A Brief Meeting

A Midsummer Tale ~ Third Place
Chelsea Heath


The first time she met her father, she was 24 years old.

Most of the things she had heard about him while growing up were negative. She always wondered why he wasn’t interested in her, why he didn’t seem to care. Despite all of this, she didn’t let it ruin or direct her life, and had grown into a fairly well-adjusted adult.

She finally met him less than a month before he died of cancer. She received a call from her older brother, who shared the same dad, and he explained that they had been looking for her for a long time, and that she should come visit them in North Carolina as soon as she could because their dad was sick with cancer and was dying.

It has taken awhile for her to process all of the emotions related to that meeting. They just had a couple of days together. After a lifetime of wondering and thinking about each other, it culminated in one weekend, and that was all they had.

To some this may seem tragic, but she was thankful. Through the experience, she met her brother, sister-in-law, two nephews, and her step-mom, and also gained the knowledge that her dad did love and miss her, and that he was proud of her. That was all she had needed. She also gained something else from the trip—one perfect memory—a ride on a motorcycle on a clear, beautiful day in North Carolina.

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It was during this brief moment in her life when time stopped and she was able to experience true joy, in the most unlikely of places. Past and present came together; she felt as though God had handed her a special gift to work through the varying emotions of happiness, grief, and confusion related to the journey.

Her mom made the trip with her, since she would be meeting these people for the first time that she could remember. It would turn out, on top of everything else, to be a great bonding experience for the two of them. They made the flight all the way from Oregon to North Carolina and were picked up at the airport by her brother and his wife. Her mom was a little shocked at first to see how much he looked like his father had at a younger age, when she had been married to him and had given birth to his child.

Driving up to the house, tension began to mount. The girl was excited and nervous all at once. She wasn’t sure what to expect or how to feel or act. She entered the house, and as she turned the corner to go into the living room, she saw a small man sitting in an armchair. He looked somewhat like pictures she had seen, but he was older and gray and had the tired look that cancer patients usually wear. At that moment, as her eyes traveled to his face, she finally knew what it felt like to look into someone’s face and see her own eyes staring back at her. That’s what looking at her dad was like, and it was glorious. She had never really felt like she looked very much like anyone in her family, and now she knew why. It was because she looked just like him. She wondered how it must have been for her mom all those years, looking at her daughter and also seeing someone who had caused her so much pain.

While they were visiting, she went out on a motorcycle ride with her brother. Motorcycles were very important to her dad and brother, and when her mom and dad had been together, riding them was something they had done a lot of. Although her dad was too sick to ride a motorcycle anymore, she would be able to go for a ride with her brother.

They pulled out on the motorcycle, the sunshine on their faces, her arms around his waist, and both clad in leather. All of these things were so new to her, yet oddly comforting. She looked back and saw her mom and her dad waving from the porch, together for a brief time again, in spite of the pain it might be causing them both, and she knew they were doing it for her. It felt good. It was something she had doubted she would ever see.

She turned forward, focusing on the ride, while trying to burn the image of her parents standing together into her mind to keep there forever. As they drove, reality meshed with daydream and she felt all at once like a girl with her brother, a girl with her dad at long last, and also how her mom must have felt with her dad at one point—young and happy and in love, no matter how fleeting. She experienced splendid, indescribable emotions on this ride. No words were exchanged during this time, but none were needed. She felt full of joy—long moments of contented, beautiful wonder. She knew she would never forget this rush of feelings and realizations, and she thanked God for them.

On the trip home from North Carolina, she mused about the events that had taken place in the past couple of days. She was filled with awe—she had never seen this coming, and had never known or thought it would turn out like it did, better than she could have imagined. Of course the circumstances were difficult, but it was a wonderful trip—full of love and life, even with all of the sorrow over the years lost and her dad’s current sickness. She was surprised to find so much life under such circumstances. It was truly amazing, such a blessing. She knew now that her dad, however imperfect he might have been, loved her, had always loved her, and that he was proud of her. That was all she had ever wanted. It was hard, but very much worth it, and she looked to the future knowing that God would sustain her and her new family, whom she loved, through the tough times ahead. She had finally gotten to see her parents together, hear about some of their memories with each other, and see that there was still love between the two of them.

Her dad passed away about a month later, just before her next planned visit.

She was thankful that she was able to meet him at least once, and she held dear the love that stretched over the decades, over circumstances, over the miles, and for the forgiveness that was present that made that love possible. Those are the things that make life worth living. They make it hard, too, but worth it. It is what gives us strength and character. She can see that very clearly now, and she can feel it in the tears that occasionally run down her cheeks when she thinks about her dad. They cloud her eyes, but not her vision. They only make the seeing all the more worthwhile and special.
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“I am 26 years old. I grew up in California and currently live in Portland, Oregon with my husband, Nate, and our Chihuahua puppy, Rex. I graduated from Cascade Christian College in Portland, Oregon. I currently work as a Sales Administrator. I am also a notary public, and enjoy freelance writing in my spare time. I love the outdoors, traveling, reading, and good wine.” E-mail: chelsheath[at]gmail.com