I was born in Denmark 21 years ago, and 20 years later, I decided that I wanted to meet my father. See, I never knew him because he was never in my life. He and my mom met each other in a pub in London, England, when they were in their mid-twenties. They fell in love, ran away together—all the way to Australia—and I was the result of that. It was bliss and happiness right up until one day, mid-pregnancy, when my father decided that he wasn’t ready for a baby. He was too young. He was too busy with his career and not at all prepared to throw away either of those for a child.
After that, my mother went home to Denmark because while she was obviously going to do this on her own, she was not going to do it alone. She moved in with my grandparents for a while, and when I finally came around some couple of months later, we moved into a small apartment where I grew up. Eight years later, my sister came along. My sister’s dad became some kind of a substitute male role model for me. Not a father, but as close to one as any. Even though he and my mom are not together anymore, he still has a special place in my heart. I went through primary school and high school and in my senior year, the curiosity started to stir beneath the surface.
Up until then, I had never felt the need to know anything about him—my father, the Australian. I had always shrugged off any questions, suggestions and ideas others might have had about how, when, and what I should do, because I never wanted to meet him. I never needed to know. Until one day, when I suddenly did need to know.
It was strange because the urge to know came out of nothing. The feeling was unfamiliar, and at first, unwelcome. I couldn’t explain it and it made me angry with myself. But I wanted to know about him. And I wanted more knowledge than my mother could give me. Throughout the years, I had asked my mom about him quite a lot, though the older I got, the less I asked. The questions became fewer and fewer, until I never talked about it at all.
I remembered everything though, everything she had ever told me, which was everything that she knew about him (his name, his profession, and such things). And so, I did what every young girl in the 21st century would do; I Googled him. And from there on, it was a roller-coaster I couldn’t quite control. Google did what Google is supposed to do and suddenly pictures, articles, and fundraising websites—trying to raise money for his trip to a cancer recreation center—came up. And that is when I realized that time is short and that if I ever wanted to meet the man who helped create me, it was now, not later. I sent a letter, received an email, things were planned, plane tickets were booked and before I knew it, I was on a jet to Brisbane with my BFF at my side, holding my hand, telling me things were going to be OK.
And that was almost true. The trip went well. I met him, his wife, his family, all my uncles and aunts and cousins. It was all very beautiful and overwhelming, and the whole time I just wanted to go back home. I counted the days. We were there for three weeks and it felt like an eternity. The man who called himself my father was not who I had expected at all. Yes, I had to admit to myself, that even though I had shrugged it all off for the good part of 20 years, and even though I had completely alienated the idea of the existence of a father, I had expected something. And this was not it.
I tried to be open-minded but the more I tried, the more I closed myself off. It was a reaction I had never experienced before. I used to be so extroverted, so open-minded, so game for anything all the time. This was headed for disaster. And disaster did strike on a highway in the car when we were on our way home from a weekend at their family cabin. My father, his wife, my BFF, and myself were in the car. At one point, my BFF commented on my father driving too fast. She doesn’t like it when people drive too fast. She also knows that you shouldn’t comment on the way others drive, but the speed made her uncomfortable. My father was driving way faster than the speed limit of 70 mph. Her comment—even though toned down and rather humbly offered—seemed to annoy my father and he sped up, driving 85 mph, telling us that he had no respect for speed limits. And things escalated very fast from there. Discussions turned into arguments and arguments turned into a full-on fight.
They dropped us off at our hotel and when we got to our room, I broke down crying from anger. I was angry with the man who was my father, with myself for pursuing all this in the first place, with choices and expectations and feelings. I was so angry that it overshadowed every other feeling and I couldn’t even feel sorry for him and the fact that he had a serious illness. I felt like a terrible human being. I was so ashamed.
Time passed and I can now say with confidence that I’m actually not really a terrible human being and I don’t really harbor those bad feelings. I was angry—as angry as I had ever been. It was the heat of the moment, and you shouldn’t be held responsible for what you think when you’re furious. In that moment, though, I reserved and deserved the right to be angry. I deserved to be the child, because that’s what I was never allowed to be. I was never allowed to be childish and angry with him because he was never there to turn my anger towards. He left me. He chose to do without me. But he regretted his choice along the way, I came to learn.
I contacted him and I went along and boarded a plane to the other side of the world to go see him. When he suddenly felt the need to make up for 20 years of absence, it was okay that I was not up for that. It is okay to think what I thought and to feel what I felt. Meeting your parent for the first time when you’re almost a grown-up is hard and it can very easily turn you into an insecure, doubtful, and completely unreasonable child and that is okay!
I’m glad that I did it, but it took a while to get to that place. When I sent that letter, I regretted it. When I received the first email from him, I regretted it. When I went through security in Copenhagen Airport and when I boarded the plane, I regretted it. I regretted my decision the most when we landed in Brisbane and we had to face Australia and my newfound family for the very first time. I wanted to cry, I wanted to crawl back onto the plane and go home right away, but I didn’t.
I went out there. I met them. I got to care very much for them. I was relieved when the three weeks were over and I got to go back home, but I am glad, I am thankful, that I did it. If I had never taken that step, I would have been left with a very big question mark, a very big ”what if.” I regretted it at first because it suddenly became reality and I had nowhere to run. But now, several months later, I wouldn’t have it any other way.