The Most Recent Incident

[Part 1 in a series. Read Part 2 and Part 3.]

While in Prague this summer, I got the following email message:

From: [DLB]@[company].com
Subject: [GF]’s Address & Phone Number
Date: June 5, 2003 1:53:35 PM PDT

If this is repeat information, please forgive me.

If you would like to stay in touch with [GF], you may
contact him at the following address and number:

[GF]
[address deleted]
[suburb of Salt Lake City], Utah [zip]
[phone number deleted]

Thank you and God Bless.

In Him, Sincerely,
[DLB]
[company]
[phone number]

The shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between your knees and the floor….

I have no idea who DLB is. GF, on the other hand, is my father.

My father, who up until June lived in Houston (though there was Australia before that, and Saudi Arabia before that). My father, whom I have not laid eyes on in ten years. My father, who sent me this email message for my birthday last year:

From: [GF]@[company].com
Subject: Happy Birthday!
Date: August 23, 2002 9:27:06 AM PDT
To: [KF]@[college].edu

K!

Happy Birthday! Hope you have a good one. Back in school yet? We just
started a week ago. Love you.

Dad

This has been for decades — three of them now — the nature of our correspondence: sentence fragments, initials, exclamation points. Two lines for a birthday. One for Christmas. We haven’t spoken on the telephone in longer than I can remember.

Sometimes I respond to the messages, usually in kind. A line or two. A polite query. No information.

Something about the June message piqued my curiosity, though; buried in the ostentatious Christianity — seriously: three references in a twelve-line message? — was a mystery. Utah? Was this another corporate transfer, into a domestic desert this time? Or was it something else?

I emailed him, but the corporate address I had for him produced no response. Six weeks later, there was this:

From: [GF]@[isp].net
Subject: address change
Date: July 20, 2003 5:34:51 PM PDT
To: [KF]@[college].edu, [DF]@[isp].com

New email as above. Have just relocated to [address] [suburb of Salt Lake City], Utah [zip]

— [GF]
— [GF]@[isp].net
— [phone number]

My sister, who hadn’t been on DLB’s lengthy email list, was included this time, which was notable given that he’d had me forward numerous greetings to her over the last few years, seemingly unable to keep track of her address. I replied again:

From: [KF]@[college].edu
To: [GF]@[isp].net
Date: 7/21/2003 10:36:34 AM
Subject: Re: address change

That’s a change! So what’s in Utah? Hope you’re doing well. Love, K.

The next day, there was this:

From: [GF]@[isp.net]
Subject: Re: address change
Date: July 22, 2003 12:09:42 PM PDT
To: [KF]@[college].edu

K

We’re doing well and getting settled. What’s in Utah? Maybe what’s not in
Utah: humidity, Houston traffic, big city, etc. What’s in Utah: beautiful
mountains, dry (maybe a little too dry right now), nice city–easy to get
around in, good environment for children, etc.

What’s happening with you lately?

Love

Dad

This is just the kind of cryptic response that has always made me probe further, and so I answered, attempting to sound newsy, in hopes of provoking a similiar response:

From: [KF]@[college].edu
To: [GF]@[isp].net
Date: 7/22/2003 1:58:58 PM
Subject: Re: address change

That all sounds good! Is the move another work-related one, or just
for the family? It sounds awfully nice.

Things here are good, just working hard, preparing for the fall
semester and my tenure review. Spent some time in Amsterdam at the
beginning of the summer and remembered being in Belgium all those years
ago. Enjoying the summer, which is slipping by very quickly.

Back to work for me. Hope all’s well with you!

Love,
K.

This was his reply:

From: [GF]@[isp].net
Subject: Re: address change
Date: July 24, 2003 4:16:44 PM PDT
To: [KF]@[college].edu

Move was for all of us. I’m starting a consulting business here. I’m ready
to supply all your leadership development needs!

I’d love to see Belgium again, and I’ll never forget your visit that summer.

Love

I let things drop here, knowing that I’d never get an answer. My father and stepmother went evangelical Catholic some years back, and so my hyperactive imagination tells me that they’ve either converted to LDS or they’ve found some fundamentalist Catholic outpost out in the desert and are stockpiling canned goods, waiting for the end times. I’ll never know, though. And the fact that I’ll never know — that I’ll never know the slightest thing about this man — is written all over the message.

There were two summers. We spent two summers with him in Belgium, the years I was ten and eleven.

All I’ll ever be able to know for certain is what I invent.

4 thoughts on “The Most Recent Incident

  1. This seems to require some response.

    As a piece, it’s mysterious. Solid writing. Objectively, I go “wow”.

    As virtual friend, I go “wow”, but for different reasons.

  2. I second Weez’s comment: “Wow.” You have my sympathy. My relationship with my (recently divorced) parents is odd, but I do communicate with them. For me, the weird part is how recent events and developments in one’s family life can recast the entire life that preceded the present.

    Tangentially, the coincidences continue.

    http://ghw.wordherders.net/archives/000445.html#654

    I think you’re a couple of years younger than me, which would put you in Belgium around the same time my family lived there (1979-1983). Your dad wasn’t in the military, was he? Then you’d be in the military brat camp with Weez and me.

  3. I probably should have alleviated some of the mystery with a subtitle: Part 1 in a Series. There will be more.

    We just barely overlapped in Belgium, George — I was there (Kapellen-bos being “there”) during part of the summer in 1978 and 1979. I’m not a military brat, though it’s arguable that my father worked (? past tense, I guess) for the true arbiter of our national defense policy.

    The funny thing is — having met you — I’d have thought that you were a couple of years younger than me. Which means we’re probably exactly the same age, and are just holding up mighty well.

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