A son meets his father after 45 years.
“I'm not your father,” he said.
In my dreams, that is what my father said when I confronted him. Every time. I had to confront him in real life, once and for all.
I knew where my father lived; I had done my homework. He had been living in a tiny white house on the other side of the tracks since he left us. It was odd that I had never seen him in town.
I didn’t know much about him. I was young when he left, and my mother offered little information. At one point, he had a government job. My brother, Seth, and I decided he was an FBI undercover agent. Maybe he was. Who knows? We thought maybe he went on a special assignment and got killed.
Seth and I thought a lot of things.
The man I remember had strong hands, a quick smile and I always knew I could count on him…that is until he abandoned us.
I have had trouble getting close to people since then. I was so certain he was someone I could count on, and he wasn’t. Maybe nobody was who they seemed. I couldn’t take that chance.
My father insisted we meet at a neutral location and chose this coffee house. I got to the Coffee Bean early and watched the street from my table. I was nervous, I was curious, I was angry. There I was, a grown man, tearing at a sugar packet, waiting to finally say what had been on my mind for 45 years.
I saw this man walk toward the Coffee Bean. A neatly dressed, unassuming, shorter-than-I-remember man. He was almost bald and walked with a cane. The years had not been kind. Karma will do that. He entered. I waved him over. We just sat there looking at each other. The server came over, and my father ordered black coffee.
I had so many questions; so many years had gone by. I wanted answers. I deserved answers. I wondered if the man even knew his other son had been dead for thirty years. He hadn’t come to the funeral. He never called; he didn’t even send a card.
After my brother was killed, my mother withdrew and eventually withered and died. I needed my father to know the damage he had done to our lives. And there he sat, silently sipping his coffee.
I wanted to strangle him! Instead, I poured my guts out in a twenty-minute rant. He never said a word, just sat there and took it. When I was spent, I grew silent.
“Are you finished?” he asked matter-of-factly.
“Yes,” I said, waiting for him to explain himself.
He reached over and gently touched my hand.
“I'm not your father,” he said.
I pulled away. Here it was, the lie! Just like in my dreams. Only, I always woke up after he said that, but he was still talking.
“I met your mom when you were about three. I fell in love and thought she had, too. She had been abandoned by your father when you boys were babies and I thought I could help make things right.”
“What are you saying?” I could not wrap my head around this.
He touched my hand again.
“Your mother was a fine woman, but something happened, and she changed.”
“Changed how? What did you do to her?”
“I loved her the best I could, but there was something going on in her head. I tried to be there for you and your brother, but your mother started acting strange and asked me to leave and never contact her again. I did as she wished. I had no choice.”
“I don’t believe you. I don’t believe any of this!”
“I stayed in the same town so I could keep an eye on the three of you. I was at the cemetery that horrible day they lowered your brother into the ground. You just didn’t see me.”
How could I let myself believe what he was saying?
“You look good, son, and I know you’ve done well for yourself. I wish you continued success.”
He squeezed my hand.
“You know where I live if you ever need anything,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I love you.”
He slid a ten-dollar bill across the table. He secured his cane and got up from the table. I watched him limp to his car.
All those years I held a grudge, and it was against the wrong man. I had harbored so must resentment, it had crippled me.
I had hoped this meeting would help me move forward. But there I sat, still in pain from the past, although it was healing to know he was a good man and did try to do right by us…
But, if he wasn’t my father, who was? I had to find out! Or did I?