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Looking in the Distance
It was 1976 and everywhere I went I saw colorful flowers and long hair. It had been 5 years since I moved into my house on Coconut Street, only an hour west of New York City.
The house was old and red. I had bought it because it was the cheapest house I could find in such a nice neighborhood. It was a sticky, hot day. Not the kind where people are happy it is warm, but the opposite. I can still remember seeing Mr. Dequare planting his plants in his garden. He was my next door neighbor, retired, and in love with his garden more anything else in the whole world. I always saw him when I came home from work and when I woke up in the morning. His family had died in a fire 20 years ago and he never talks about it, so I don’t bring it up. Except for the one time about two months after I met him he invited me into his house for some afternoon lunch. I was waiting in his living room for him and saw a picture of his family. When I asked him,
“How many kids did you actually have, here in the picture I see two, but I thought you had three?”
He just turned the picture over and looked to his garden. I quickly brought up a new subject, sat down, and tried to eat his ham and swiss cheese sandwich he made for me. I wish I knew more about him but he keeps to himself about his personal life and likes to get into mine more. He asks me every day,
“Landon when are you going to get yourself a pretty girl and settle down?” My response always was the same,
“Mr. Dequare I’m not ready yet to settle down”. And his usual comment back would be
“It might be too late and then you’ll lose whatever could have been”.
I just thought maybe soon enough he would stop asking that question, and just keep to himself, like I did.
Me, I’m not so interesting, I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin with my foster family. I never knew my mother, but my father, well I knew him. I’m not sure he knew me, but every Saturday I would go to the town’s local dock and I would see him loading and unloading the fish from the boats. I told my foster mother, Jane, that I knew it was him and I had found him all by myself. But she just laughed and said,
“Landon, your wrong, your father is dead”.
I was sure it was him because my best friend’s mother worked at the hospital and he had gotten my original birth certificate. I had found out from that alone and a few other papers that my mother died while giving birth to me, my father was alive, and he was working at a local fish trader. That was when I was 13. What I always wondered was why everyone told me he was dead. Did he know I was even alive? After college I never went back to that town or my foster family. I headed out to New York City trying to become a book editor. From this day on I can still remember seeing my dad. I wonder everyday where he went. Sometimes I even get this crazy idea in my head that I should go back and look for him. But then I go to sleep and every idea I had seems to vanish and leave like the night.
It was the morning and I was getting ready to go to work when I saw an ad in my mailbox for ten percent off of BeeBee’s glamour and glue art store. There was an old lady on the front cover holding up an art collage with a thumbs up. What made this lady so happy and why couldn’t I seem to be happy with my dream job that I dreamt about for my whole life. That’s when it hit me like a bunch of rocks. It was then and there that I decided to go and look for my father. I have always been missing a part of me and that was my real family. All I had left was my dad. I had an idea of what he looked like, but it had been 16 years since I last saw him. I can even remember that day, I went to the dock to see him and told myself the day of college graduation I would find him and tell him I was his son. I got up so excited and ready to finally meet the man I had been watching for 10 years. But when I got to the dock I didn’t see him. I asked one of the men,
“Have you seen Henry Flomand?” One man said,
“Young man he hasn’t been to work in over a week, I don’t think you’ll be seeing him around anymore”.
I walked away feeling broken and crashing down one by one. The words just kept replaying and replaying,
“Young man …over a week….”
That was when I vowed to myself that I would never go back to that town.
I was boarding the plane now and looking for seat b12. I sat next to a girl who thought that one bottle of vodka wasn’t enough for the whole entire plane ride. Two hours later I got off in Chicago. I was going to rent a car and drive to Milwaukee, my home town that I had not been to in over 16 years. I checked into the Dalai motel a street down from the fishers dock. After I had gotten all unpacked and ready I took a walk back to the dock. I never realized how green everything was. The water was green, the boats, the dock had green stripes to it. The weird thing was there was one red boat on dock getting loaded. I remembered that boat because it was the same boat my dad used to work on. That night I sat in my motel room thinking of a plan to come up with,
“Maybe I could…well that wouldn’t work, well maybe I could….nope”.
I couldn’t think of where to start so I would start thinking tomorrow at breakfast. The next morning I went to breakfast at the diner next door. I was reading the paper and eating my favorite, eggs with a side of grits. I knew I had to start looking for my dad, maybe he still lived here, and I had no idea where he was. So I asked my waitress,
“Excuse me, you look like you have lived here awhile, would you by happen to know a man by the name of Henry Flomand?”
“No, I’m sorry I actually just moved here and do not know anyone, sorry”.
By the time I was out walking again I had asked over a dozen people. Why was my father so hard to find? I ended up in the library sitting reading local records from 20 years ago, possibly locating my father. Henry Flomand, my finger skimming the pages frantically trying to find him or records of his life. I was opening another book, the 10th one I had read all day when a girl came up to me.
“I overheard you talking about Henry Flambond. Sorry to scare you but I was sitting over there and saw you again so I thought I would introduce myself, I’m Carrey Fisher”.
I was starring at this woman who had brought up my father’s name and then hers at the very same time. She was a beautiful woman with big purple glasses. She had on a pair of jeans, a yellow shirt, and a wristband that said, stop war, don’t start it. As I was starring I managed to spit out a few words.
“Nice to meet you, my name is Landon Queen. How do you know my father?”
“Sorry about that randomness, but after I saw you again and I thought you were looking for him. He was my mother’s boyfriend for about 7 years. They broke up about a year ago and he moved to the other side of town. I heard he got married and now has a young girl. How do you know Henry?”
I couldn’t speak, was this destiny coming to me, telling me I was supposed to find my father. I couldn’t speak. At last I told the girl,
“Could you take me to see Henry? I’m his son”.
She looked at me in awe and promised me she would, but she needed a car and wanted me to take her to dinner first. We planned on going to my father’s about mid afternoon the next day. We would check into a hotel, eat dinner, and then go find my father. Somehow I felt more complete, like I was finally finding the missing piece to my life.
It was 12 o’clock at night when the owner of the hotel came up and said that a letter had arrived for me. It had no return address but as I opened it up I recognized the stationary. It was Mr. Dequare and I had no idea how he knew where I was. But he had found me and wrote to me telling me that he knew I was looking for my dad, because a co-worker of mine came over to my house and they talked. That’s also how he got my address to the hotel. I started reading the letter more intensily now and he wrote about his family, for the first time. Said that he did have three kids, but he and his wife had a baby when they were very young. They gave it up for adoption and had his other two kids when he and his wife were older. He never told anyone that before. He then told me that the reason he was writing to me was to tell me to not give up. He tried looking for his long lost daughter but after 25 years of looking he still hasn’t found her. He told me that in a way he gave up. He didn’t want me to do that with my father.
“No matter how hard it is to find him don’t give up, never give up because the time spent looking will pay off when you are standing right in front of him, talking to him, sharing that moment”.
I felt like Mr. Dequare was hiding a whole part of his life, but I understood why. As I closed the envelope Carrey came in with dinner and said that takeout was fine. We talked all night about ourselves. She had told me that she was a teacher in Lake Front, she was adopted, loved peas, and liked the way I smelled. It reminded her of her dad. I had told her the cologne was given to me by a good friend.
Finally it was the day that I had promised myself 16 years ago I would do, go meet my father. Carrey and I got breakfast and then we drove. As Carrey was in the car driving she looked beautiful and reminded me of Mr. Dequare. She had his smile and the look of passion. It was half past three when we came up to a small town that was called Rewinthurse. It was a big town and just on the lake. It was more of the wealthier part of town and the people there were acquainted with everyone. Everyone knew everyone. Carrey said,
“Here, we are coming up to his house, the big red one on the left”.
My stomach twisted and I felt as sick as someone on a rollercoaster. Everything that I had wished for, the moment I had been waiting for was here. What was I going to say?
“Are you ready Landon? L A N D O N….earth to Landon. We’re here. Your father’s
house is that red one with the swing set in the front. I’ll wait here”.
“Oh yes I’m ready, just give me a minute”.
In this very moment I would have felt like this was the reason my life would be complete, but I reliezed that I didn’t have to meet my father in order to live my life to the fullest. Yet my father was a part of me, I had not given up looking for him, and I don’t think I ever would have. Just like Mr. Daquare said he did, which I doubt he really gave up. It was time. I got out of the car and managed to get my legs to walk one in front of the other. While my heart was beating at the speed of a race horse, I rang the doorbell. The house was an older red and fragile. It took a minute, but I put a smile on my face and was ready for whatever came. I rang the doorbell again, and the door opened.