This post originally appeared on my “What Is a Dad” blog.
Friday was a crazy day. I almost felt like I had somehow stumbled into a piece of fiction. I had always assumed that I would probably never be able to meet my biological father. Growing up in New York and North Carolina, Oregon seems so far away. And I didn’t really know how he would feel about the subject, so I just thought (for so many years) that thoughts of meeting him were a passing fancy.
And then somehow I found myself getting up Friday morning at 4:45 AM to drive all day up I-5 with my pregnant wife to meet him.
Crossing the Oregon border quickened my heart rate. Seeing a sign for Salem got it going even faster. Oh, and when I was finally driving through Salem and crossing the Marion Street Bridge I was definitely getting excited.
Then I drove 20 miles up 221-N to tiny little Dayton, OR, driving past vineyards, green fields, and getting stuck behind farm equipment (of course I’d have to wait longer). We got to the little four-way intersection that was the entry into Dayton and took a left into a picture out of an old-school America (maybe something like “Hoosiers” or even “Pleasantville”). Small little storefronts with a public park to the right. THE grade school. THE fire station. THE Mexican restaurant (felt like Fresno).
Then we take our final right. I’m looking for the church, and MK says, “I see a Bronco on the left.” And there it was– my dad’s car.
I pulled into the parking lot, and was blinded by the sun. I see a few figures coming my way. And there he is.
He is kind looking. He is taller. He’s not as skinny as I thought he’d be, and he’s a lot older. He walks right up and hugs me and says, “Yeah, there’s a Huettl.” I don’t even know what to say. I want to just break down and cry, but I think that’s for later. At this point, I was feeling things out.
My dad has grey hair and a bushy mustache. He wore a denim long-sleeved shirt over an orange t-shirt. He wore blue jeans that had seen better days and work boots. He was rocking a trucker hat. He had the friendliness of Gepetto from Pinocchio, and the warmness (and worn-ness) of Walter Mathau.
And he’s my dad. And I met him. He’s got a pit bull / Rottweiler mix called “Fiona.” He kind of looks all over the place while people are talking to him. MK says he has my eyes. We only got to talk for a little while at the church that he helped build. It wasn’t long enough before we were whisked away for dinner at the home of our hosts (Pastor Steve and his wife).
Tomorrow morning we’re having breakfast with a men’s Bible study. I’m pumped. I can’t wait to talk more tomorrow. Already I have questions. But really, I’m just so excited. After the Bible study, we’ve got all day to talk. This is a day that’s been twenty-nine years in the making.
Thank you, Jesus.