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Monday, May 18, 2009

Return of the Prodigal

NOTE:  This is a re-post of something I first "published" back in February of 2007.  Today I spoke with the subject of the post, only the second time since the day this was written.  It's not that I didn't mean to keep in touch; it's just that life is always in the way of what's really important.  He and his family have been on my mind so much lately, and today, I finally picked up the phone and called.  This person, my "second Dad" promised to keep in touch, and vowed to also make sure his daughter and I also get in contact again.  Without this family...only God knows what would have happened to me. 

Memoir from a cold snowy day early in February, 2007: 

Yesterday I experienced a miracle, the kind of reunion only God can manufacture, with only His timing. And today, I'm still a puddle of gratitude.

I had to attend a religious conference yesterday (for youth and youth leaders), and arrived before others in my group, so just found a spot and waited. A man came and sat near me, and I did a double-take.

I knew that face. Didn't I

A debate in my mind ensued as I considered my options, how to find out who he was without making a complete ass of myself if I was wrong. I could see his name tag, and the name matched, but it could be coincidental. After all these years....

He clearly had not recognized me, so for a moment, I considered just walking away for by then I saw a couple people from my group seating themselves in another area. I wondered why I wanted to run, and then I realized it was my deep sense of shame, IF this was who I thought he was. But I also recognized that if the identity was a match, then this was something orchestrated by God, so I sent up a prayer to help because I didn't have the courage to open the door.

And as you know, reconciliations are God's very dear specialty. I knew that this was a prayer that He would answer.

At the beginning of the conference, they directed us to introduce ourselves to five strangers around us. (I don't mind this kind of thing outside of Mass.)  Perfect. The man turned to me and gave me his first name and the town he was from. It was my hometown, and then, I knew....without a doubt.  I thought my heart would come through my throat and think I might actually have stopped breathing as I walked through the open door. 

I asked him his last name, just to be certain.  He gave it to me, with an odd look on his face, clearly wondering why some strange woman would ask for THAT! 

It was him!

That meant only one thing: that me, being me, well....I knew I had to do something typical of my obnoxious teenage self so that his own memory would be jogged. I knew JUST the thing!

"Dad! Do you remember me?"

He looked at me a moment, attention caught at being called "Dad", and then it dawned on him as he really LOOKED at me.  For the first time in...YEARS.  

I'm crying as I'm writing was such a joyful reunion. There were some people from his town near us, and during a break and some small group sessions with them, he was telling them about our reunion, exclaiming, "She used to live in our house!"

Later when he joined my group for lunch, he told me co-workers and catechists who were at the same table, with tears in his eyes, "Thanks for hiring her...if you hadn't, I wouldn't have seen my little girl again."

You may be asking yourself right now who this man was in my life, for my regular readers realize that my Dad passed away 14 years ago. So no, he wasn't really my Dad. Not by blood.

This man's daughter was my best friend in Jr. High and High School. We actually attended different schools, but outside of those walls, we were inseparable. And when my Mom suffered the most from her bipolar and was hospitalized, I stayed with them. Senior year, when I had to get out of the house because Mom was out of control, it was to their home that I fled. They were my second family.  

They were my ONLY place of refuge, the ONLY place I could go in a moment's notice. 

I would have been lost without them.

I've also since learned that they paid our rent for a few months when Mom was finally hospitalized and then sent to a half-way house, giving us time to get moved out when we all realized Mom would not be moving back there.

When I left my hometown, I literally fled, and only saw my "adopted" family a couple times in college. I did see my friend back in 2000 at one point, but as our lives diverged, so did our friendship. And I've always felt guilty for not keeping in touch.  Yes, there were times, and I still remember our last phone call sometime in 2001.  The friendship was...dead. We were nothing but acquaintances anymore. 

I think it was because I have been so ashamed. When I left town, I had big dreams, like any kid, and when I finally had my chance, I flopped. Because my entire identity was built on the sandcastle of a failed career, I think I associated the love I'd always received from others as connected to what I could do...not who I really was.

For years, I have wanted to get in touch with these families that helped us through our years of horror, but I haven't been able to bring myself to just write a letter out of the blue, or even call. Maybe they'd forgotten me...I didn't know. Maybe they were glad I was gone. I didn't know. Maybe they'd be angry that I'd "forgotten" them. I didn't know. Now it's been more than fifteen years since I last saw him...and now, I know that all my fears were just ghosts.

Yesterday, God brought me face to face with my past and laid all my doubts to rest. And I could finally thank my "second dad" for what he did for me so many years ago.

I am the prodigal daughter, finally reunited with one of the people who helped me to be who I am today.

Thank you, Jesus.


Author's note:  A few days after I composed this post, I wrote a follow-up detailing how this family came to harbor me as a teenager, and what they must have suffered. And I share a portion of their side of the story. Even when we think God has only used others to serve us, we learn that in some way...we were serving them as well.  God doesn't waste ANYTHING. 


Emily said...

That is so lovely. Praise God for this reunion!

X said...

I am smiling a smile so wide my face is going to crack!

Terry Nelson said...

What a cool story! Gosh - cool stuff really happens to you Adoro!

Deacon Bill Burns said...

Dang it, you made me tear up.

Yeah, I might look like a tough guy, but I'm a big softie.

Melody K said...

A "grace" moment! That's wonderful.

Kiwi Nomad said...

A beautiful reunion... and I am sure you will see more people from your earlier years. Thanks for sharing such wonderful news.

Anonymous said...

Adoro, so glad to hear your wondeful news -- thanks for sharing, as kiwi nomad 2008 said. GOd bless you!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Praise God! I'm so happy for you and "Dad". What a great gift the Lord just gave you.

Anna B. said...


What a great story, it brought tears to my eyes.

Hidden One said...

Yay! God is good. :D

Anonymous said...

Wow! A second dad--how cool is that--there are no coincidences with God. People are put into our lives at the times we need them most. Your story makes me cry--I am so happy you had two dads to love you!

Anonymous said...

This is great! I love how God keeps gracing you -- and others through you! He is truly so good to us.

Anonymous said...


What a wonderful story to hear on a cold snowy day like today. It warms my heart.



Adoro said...

Thanks, everyone. This event, hot on the heels of Friday's experience at the Cana Mass, and other things. I was just talking to a co worker the other day about the fact that I don't "have" anyone. I don't have my Dad anymore, and really, hadn't had him when he was alive, either. Long story. And when Mom dies, my brother will have his girlfriend's (hopefully wife by then) family...but here I am, alone.

And yes, it worries me. Because I handle grief strangely and with much delay.

And I was also reflecting on the fact that my family was so messed up, I never saw that reflection of God in a marriage. But He reminded me that I have, by bringing me face to face with someone who treated me like his own daughter, right down to handing on consequences as long as I lived under their roof.

What an incredible gift.

Please keep them in your prayers...I will never be able to pay off the "debt" I owe them.

Kiwi Nomad said...

Adoro, I was struck by your comment that you 'handle grief strangely'.
I was 30 when I realised that I 'handled grief strangely'. It happened when I had to say 'goodbye' to a close friend who was moving. I realised that I was plunging into a deep depression over it, far deeper than other people plunged over a necessary 'goodbye'. Then I realised I had done the same before, with three other goodbyes. I was fortunate that a friend suggested a very experienced counsellor, who instantly recognised that I had a problem with unresolved grief, dating back to my 'first' grief, when my father died when I was 8. This woman helped me say 'goodbye' properly to my father. Since then, I have of course been sad at 'goodbyes', but I know now my reaction is in the 'normal' range.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Yay God! How very wonderful God is.