Imagining the Worst that Can Happen is Useful if…

By robindf
May 2, 2020

Walking around the lake with my friend Mary one afternoon, the idea came up in conversation that I should visit my dad. I had a problematic relationship with him since my 20s, and had tried every which way to insert myself into his life – from showing unconditional love by being a ready ear to his troubles, to directly communicating my true feelings in a loving way. I even tried shutting him out of my life if things didn’t change, but that only made him do the same to me. Nothing worked. 

But I couldn’t give up.  

So, when we started talking about this idea, it made me stop inside. Strange thing is, I don’t even know who brought it up first, me or my friend. I knew that if I thought about it even for a minute, I’d miss an opportunity to change things – I didn’t know what would change or how I’d do it, but I knew it was worth considering. 

“OK, I’ll go. I’ll go see dad in person,” I said half shocking myself hearing the words out loud.

Without hesitation Mary responds, “Good. How about next Friday?”

“Next Friday works,” I say. Is this really happening, I think to myself.

“Good. It’s settled. I’ll pick you up at 9:00am and we’ll drive up together.” 

 At this, I’ve stopped breathing. “Sure Mary. Sounds good,” I say taking a breath in. 

Next Friday comes fast, and true to her word, Mary is at my apartment at 9:00am sharp. The drive to Sacramento takes twice as long no thanks to travelers heading North for the weekend and unusually bad commuter traffic. Plus, it’s hot – in the 90’s to be exact. All of this, however, is made bearable with a combination of stimulating conversation, a sense of personal mission and the tinge of adventure that a road trip with a good friend will bring.

Hours later we’re just a few miles from dad’s house and I start to tremble. Mary pulls over, “What’s wrong,” she asks with concern. 

“I don’t know but I can’t control it,” I sob. It occurs to me that I’m putting myself in the same situation I went through as a teenager so many years ago when dad locked me out of the house late one stormy night for being 15 minutes past curfew. He wouldn’t let me inside, so apparently I walked to the safety of my best friends family’s house on the other side of town miles away. I say apparently because I have no memory of what happened between standing at the door of my house and arriving at my friend’s house later than night. 

I realize in that moment that the same thing could happen to be all over again: Being abandoned by someone I love. I shared this with Mary whose quality of presence helps me find a little bit of stillness inside. 

After a few minutes she suggests that I call him and let him know that I’m on my way. I had decided before coming that I wouldn’t call him in advance because in the past that gave him the chance to come up with an excuse as to why he didn’t have time for a visit. So I had to come up with a story as to why I was nearby so that it would be harder for him to say no. 

“Dad, hi, it’s Robin,” I say with a shaky voice. 

“I know who it is,” he says, not unkindly. 

“I was in Nevada city for a dance workshop and thought I’d come by to say `hello’. Can I stop by?” I say hastily finishing the question in the hopes he won’t have time to think of a way to say no. 

“Well, this is a surprise,” he says with a long pause before continuing, “You may as well stop by, but I don’t have much time.”

Hearing the words, you may as well stop by, was like witnessing the opening of a treasure chest that only happens after years of toiling for the secret key. Ten minutes later, we pull into his driveway. I gather my courage and take a deep breath  and approach the front door. I’m ready for any outcome.

“Hi there, mate. Come on in,” dad says with a boyish grin. He’s originally from England and even though it’s been many decades since he lived there, his accent is easy to detect. The word “mate” to him is a term of endearment, much like American’s use the word “buddy.” 

After introducing him to Mary, we stand awkwardly in the entranceway. Dad leans over to give me a hug and says, “It’s good to see you.” 

It was the beginning of a new start.

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