This ad will not display on your printed page.
Ten years had passed since I had seen my father. At the time I had no photographs of him, just a vague memory of his face from our last visit. When we pulled up in a rented van to the VA housing complex in Sarasota, Florida, my husband saw him first.
"There he is." Duncan tipped his head to point.
I turned my eyes slowly. A man was standing under the awning of the complex. I saw his dark skin, his head, nearly bald and square, and a barely visible neck. It was him. He was just as I remembered but bigger, maybe 40 pounds heavier than the last time, when I had left my young children to fly down for three days. I had not forgotten those three days of silence.
Now I stared at him, frozen. How do I play this scene? I thought. Loving daughter greeting long-lost father? Kind daughter bringing her children to meet their grandfather for the first time? Angry daughter wanting just a few words from her father?
Duncan stopped the van. I got out slowly and opened the doors for the kids, holding my breath. They piled out one after another. My father stood there seeming not to see them, as if they were inconsequential to his life—which they were. He knew nothing about them, had never even seen photographs of them. I had never sent any because my father was barely interested in his own children, let alone his children's children.
When the last one jumped out, suddenly I was on. I knew what to do. I hugged the strange man, patting him on the back with the tips of my fingers. I did not want to get too close to him.
"Hi. How ah ya?" he asked in his Massachusetts accent. He smiled a little, showing a few remaining teeth, all broken.
"Good. We had a little trouble finding this place," I said with false brightness.
It had taken us two days to get here. We had flown from Kodiak, Alaska, from the far northwest corner to the far southeast corner of the country. It was spring break 2006. Mostly this was a trip to see him. He was 84, ...