.

The next day, Dad and I started emailing each other. I've been looking for you for years, Dad typed.

I moved away for work, I replied. I'm an aero engineer.

When I told Dad about my family I could tell he was moved. For 22 years I never knew I was a grandfather! he wrote, thrilled with the news.

Our emails soon turned to phone calls and then we used Skype, which allowed us to make video calls over the internet.

Dad looked older but I still recognised his smile. As we got chatting, it felt so comfortable.

'I'm glad we found each other, Dad,' I choked.

'I just wish it had happened sooner,' he said. Despite having not seen Dad for 35 years I had never stopped loving him.

Afterwards, we all started talking over the internet. 'Do you go to the beach every day, Grandad?' the girls asked Dad. 'Is it always sunny?'

'You'll have to come and find out,' he chuckled.

We decided to travel to Australia for Christmas to meet my family. 'I can't wait,' Dad smiled.

Arriving on December 18, 2008, I walked up to my Dad for the first time in decades. 'Give us a hug,' he smiled, wrapping his arms around me.

'It's been a while,' I laughed.

But it was as though we'd never been apart.

When I met Kurt and Michael, we quickly developed a typical brotherly bond. 'Now I've got an older brother to get into trouble,' Michael joked.

We got to know each other as we explored Australia. We went to the beach and wildlife parks and had picnics at Mount Tamborine.

On Christmas Day, we spent it together as a family for the first time. 'To family!' Dad said, raising his glass.

'To family,' we cheered.

It was heartbreaking having to go home. Everyone was close to tears. 'We love you Grandad,' Julia cried into Dad's chest.

'I'll miss you,' he cried.

'We'll be back,' I promised, hugging him tightly.

Now, back in Portsmouth, it's been six months since we visited Australia and we hope to return for good.

It was great all of us being together and we'll continue chatting over the net – after all that's how we reunited.

I clicked on Facebook to request a friend but instead I found a family.

For information on how to find long-lost family and friends, click here.

Have you been reunited with a loved one? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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