Do what scares you most

Two years ago I saw my dad – for the first time in 29 years. Our paths had separated when I was nine years old and my parents got a divorce. It was a sudden end to the life I had known. Before I realized my dad was gone. My mom, my siblings and I moved away to live with our new stepfather. I never heard from my dad again. It took me 29 years to find the courage to write to him.

29 years spent wondering what he might look like now, how he was doing, whether he was thinking of us at all. 29 years being scared of contacting him and possibly facing rejection.

And then one day I did it.

I took a pen, a piece of paper, wrote a one-page letter and sent if off to the address I had researched a few years back. The message, in a nutshell, was: 29 years is a long time, too long, for a father and a child not to see each other. How about we meet and catch up?

During the next few days I contemplated various outcomes, ranging from no response at all, to an answer saying ‘thanks, but no thanks’, to no response at all.

Three weeks later I found a letter in my mailbox. At first I didn’t think much of it. I thought it to be from a treasured friend of mine who stoically keeps handwriting letters rather than updating Facebook or texting through WhatsApp. I turned it over for confirmation – and almost dropped it.

15 minutes and two strong drinks later I opened it.

The one option I had not dared to think of for fear of disappointment was a gentle and kind letter, one full of relief and gratitude and joy. I held it in my hands.

Three weeks and two letters later we had agreed on a day and place to meet.

I was overjoyed and terrified. My brain took refuge in thinking only one step ahead at a time. Book the flight. Book the train. Book the cab. Board the plan. Take the train. Get the cab. The last few meters to his apartment block I walked in slow motion, counting down the house numbers. Then I stood paralyzed. Staring at his name on the bell board.

Five minutes passed. I knew that once I pressed this button, the story would unfold, all those images and moments that I would later replay in my head. Whatever followed now I would not be able to erase from my memory. I was scared out of my depth.

I rang.

The world’s steepest five flights of stairs followed, every step taking me closer to seeing my father’s face, to meeting his eyes, to recognizing or not recognizing him.

I could see the open door.

I don’t remember the first moment I saw him. My memory kicks back in when we’re holding each other, crying. We talked for seven hours straight.

Thinking back I’m still in awe about the wondrous day we had. I didn’t just see my dad again. I re-encountered a part of myself that had gone missing with him. There is a side to him that is outworldly kind, humorous, dreamlike, undemanding and content. He’s discovered for himself a terribly liberating way of dealing with the beauty and hardship that is called life, in the most dignified way.

Strangely enough, I had ventured out to look for him right at a time when I myself was wondering a lot about how I could change my somewhat downbeat approach to what I experienced as a permanent struggle. Not that he is not struggling. But he seems to be doing so in a more distanced way, as if not taking too personally what life throws at him.

Seeing him and talking to him that day, and since, made me realize that the little residue of him within me, that faint memory of his way, was what made me look for him in the first place.

I have found what I was looking for. And more.



Feature imagine designed by dooder / Freepik


12 thoughts on “Do what scares you most

  1. Reblogged this on my one life. today and commented:

    Yesterday a year ago, my dad passed away. I feel I ought to leave a trace here to remind myself not of our parting but of our meeting again after thirty years of no contact whatsoever. I am so immensely grateful that four years ago I mustered the courage to contact him. It was the scariest thing ever. And turned out to be the most rewarding of all.


  2. I can only imagine all the emotions you must have felt in reconnecting with your father. Yes,I agree that people should confront what scares them the most. It sounds like you reaped many rewards. A very thought-provoking and beautiful post!


    1. Thank you, Des. It truly was a rollercoaster of emotions. But I have never regretted doing it.

      In the blog post I didn’t mention the reason I finally took a piece of paper and wrote the letter. It was the story of a friend of mine who used to work in an heir search company. They would look for close relatives of deceased people who had lost touch with their families. She told my countless stories of daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, who only through such formal correspondence heard of their closed relative having passed away and who were then crushed by the realization that they would never ever again have the opportunity to make peace with them.

      It’s then that I realized that worse than the idea of my father rejecting me was the fear of one day receiving such a letter myself and never being able to find out if there might not have been the chance for a different ending.

      Thanks to her, and to my little sister who encouraged me, my dad and I not only made contact but also peace with each other. And the greatest gift of all, even though a heart-breaking one, was that as a result of that I was blessed with the chance to actually be with him and hold his hand when he took his last breath.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank-you for following up with me on your amazing story. I have to tell you that I was pretty much in the middle of processing some insightful and touching comments to my post when I stumbled across your blog and started reading about your parent’s divorce and your dad dropping out of your life.
    I have two adult daughters who I love and respect more than anything, so I was at times, putting myself in your father’s place as I read your story. I can’t begin to express how much I think it must have meant to him when you found him.
    The most beautiful part of your story is that you had the courage to take that risk, acknowledging that you could be hurt emotionally. But you overcame your fear. Now you have some really important memories to carry with you. And maybe like me, you found a part of yourself in your dad.
    I too held down a big lump in my throat as I read your post, but at the same time, I was happy for you. By the way, your storytelling of the events leading up to your meeting were really amazing! I can imagine that every scenario must have gone through your mind. It must have been such a relief when you finally met!
    Like you, I was there for my father’s last breath. His death affected me profoundly and for quite some time. I’m really happy to hear that you were there for him, and for yourself.
    I really appreciate your reading my posts and letting me know that they spoke to you in some way. Yours certainly did to me too. Des

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Des, for taking so much time to reflect and share. It means a lot to me, especially given the rawness of my emotions at that stage of my life. I certainly did find a part of myself in my dad, and part of him in me. It’s really what made our seeing each other again so special: realizing that this instant strong connection and love was possible, even after 29 years of no contact. The bond between parents and children is incredibly strong and powerful. I wish all parents were so acutely aware of that.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Me again. I was really touched by your comment. It popped up after many months of me not being online. Lots of stuff going on, especially work and private stuff. But you might be glad to hear that your comment made me miss my writing, too, and I felt a new urge to get back to it. Thank you for this.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gosh, that’s so lovely to hear, as knowing I encouraged you a little makes me really happy! I look forward to reading your next post should you decide to write. Your posts always spoke of a very capable and grounded person and I’m sure that you’ll handle all the work and private stuff just fine!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, Marie. It’s very helpful and comforting that someone else sees my being grounded and capable, especially at times when I myself have occasional trouble seeing it myself.


      3. I’m glad you find it helpful. I believe all we need is someone to believe in us at times when we struggle. Sadly we seem to have been programmed to have blind spots and be hardest on ourselves but we can change! A positivity journal listing 3 positives daily might be helpful or a short affirmation like.. ‘I see myself being grounded and capable.’ You have a great writing voice so keep writing and revisiting your older posts to see how you have flourished. Xx

        Liked by 1 person

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