I was away at school when the envelope came for me in the mail. I immediately recognized the curl of my father’s handwriting. Though I know our distance saddened him, he had encouraged me to go away to college, to venture out into the world and to seed my own adventures. We called each other weekly and he had recently discovered the internet. He had a great sense of humor and his playful emails went a long way to soothing my homesickness.
But this time something had moved him to take pen to paper. I inhaled deeply and opened the envelope. Inside was a handwritten note and folded within was another smaller, sealed envelope:
“Sweetheart, I think you are finally old enough to learn some things about me that I have been afraid to tell you…”
Oh my God, he’s sick.
“Often children judge their parents unfairly because they do not know what it’s like, but sometimes things happen that you never expected…”
Oh my God, he’s…met someone?
“I never said anything before because I wasn’t sure how you would react, but you need to know that you have two siblings I have never told you about.”
Oh… my... God.
“The details are unimportant, but this is a photo I took the last time they visited me here at our home. I just cannot keep this secret any longer. I hope one day you will meet them in person and we will finally be a family reunited.”
I couldn’t believe it. My father? Illegitimate children? My mind started to race with teary-eyed visions of our reunion. We’d weep and hold each others’ faces, searching for our genetic connection. My hands shook as I tore open the smaller envelope. Inside was a fresh photograph. I turned it over…
…and burst out laughing. The photograph was of two little raccoon cubs perched on the windowsill of my father’s living room. Oh my God, Dad was hilarious. This time he got me good.
Not long after, my father died. The raccoon story was quickly forgotten as, in the months that followed, I wandered through a fog of shock and numbing grief as I mourned this man who had been my anchor.
The following spring, during that annual rite of cleaning, I came across the letter and photograph again. As I looked at the two cute furry faces in the picture, my heart opened and I laughed fully for the first time in months as I pictured my father chuckling to himself at his desk, penning his practical joke. And as I remembered his joyful sense of humor, we were indeed…
… a family reunited.