Friday, June 17, 2011

Thirty Years Later, I Bumped Into Him Unexpectantly

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and I was taking a break from the bathroom remodel project so we decided to head down south a ways to a local strawberry festival in progress. On the way, driving through one of those little sleepy towns along the river, we saw what looked to be some sort of Civil War re-enactment going on in the park so we decided to stop by on our way back home. We parked the car, cross the street and headed into the thick of things between a booth set up under a tent and a small building. That is when I saw my father.

My parents were divorced when I was six years old and it has been thirty years since I have last seen my father. (He is not to be confused with my dad whom my mom married when I was eight and has been the best father a person could ever have and whom I mention off and on in past blog posts.) My parents were young, my mom just months out of high school when I was born and my father just wasn't ready to be a family man. Neither was my mom but she didn't have a choice when he left one evening while my younger brother and I were still in bed. I understand and harbor no anger towards the man especially since I ended up getting the better end of the deal when my (step) dad walked into my life. Still, I haven't gone out of my way to make contact with my father mostly because I don't know what I would say. When all you have of someone are a few fuzzy memories and thirty years have passed, I guess I have just opted to let sleeping dogs lie.

So there I was following my daughter and found myself just five feet away from the man and it caught me by surprise. At the time, he was in a civil war  uniform manning a booth and showing another person a civil war era pistol and didn't yet see me so I opted to just keep following my daughter. We wandered around the park looking at things and took a wagon ride to the south side of the river to check out 'rebel' activities and eventually ended up back on the north side of the river near my father's booth. From across the forty feet or so that separated us, I turned my head to see him from a front view and he was sitting there looking at me. I kept rotating my head and focused on the people ahead of me.

Part of me felt that I should go up and introduce myself in case he doesn't recognize me. I had recognized him only because I had done an internet search on him not to long ago and seen pictures of him in his Union uniform for the very organization whose booth he was currently working. I doubt he has seen a recent picture of me. But another part of me didn't want to for reasons stated above. I just didn't know what I would say and that it was probably best to let sleeping dogs lie. Perhaps my half sister whom I have never met and whom may not know about me was there. Perhaps his current wife was there. Introducing my self for a family reunion after thirty years among a crowd of people just didn't seem right. And so I stood there with those forty feet between us and watched my daughter playing on the playground equipment and when it was time to go, I walked out the other end of the park back to my car.

When I got home I googled up a picture of him and reaffirmed that it was indeed he whom I saw in the park and then wrote this blog in attempts to clear the mess of thoughts now floating around in my head. I'm not sure I have been entirely successful at the latter. All I know is that even though I initially saw him out of the corner of my eye from five feet away, I felt that he was my father, the man responsible for bringing me into this world and that is a feeling I haven't felt before.

For now, the dog is still sleeping and I'm not sure I am ready to wake it up.

12 comments:

Vince said...

Bwahahaha, and where is your wife from again and how old is your daughter. We, indeed. Own up and use the correct pronoun. I, decided having seen the civil war guys to stop on the way back.

Vince said...

Sorry, I wrote that before I read the rest of the entry.

Jeff said...

Wow, I can imagine how that would open up a host of emotions! No need to force such a meeting, especially with your daughter with you.

On a lighter now, did the Confederates win the day's battle?

Ed said...

Vince - I've done that a time or two before.

Jeff - Actually the confederates were many and were firing lots of cannon shots. The Union side consisted of one guy with a musket down by the river. The others were all manning booths.

Ron said...

I can only imagine. Dad and I were such polar opposites, that I probably would have tried to avoid the whole thing too. I can't imagine what we'd talk about nowadays, aside from small-talk.

geri said...

And I was about to say I am surprised you would know what he looked like. What a day it was for you.

Murf said...

How nice that he decided after two kids that he wasn't ready. You did the right thing. He shouldn't get the privilege of knowing you now.

Ed said...

Ron - Yeah, I'm sure any conversation, even small talk would have been uncomfortable for both of us.

Geri - I think more than anything, I just felt it. When I walked by and only half saw him out of the corner of my eye, I knew. Weird how that can happen even after thirty years.

Murf - I have always tried to look at the bright side which is had he never left, I wouldn't have met my (step) dad and that really would be a tragedy. In fact, I am almost glad that he walked out completely allowing me to only have one dad growing up and not getting so confused as I have seen others in my situation be. I may get to know him someday but that day was just not the right time.

geri said...

Ed, I believe you. I have a friend who never met her father (he left when her mom was pregnant with her). But the first time she lay her eyes on him when she was in her mid-20s her heart just raced (she was a receptionist at a doctor's office long before we had computers) even before she knew what his name was. I think there is a connection somewhere.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

With your interest in genealogy, I can't imagine that you will be able to let that sleeping dog lie forever. That is a line that you really will be driven to follow, if only to trace the heritage and blood line.

Ed said...

3 Score - I have had communication with my paternal grandmother for many years now (she still came and saw me years after my father left) and have traced my blood line well beyond what she knew so I think I am still in good shape.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I would have done the same thing you did buddy. I can't imagine not trying to stay in touch with any of my six biologicals, even several of my ex step kids are on my Facebook or YM. There really is no excuse for his 30 years of ignoring you. You got this one exactly right.