38 years. Almost 4 decades. I hadn't seen my father in person in about 38 years, when he exited my life. And although he has not been in my life in any significant way for nearly four decades, his absence has shaped me into the man I am today. I used that absence as motivation for success.
Six years ago, he reached out after the birth of my daughter. Now, we have what I call a textual relationship. We've spoken on the phone a couple of times, and we text a few times a year. That's it. I haven't wanted a more meaningful relationship with him since we reconnected.
But, my father reached out to me recently, informing me he would be in town for a day. He was hoping to see me. So, I was faced with that eternal question: What do you do when your father who you haven't seen in some 38 years asks to see you?
As I debated whether or not to meet him, I realized curiosity was getting the best of me. Seeing him in person might answer some questions I have. Are there things he says or behavioral tics or expressions that we share? Was there something he needed to discuss with me in person as opposed to a phone call? I felt the need to find out, so I accepted his request to meet.
He texted me telling me he was free to meet. I thought about what I would say to him on the way to this meeting, but does anything really prepare you for a moment like this? I found him waiting for me on 125th St. I didn't see him at first, but when I did, it was unmistakable. I do look like him. After making eye contact, I could see his eyes welling up. We greeted and embraced. I wanted to know what that felt like. And it felt like the rest of our nearly 30 minutes together - awkward. We talked, sharing some stories about our children. He asked me some questions about some of the projects I've worked on over the last few years. He asked to take a photo with me. I thought he might. I said yes, thinking really of sharing the photo with my daughter.
Nearly an hour after this meeting with my father, I was walking home with my daughter. As she joyously recounted her day at school, she looked at me, and asked if I was o.k. She's always been observant. I mentioned that I saw my father. She knows enough of the history between my father and me to be surprised by that revelation. "What was that like, Daddy?" I told her it felt odd, and I'd need to think about it some more. "Was it nice to see him?" I replied, "In some ways it was." "How did he feel seeing you, Daddy?" Honestly, I wasn't expecting this question. I shared with my daughter that it was clearly an emotional situation for my father as his eyes were often full of tears. Then, I realized that this amazingly mature conversation I was having with my six-year-old daughter was the reason why I saw my father that day. I needed to share this experience with her and continue to show her humanity warts and all.
And so, I met my father, again. Yeah, I know. That sounds weird, but I'm not sure there's another way for me to explain this. I still don't know him well. Didn't really gain insight. But, at least, I've seen my father face-to-face again. It could easily be the last time we ever see each other, but at least I have this memory now. I continue to sort through my emotions, partly because I am feeling ambivalence more than anything else. Is that wrong? Do I need to forgive him for his impactful past transgressions? Or can I maintain this relationship as is, with us being connected, but not bonded? I continue to process.