I feel like I just met my father for the first time today. I had gotten a phone call from an unknown number, and decided to pick it up. I’m so glad I did. He asked if I was available this morning to have coffee and catch up. I ran straight out of the house.
Our meeting was truly a miracle. We met in the same area where he was homeless not so long ago — the same street where he once owned a photography studio, and right down the road from my last workplace. As I pulled up into the parking lot, I saw my father’s figure and my heart nearly stopped. He looked better than I had expected, and so different from the last image I had of him in the hospital. I had been waiting for the right time to meet him, waiting for him to reach out when he was ready.
He smiled at me.
I jumped out of the car and immediately ran towards him. I could not believe this was happening. We must have hugged for a couple of minutes. It felt so good to see him so healthy, and standing so tall again. The emotions were overwhelming as we collected ourselves, and found a place to sit to talk. He had gone through so much, and I didn’t want to overload him with a lot of questions so I let him do most of the talking.
His words were so touching, and revealed that he really was listening to me all those days and nights I went to visit him. He remembered that I had visited him after my wedding ceremony, and mentioned how glad he was to be able to see me that night. He continued and described his experiences living on the streets. I was amazed at how familiar he was of other homeless individuals in the area, especially with his statement that “homelessness should not be criminalized.”He explained that many of those who are homeless in the area are just mentally ill, and desperately need to take their medication and receive training for employment.
It was truly as if I had just met the person under the illness. My father explained that he had been battling some serious issues since 1990, and our relationship had been impacted because of it. For over 20 years of my life I never had this conversation with him. He wasn’t mentally capable… it was almost as if his mind cycled through the same memories and thoughts, and none of our conversations really went anywhere — he was a wall for most of my life.
This was all so new to me to have a reciprocal conversation with such depth and mutual understanding. As we opened ourselves to each other, I shared that I had started a photo project on the homeless and was bracing myself to hear disapproval. Instead, what I heard amazed me again. His response, “You better finish it.” I chuckled at the thought of my Kickstarter, and how ironic it is that “finishing it” depends on the collective effort of those who believe and care about this. And to be honest, I believe in miracles more than ever now. I know that if it’s meant to be funded, it will be.
My father is a standing, living, breathing testament in my life that good things can happen. I grew up never knowing this man, and was so jolted by the fact that I had always gravitated towards the homeless and to have it hit so close to home. All I could hear in my head was: What are you going to? What are you going to do? What are you going to do? I’m so glad I didn’t give up on hope, even during those darkest days where I felt like my purpose had been shattered. I’m so grateful for the blessings in disguise, that someone called the police when my father nearly died in the streets. There is so much more to life if we hold onto the belief that we can make good out of our most painful experiences in life.
I know that his well-being is also in his own hands, and that I cannot control his actions even though I want to believe that he will never find himself at rock bottom again. He made a choice to live while in that hospital, and I am so grateful for that. I know that it concerns my friends and family who have had to watch me quietly suffer through the painful experience of not being able to help him when he didn’t want it. I still remember how he would change his mind in receiving help, I still remember how he didn’t recognize me that first day I came back from DC. But, to have an opportunity to even share a glimpse of our lives is better than none. To have come so close in watching his body fail on the sidewalks of Honolulu, and then to see his body regain life to the way it has is a miracle in itself. I want him to continue doing better for himself and for others. And I don’t mind having hope in that.
He has his second chance, and so do I. I know we have this beautiful gift of an opportunity to get to know each other and to share the life we have.
Our parting conversation was sort of a “what’s next” topic for him. He believes in the value of working, and explained that it keeps him active and living a life with more purpose. For now, he explained that he needs more time to regain his strength and get some things in order before moving forward. On a personal note, I mentioned the possibility of him taking photographs again. Secretly, I am planning to find him a used DSLR as a Christmas present. I shared in passing how it would be wonderful if my Kickstarter were funded, we could also show his photographs in a gallery… maybe sell his prints again. For now, we are taking it one day at a time and I’m grateful that whatever happens with this Kickstarter, I have my father and an opportunity to have a relationship of a lifetime.