There he was, standing by the well trimmed green plants used to decorate a part of Garfield park in DC. It's a fairly cool afternoon. Few people strolled around the park, everyone doing his or her thing.
The man I am staring at appeared to be looking for someone. I could see him but he could not see me. I made sure of it by sitting on a park bench with a woman and her cheery toddler far behind him next to some flowers. Anyone would assume I was with the woman and her child.
"She's so adorable. I like happy babies," I commented, making funny faces at the baby. The woman smiled, "happy babies make happy moms, I tell you. But it's not always so, though I wish it was! Do you have children?"
"Not yet. Maybe someday." I sigh and glance at the man again.
The toddler raises her hands and her mother picks her up and throws her into the air a little, catching her as the toddler chuckles in delight. I took my eyes off this lovely scene and looked at the man by the plants again. He'd sat down on a bench close to him, bent his head a little and was fiddling with his smartphone.
Ever since I arrived in the country, it was a bit difficult contacting him but I got through. I hope it will be worth it. He's a large part of my life and I want to get to know him. I have so many questions but I am battling so much anxiety and doubt. Did he ever love me? If he did, why did he leave? Why did he never bother to find me or stay in touch?
We have spoken severally on phone. I'd set up a meeting two weeks ago but could not face him. I was not ready so I sent him a text postponing the meet-up. On that day, I watched his shoulders droop as he read my text and left the park. He looked sad but I'm not sure. Anyone could fake a sad look.
"Mommy, mommy. Yum, yum?" Oh, the toddler could talk. The woman beside me laughed and glanced at me. "She says yum, yum when she wants ice cream," she explained.
I furrow my brows a little. "Ice cream? Is she not too little for that?"
"Oh, I have a batch of nice, unsweetened ones I made for her. It's healthy for babies."
I nodded in response. My phone pinged. I pulled it out of my jacket pocket to read a text.
My baby girl. I am at the park now, waiting. Please make it today. It's been too long. I will wait here for you as long as you want.
My heart skipped a beat. I took a deep breath and exhaled. I stood, waved to the woman and her toddler and walked towards the man sitting on the park bench. I circled the bench and sat down gently beside him. He looked up from his phone and stared at me. My mouth suddenly felt dry and I could feel tears already pooling in my eyes.
"Hello, father." My voice sounded raspy to my ears.
He appeared speechless and just stared. We locked eyes for minutes. He spread out his strong hands and I fell into them. We held each other tightly. He cupped the back of my head to his chest and swayed me gently.
For a man in his late forties, he still looked ruggedly handsome. He cupped my face and stared into my eyes, "Selena, you look just like my mother." He said gently. I smiled, "That's what mom said."
"Forgive me? I would have been there for you all these years if I could."
I nodded, "I understand the demands of your job and I know the separation was not easy on you."
Serving as a member of the President of the United States' cabinet for three consecutive terms took him out of my life. Work was everything to him and mother could not divorce him because of the publicity so she left the country, heartbroken, with me at the age of 8.
I became angry as I grew older. I rebelled then found my way back after my mother died 3 months ago. I was an only child and my father was the only relative I had. I had to come back home.
"Let's start over Selena. I'm retiring soon."
"I'm here now, father. I'm not going anywhere."
He laughed. "What?" I asked, smiling and almost laughing. He shook his head. "I thought you would cancel this meeting again. I was ready to run after you this time."
I was a little surprised. "You knew I was here already?" He grinned. "My security had seen you and informed me. I had to pretend so as not to scare you off."
He sighed. "It's 4th of July tomorrow. Will you come with me to the party? There will be lots of fireworks. I know you love them."
He still remembered. I laughed, "of course, father. I would not miss it for the world!"