This is a continuation of my post a couple weeks ago entitled “My Three Dads.”
I called my father in January of last year. I steadied myself to hear his “hello” (or perhaps, “hola,” as he is Mexican — I’m half) but got his voicemail instead. Even still, his prerecorded voice overcame me. I didn’t leave a message. A couple nights later I tried calling again, but I lost the nerve and the words of the message I’d planned to leave.
Upon my third attempt a week or so after the first, I received a call back from someone who I think called himself David — or maybe Daniel. He said he’d seen the number on the caller I.D. a few times and thought to call. We spoke for probably ten minutes. I didn’t want to tell him I was Benny’s son so as to alert my father, but I did anyway. He said Benny had mentioned having children, and specifically a set of twins. The caller was a friend of Benny’s, and he told me that my father was in Florida and wouldn’t be back for a couple weeks. But he said he’d try to relay a message to him.
I didn’t hear back from him, and after a month went by, I had to make a decision on whether we’d rent the condo I’d reserved in Myrtle Beach, where I’d discovered he was living. The condo was one I found online that offered a discount to clergy. We kept bringing the situation before God in prayer. The vacation, whether it was fruitful or not, would at least be a nice change. Most of our vacations involve visiting family back home in Arizona. Last year, it just so happened that our girls had spring break following Easter. Break for them is nearly always the week before Easter, which I am never able to take off. A vacation following the hecticness of Easter would be much needed rest. We decided to make the trip.
I left a couple more messages and still nothing. But the week before our vacation on Palm Sunday 2013, I spoke to my father for the first time in about thirty years. The last time I remember seeing him was at the county fair in Yuma, when we happened to run into him. He gave my sister and me each a quarter. That’s about all I remember from the encounter. Benny answered the phone, and we spoke for over a half hour.
He asked about my twin sister and our brothers. He asked about my wife and children. I told him about our teenage daughters and three-year-old son. I told him that I married a half-Mexican woman. Something in me wanted him to be proud that I’d hung on to my Mexican roots. We talked about music, as he is a drummer, which contributed to his and my mom’s breakup. “You know I stepped out on your mom, right?” he asked. No, I hadn’t. Not really. I don’t know much about him. When I told him I’m a pastor, he mentioned that he tries to go to church — a Catholic church, I think.
He asked what I looked like, and I said I think I looked a little like him. I certainly have his gray hair — salt and pepper at this point. I told him Micah looks like me, except he’s a little white. I joked about needing to make sure we had plenty of sunscreen for our visit to Myrtle Beach the following week. He said he looked forward to our coming, to meeting me and my family. Excited, but also anxious, I could tell. He said something referring to himself as “your father” in the third person, and he caught himself. He said, “I don’t expect you to want to call me that.” But I told him, “That’s what you are and nothing can change that, even if we are now speaking for the first time in so many years.”
Eventually, we hung up. And I got to work the next morning. It was Passion Week, the busiest time of the year for most worship pastors. It was the culmination of a spiritually draining and emotionally exhausting Lenten season, the first time our church observed it. I’ve always looked forward to Easter and last year was no exception, but I looked forward even more to the following days when we would meet my father.
Next time I’ll write more about how it turned out.