It was hard to say “hello”

Have you ever had a hole in your life that you knew was there but for some reason you didn’t have the courage to fill it? Maybe it was due to stubbornness, selfishness or just plain fear of the outcome but the void remains and while sometimes you might forget about it, it never truly goes away. It lingers and lurks in the back of your mind like an itch you can’t scratch, always knowing that its there.

This week, I finally got a chance to scratch that itch.

After many years of hemming and hawing the time had finally come to reunite with some family members that I haven’t seen in , well, way too long. I left the confines of Columbus, Ohio and was off to Tempe, Arizona to visit my two older daughters and their husbands. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous about the outcome. I tried to strike a deal with them before I left that I really didn’t want to talk about what an asshole I was back in the 80’s because the truth is that I had no excuse for my behavior. Those were my sins and for a long time I took penance for them by ignoring them and hoping they went away on their own. Of course, they never truly did nor will they ever but I think that over the last few days I went a long way to turning them into distant memories.

We arrived in Tempe about 45 minutes early and had to sit on the tarmac waiting for a gate so we could deplane. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life. As we sat there I had so much time to think about all of the possible outcomes. To say I was nervous can’t begin to describe all of the emotions I was experiencing. Fear, would I be greeted with angry stares and folded arms and silence? Anticipation, would I be greeted with smiling faces and open arms? Anna kept looking at me and tried to reassure me everything would be alright. She’d come out earlier in the year and they all had a great time together.

It was even harder to say “goodbye”

My older girls are 32 and 30. I’ve got a grandson and two granddaughters that if you could patent the word “cute” it still wouldn’t be enough to describe them. The girls are married and engaged now and their husband and husband to be are two stand up guys that love them and their kids for all they're worth.

The first few days were spend at daughter number 2’s house and she made me feel as if I’d never left. We went out to lunch and dinner a couple of times and spent the evening sharing good times and talking about the future. Besides being a full time mom she goes to Arizona State University where she’s studying microbiology and is about a year away from getting her degree. We take a tour of the campus area when she drops her son off at preschool and she points out some landmarks and unknown gems. Anna’s now thinking of applying there when the time comes for her to leave the nest.

One night, we drop in on my ex-wife. If I had to guess I’d say it’s been at least 15 years since we’ve seen each other. If that’s not enough to make you nervous then you’re probably already dead. On the way out to her place we drop in the local grocery store for some beer and snacks and after ordering pizza the night is spent in her backyard on the patio just chatting away like those years of absence never happened.

The last couple nights the entire tribe gathers and we spend the days and nights at daughter number 1’s house. I take some deep breath’s before I go in and I hope with all my heart that this visit goes as well as the others.

The door opens and my fears are quickly vanished. The smiling faces and opens arms I mentioned earlier weren’t just a dream but a reality. We catch up and stay up long into the nights playing a dice game called Farkle and exchanging good times. The next evening her husband constructs a cornhole set in the backyard and a tournament is born. Drinks are consumed, meals are cooked and laughs are exchanged. During the quiet times I sometimes hear whispering between the girls and their husbands. It seems that even though I haven’t seen my son for as long as I can remember he bears my looks, mannerisms and expressions. They find this a bit spooky.

On Saturday, me and the boys go out and play a round of golf in the desert. I manage to hold my own even though I’m playing a set of clubs I’ve never used on a course I’ve never seen. I think I managed an 86 but I wouldn’t have given a shit if I put up a 120. The good times were more important than any number.

On Sunday, the time had come to say goodbye. For all of the ex-marine, tough guy, jock talk that I spout, I’m really a softie at heart and instead of trying to hold back the tears I let them fall freely.

Now I’m back home and I wonder to myself “what took me so long?” There’s still some stuff to do on the bucket list like reunite with my son and I’m hoping those days aren’t too far off.

In a way, I feel a sense of contentment that was missing before I went out there and now I’m greedy for more.

I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person.

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