Let me back up here for just a moment. (This is the danger with the post-as-you-go style of writing a story like this, I guess!) About two weeks before that fateful drive, Frank had sent me pictures. Nothing of "historical" significance, just two snapshots of him and Janet on a vacation they had recently taken. I had always had an image of Frank in my head, based partly on the one photograph I had seen of him (taken in approx. 1980) and partly on what I knew of him—a former Air Force officer, a heartbreaker and womanizer, a man with several failed marriages (and other relationships) under his belt. I pictured him as a hard man, gruff, stubborn, physically fit, and mostly unsmiling.
This image did not fit with the pictures he sent me. In fact, as soon as I opened them, I said, "Jon, look! He looks just like your Uncle Larry!" OK, so that probably doesn't mean much to you, since you likely don't know Jon's uncle Larry. But trust me… the characteristics that I listed above are pretty much the exact OPPOSITE of Uncle Larry. The man in the picture was relaxed, friendly-looking, and decidedly not… well… military-looking. I just couldn't make it fit with who I had always thought Frank to be.
So I went to our meeting that day with a very confused image of who this man really was—but at least with a more accurate idea of what he looked like. J
We had decided to meet at Der Dutchman, a great Amish restaurant about 1.5 hours from where we live, in the heart of Amish country. No, it was not anywhere near a half-way point, but Frank and Janet had wanted to visit Amish country, and were also on the way to visit some of his (and my, I guess) relatives in Pennsylvania. And it's such an idyllic area, it seemed like a good fit—like it would be hard to be stressed there. (But not impossible, I assure you.)
On the drive down, I had a lot of time to think. And talk. And talk. And think. I looked back over the events of the past several years and saw God's Hand leading to this day. I saw how far He had brought me in my maturity, how much more able I was to handle this day, no matter how it turned out. I was also able to sort out a lot of my feelings toward him, which was good. In fact, I'm not sure if I can really put down on paper the things I sorted out in my head that day, but I'll try… I hadn't heard a lot of good things about Frank at that point. I'd heard about his failed marriages, his affair with Jan, his unwillingness to have anything to do with her pregnancy/baby and his reluctance to accept responsibility for his "part" in the pregnancy, his walking out on Janet… well, you get the picture. It doesn't really plant a great impression in your head, does it? But none of those things happened to me. I wasn't angry at him for those things, I was just aware of them. Yes, his refusal to be part of Jan's life when she was pregnant affected me—I think she was planning to keep me if he had wanted to be around and involved in my life—but I was far from angry with him for that. In fact, I was quite grateful—I love my family and am so thankful that I was given to them.
So really, when it was all laid out on the table, that stuff didn't really bother me. My real hurt was wrapped up in his rejection of me when I had tried to contact him earlier. For that hurt and anger, I felt justified. The rest… well, the rest just went to character. It showed that his response to me was fitting for the patterns I saw in his life: When life gets tough, shut the door.
Yep, it was a deep ride down. ;-)
And just when I thought I had it all under control, we pulled into the parking lot. And that's when it really hit me: maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Why had I built this up so much in my head, the idea of meeting this man who had no real claim to my life, no real title to me? Why did I care about seeing someone who had (I told myself) no significance to me?
And once we got beyond the "Hellos" and the "OK, that's who you are, nice to meet you" stuff… What would we talk about???
Ha! You thought this was going to be "it", didn't you? OK, so did I when I sat down to write. But I didn't know all this stuff was going to come out! J So now you're going to have to wait just a little longer.