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Meeting My Father Again: 21 Years Later (1 Viewer)

Zen Butler

Senior HTF Member
Jan 24, 2002
Southern, Ca
Real Name
Zen K. Butler
Friday, my father is coming in from Mississippi for my nephew's graduation. I haven't seen this man in 21 years and outside of a few phone calls have not spoken too much with him over the years. I am travelling up to Santa Clarita(not too far) to stay the weekend with my sister's family. Although, there is no real bad-blood per se(typical divorce while I was a teen), I'm nervous as all hell to meet the man again. I mean I'm older now than he was when he left. Has anyone met a family member after an extended period of time? and how did you handle it?

Lew Crippen

Senior HTF Member
May 19, 2002
I have not had that experience Zen—and I’m just amazed that even with a divorce, you and he would be so disconnected.

No advice, but my best wishes for a reasonable meeting (and perhaps a successful outcome).

Mike Frezon

Oct 9, 2001
Rensselaer, NY
Could be a tough situation...that's for sure. But I'd predict that you, Zen, will handle it with your usual eyes-straight-ahead attitude towards life. And that's the way to go. Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.

Worse that could happen? You guys will go back to your own lives. Best? Maybe you'll be able to make some kind of connection and do a slow build.

All the best, dude.

Mary M S

Mar 12, 2002
Zen that’s a momentous occasion any way you look at it. I have not been in that position, but have an Uncle by marriage that was in a high stress similar position. He’s highly successful, married to my favorite Aunt with a son. After his adoptive parents both died and becoming a father, he began to wonder about his birth records.
What he found was astounding. His Birth parents had immigrated to America from Ireland as teenagers. They met here and conceived. Stanch Catholics, she had the baby in America then returned to Ireland. They ended up marrying after both returned to Ireland, then again migrated to America (locating in the NY area) becoming citizens. They had 4 children, of which he was the fifth and eldest, full blooded brother.

The birth parent contact did not go well. A conference call was made in which the birth father’s bottom line was let the past lie..and that he would have no interest in meeting this grown son, life had moved on. The mother crying during this conversation plaintively begged the father if they could not meet him ‘just once’ without telling anyone. Birth father ‘forbade’ him to contact sisters/brother.
This crushed my Uncle who stewed over it for 2 yrs. He initially respected their decision. Then decided his grown ‘siblings” had the right to know.
There were countless calls, two sisters who would not wait and flew to him within a wk, - then an early first reunion of the mother and siblings in one sister’s hometown. Key West. The father refused to attend. It took a year for his family to break down his stubbornness, and since have been many trips including 2 to Ireland, to meet hundreds of ‘close relations’ (who all appear to own pubs :) )

I know that in his personal affairs as most men, he is reserved with NO tendencies towards appreciating drama. The two hardest times for him was first contact phone call to parents, and the first trip to Ireland to meet: add water - instant clan. They absolutely overwhelmed him, not due to indifference or standoff ishness but a heavily enthusiastic treatment as if all the years he had been absent from their history had never been. He called it major sensory overload.
Knowing him, he spent time before the meetings brushing up on conversational gambits related to their individual histories and professions, to have neutral topics handy if the room got too quiet.

My Aunt, - I think, kept him stable throughout what would best be described as a three year ordeal of exceptionally charged (understatement) emotional ups & downs. He talked about it a bit, his wife just kept reminding him to be himself. Her advice at the early meetings was to treat it like work, which includes heavy entertainment and social contacts with clients. Be personable and polite, attempt to stay a bit detached keep expectations low, be adaptive; and let nature take its course.

Hopes that for all involved there will be less stress than you perhaps imagine or fear with more of a 'tidying up life' satisfaction gained.

Dennis Nicholls

Senior HTF Member
Oct 5, 1998
Boise, ID
Real Name
I never got to meet my grandfather although he lived in California until I was a teenager. He divorced my grandmother about 2 years after my father was born and didn't keep in contact after she remarried. My father never wanted to talk about him. All I know about my grandfather - Robert S. Nicholls - was that he worked for the trolley company in LA and played semi-pro baseball.

My nephew is getting married next month, and his divorced father isn't showing up. We really don't exactly know where he is for that matter. Some reports say Ohio, others say the Carolinas or maybe Virginia. I personally haven't seen him since circa 1982.


Aug 1, 2002
Similar situation here. Mom died in 1978 (I was 10) Dad got remarried in 1981 I left when I was 15 and never looked back. I finished school worked hard and have made a very good life for myself and my family all without speaking to my dad once until last year, 22 years later. I found out he was in the same city as I was in on business and gave him a call to meet for coffee. I had it all figured out how I was going to blast him for turning his back on his old family in favor of his new one, never helped, never cared ..... in the end when we met face to face none of the old stuff even came up because it really doesn't matter anymore. Our relationship will never be a strong one because we are just very different people today but my kids do ask about my dad and I don't want to deprive them of the chance to meet this man as he does have a lot to contribute. Take it slow and just see where things go, you might surprise yourself.

Janna S

Second Unit
Feb 17, 2001
Almost a quarter century ago, I was engaged to a man who committed suicide after we'd been together about a year. At the time of his death, his father had been out of touch with the family (my fiance's mother and five siblings, of whom my fiance was the eldest) for more than two decades. He'd been a prominent architect in a northwest city but alcohol had taken over his life. The family managed to locate him - it turned out that he'd achieved sobriety and was living cautiously and soberly in the city. He was with us for the funeral, and he stayed in touch with several of his children thereafter. There was much regret that the reunion took place under such circumstances, but although there were some hard feelings, it all worked out for the best. Good luck, and be glad you are getting this chance . . . .

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