My father and I met for the very first time when I was 20.
Through a lens of each parent, I have pieced together by now that in their own minds they each felt the other partner left the relationship first.
I'm not casting recriminations, and perhaps one day it would be interesting for me to write down my perception of each perspective. But today is not that day. Today I will share a sliver of my own perspective.
So when I reached out to this unknown entity, my father, initially it was partly because the summer before his father (my grandfather) had passed away. I decided after reading the obituary that this was not how I wanted to meet my father, but I had been composing a letter to him for more than seven years and I didn't want to have the stress of this major life thing on top of school stress so I composed and waited until May to send it.
Seven years I had been starting letters to him "Dear Dad, My name is Jessica" because I thought it was tragic that a daughter might have to introduce herself to her father. I even thought that should be the title of my first book. Maybe it will become something one day, because it seems like (sadly) a more common experience than not in this day and age that a family is divided by divorce or something. All I mean really is that my experience is not unique, and therefore relatable. Perhaps one day something I write about my experience might comfort someone else in a similar situation...I would like that.
On some very deep level, irrational or not, his absence made me question my own worth or value. Even the fact that I had to initiate contact, be the brave one to put my heart on the line and risk rejection, still leaves scars on my self-worth. I wish it wasn't the case, but I'm afraid it runs deeper than my awareness somehow can. So my first seven years of letters were often attempts to summarize my self in ways that might intrigue him, convince him, sell him on the idea of me. I would start, and then give up because maybe he's right, maybe I'm not worth the reaching out, the time and effort, getting to know. Maybe he's happy and content and I'm a disruption. Also writing to him was an outlet for me when I was fighting with my mother. I wrote to him when I needed an ally or a friend or just someone to listen to my side.
In the end it was a college professor who unexpectedly advised me on the nature of the letter I was trying to write. He heard all the anguish of trying to squeeze 20 years of me-hood into a convincing letter, and he made a suggestion that I am quite sure facillitated sending the first one that year. He said, "You know you could start with just an invitation to correspond, maybe keep it short and see how he responds..." Mr. Sageng, I will forever be grateful to you for your insight that day. The letter I ended up sending was so short...and it said something to the effect of 'please respond to this either way because not knowing is worse than rejection.'
We have had our ups and downs, but I am a lucky one because he welcomed me into his life enthusiastically. In fact, so much so I withdrew a bit because it was overwhelming.
My graduation from college was dwarfed by the fact that it was the first time in my life (and so far the only occasion) where I posed for a picture with both of my parents. I'm afraid that in every picture I was weeping, because of the enormity of this simple fact. I imagine if I have a wedding ever that might be the second time in my life they might both pose with me for a photograph...
I will surely talk more about those intense seven years (or more) before sending my invitation to correspond and the first few years of building a relationship out of nothingness, but for now I fast forward.
We've been 'friends' now for almost 17 years. Father's day weekend is the anniversary of our first face to face meeting. My letter to him was postmarked (he told me) on his father's birthday. Pretty wild coincidence.
This weekend he's flying here for a visit from the east coast, and among many fun things we have planned he is treating me to a long time dream-come-true birthday hang gliding adventure (!) on Sunday. Tandem flight from 3500 feet...I'm so excited!! It will be such a thing to share with this man, this friend I have come to love and forgive, this flawed father of mine. A memory to cherish for a lifetime. Nothing can replace those formative years, but now we are making new memories that mean a lot...
Thank you for visiting!
The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.
Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...
And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...