Last year on Father’s Day, I wrote about traveling to Japan to meet my father for the first time. We had four long visits. I grew to like this man who only knew me as an infant. He was kind to me. He was quietly funny. He had a gentle spirit. We sat over coffee in our first meeting as he asked and answered questions. He took me to a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant and introduced me to a variety of foods I had never tried. He explained the pouring of fine tea as a waiter ceremoniously poured my tea. He took me on a tour of Tokyo, pointing out historical spots and their significance. He was enjoying teaching me things. Finally, during our last farewell, he gave me a hug that became strong and extended—and fatherly. I had made a new friend, who happened to be my father. Having met him and having reconnected with my mother’s family during that 2008 visit, I knew my life had changed and visiting Japan periodically was now a part of my life.
What I didn’t share last year was what happened after the visit. Shortly after returning home, I wrote my father an email sharing how happy I was to have met him and asked to see him again during a future visit to Japan. I received a cryptic email back telling me to stay away forever. I re-lived that last moment when he had given me a big smile and the strong fatherly hug. I kept re-living that last moment and was confused. “Go away? Go away? But I just met you!” rang in my head, and I cried, hard.
He and I had communicated by email for months before my trip to meet him. I had become familiar with my father’s writing style. I knew he had not written this harsh email. I told myself, he isn’t telling me to go away, someone else is. Eventually, I thought, “why didn’t he just write me back himself?” He knew my phone number and my email. Why wouldn’t he reach out? I wrote a long letter and mailed it. In that letter, I offered to be just a friend’s daughter and see him maybe once a year. I wanted so much to have some connection, I didn’t care what we called it. I mailed the letter. But, I knew I’d never hear back.
My father should now be about 89 years old … or deceased. I don’t know. Shortly after mailing that letter, I realized I had to let him live out his life with those who had cared for him the past 50 years, I not being one of them.
Sometimes I think of my father. I have fond memories of that one visit and I enjoy those memories. I could have spent a lot more energy trying to change the outcome, but that would have hurt. It may have interfered with my happy life that I have now, not just his.
Instead, I have a great life today, even without a father. Top of my list are my saint of a husband, Jeff and my recovered son, Kevin, who is thriving. After that is my ability to do things usually only much younger people do such as skiing and surfing. And while enjoying life to the fullest, I can still have fond memories of a man who is my father, even if I have no contact with him.
I really am the luckiest girl in the world, with or without a father.
TODAY’S HOW TO
I didn’t get to choose everything that happened to me. I would like to have a father I could call sometimes. I’m happy for people who have loving fathers who have been an integral part of their lives, teaching, nurturing, mentoring. But, not everyone has a father like that, and I am one of them. If I did have a father who I could turn to, I’d appreciate him very much.
So on this Father’s Day, I think I’ll appreciate what I have and celebrate the few fond memories I do have of my father.