An Unexpected Life

An Unexpected Life

A Story by lynnsl

An Unexpected Life

This past July marked ten summers since I made a choice that would transform my life forever. Have you ever taken a moment to wonder how one decision in your life can change the course of everything from that day forward? I knew that Saturday afternoon was going to be a big deal, but it took off in directions I never could have foreseen. The night before, I had slept over at my best friend’s house; she lived beside the coffee shop where we planned to meet. As I got ready, I realized how nervous I was feeling. For a moment I wondered if I should cancel altogether, maybe it would be easier to stay inside the brightly coloured walls of her house than to face the unknown. It was then I noticed it was almost 1 o’clock and so, I ended my internal battle and walked towards the front steps.  I took a deep breath, opened her blue and yellow front door, and walked over to the café. My eyes wandered up and down the street to see if I could pick him out. I shook my head, who was I kidding? I did not know what he drove and I did not know what he would look like now. I slipped inside the café and found a wicker table in the furthest back corner. A thousand thoughts were running through my head: What would he be like? Where would we go from here? I was sixteen years old and meeting my father for the first time in eleven years.  

Just then, I looked up and our gazes met, he smiled and walked towards me; “Are you Ellie*?” I nodded my head and stood up. He gave me an awkward hug and we sat down. It felt so strange; all these years I had carried half of this man’s genes in my body and yet he knew nothing about me at all. I had a thousand things to say to him, but suddenly my stomach was in knots and no words would come out. All I had of him to this point was faded pictures and distant memories. He looked so old; his hair was completely white and his eyes that once were hazel looked cloudy and sunken. The years of alcoholism showed on his face; surely anyone watching would guess that he was my grandfather instead. I dug my fingernails into the palm of my hand as we made awkward small talk. 

The last time I had waited to see my dad was twelve years earlier; he was supposed to pick me up from the church that he and my mother had agreed to be the meeting point. My father was violent when he drank and so a no-contact order had to be put in place after my parents separation. I sat in a chair, watching the clock as I waited. I remember my five year old self watching the little hand go all the way around before a woman called my mom back to get me. I later learned my dad had been drinking and forgot about me. Fast-forward to age sixteen: I found his number in the phone book and decided to give him a call. It was that day that I learned he had been sober for five years.  Part of me was excited, maybe now I would have the sort of dad so many of my friends had. Another part of me was angry, why had he never tried to contact me? After all, we had lived in the same city all these years. Nevertheless, here we were in this moment I had been long anticipating, the one I had dreamt of as a child, and had longed for at each milestone that came and passed. As I shifted around in the wicker chair, only one thought came to mind:  I would never be able to love this man in front of me. 

This story is not about a salvaged relationship between a father and his daughter, in-fact, it is anything but. It has been ten years since our meeting in the coffee shop, and nine since I spoke to him last. This is about the chain of events that resulted from dialing a number and how my journey was changed. Before we had finished our drinks, my father dropped a bomb on me. He told me I had a sister I had never known about and that we were only ten months apart in age. She had always known who I was and she wanted to meet me. We had grown up on different sides of the city and she had lived with my father most of her childhood; her mother married our father two years after my parents separation. If re-meeting my dad was a big deal, this news took things to another level. After I left the coffee shop, I awaited the upcoming day Sarah* and I would meet. Would we get along? Would we have similar interests or be total opposites? 

A week later my dad, my sister and I all went for supper. Sarah looked different then I had expected. She stood 5 inches taller than I did and her eyes were a dark brown, much different from my green ones. There were similarities too though; our hair was the same shade of brown, we both had petite noses, and when we smiled, we shared the same full cheeks. We were both the type to be shy at first; neither knew the proper thing to say to a girl who shared half our genetic make-up but was a stranger all at once. We decided we would keep in touch and began to hang out on our own. In time, we found we had many similar interests and even figured out we knew some of the same people.  We had both longed to have a sister and all of a sudden, that was exactly what we had. 

The next summer, as we shopped in the mall together, Sarah ran into a family friend who offered her a job in a city two hours away. She had just graduated from high school and that day, she decided she wanted to go. I was disappointed, we had grown close and I could not understand the appeal of moving away to a small town. I helped her pack at the end of summer and we promised we would not let the move change anything. In the years that followed, I came to understand why she had moved so suddenly without much thought at all. Home had not been a happy place for her. My father abused her; he was violent and short-tempered and her mother stayed by his side through it all. I realized then that he had hurt me with his absence, and hurt her with his presence. I was thankful for the gift of knowing my sister, but I decided then that would be the last thing he would ever give me. I had lived all those years without a father and I felt confident I could continue to live without him. 

I had hoped one day Sarah would come back to our home town, but she built a life for herself in Cromer and decided to stay. I visited her through the years and eventually it became my home away from home. In time, my Cromer visits resulted in a relationship with a friend of hers. After two years of doing long distance, I moved to a nearby city to make things easier. I planned to attend the University while I waited for him to finish school, but unfortunately we broke up before we finished our programs. Nevertheless, the relationship allowed me to move to another city, meet many new people, and best of all, I wasn’t too far away from my sister when I became an auntie to my sweet niece. Although I have plans in the works to return to my home city, I have made many friendships and memories that i’ll cherish.

Once in awhile, my thoughts return to the day in the coffee shop with my father. I will never forget how one day changed the course of my life forever. The phone call to my father started a chain of events that changed what I knew and what I wanted. I could never have dreamed that I would meet a sister who would become a part of my life forever. Sometimes I think about how things would be if my father had never shown up at the coffee shop. What if my sister and I had gone into another store and she had never gotten her job offer? Life is circumstantial and unexpected. This is what I remember through it all. Every day we make choices, big and small, that can change everything. I did not walk out of that coffee shop with a father that I came to know and love, instead I walked out on a path that would lead me to unknown places, and a path that still holds an unwritten ending. 

© 2017 lynnsl

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Added on November 10, 2017
Last Updated on November 10, 2017
Tags: addiction, family, myjourney




27 therapeutic writer -eat/sleep/learn/love/laught/&travel more..

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