I met my father for the first time when I was 18. The meeting was everything I expected it to be: awkward and surreal, as if I were peering into an alternate universe in which I appeared a 6-foot-tall towheaded man from Kentucky instead of the 5-foot-tall blonde woman from the Texas-Mexico border that I am.
At the time, I didn’t feel any spark of connection, no warm filial feelings. Standing before me was a father who decided he hadn’t wanted to be one and his relinquishment of me left little material for conversation.
By the time I met him I was entering college. I’d had tons of family, friends and mentors throughout my life who guided and supported me, especially my mom and brother. At university I thrived within my small community. I formed tight bonds with my colleagues and friends, some of whom I cook dinners for and send Christmas cards to; some I would consider family.
I didn’t think I was lacking in profound relationships until two figures materialized without warning: my grandparents. Though my father’s sudden presence in my life did not lead to the two of us immediately hitting it off, the day that I met his mother and stepfather altered my life in a way I couldn’t have predicted.
At first, I was a stranger to them; an 18-year-old college girl from the opposite side of the country sitting in the living room of their home in Chicago. It seemed I had nothing in common with them besides the fact that I was the long-lost daughter of their son. Our connection, though, was immediate. In the heart of my grandmother’s home, I felt like I was where I needed to be, where I belonged.
I discovered that my grandmother, too, is a writer who had penned the biography of a prominent Kentucky author. I found that my grandfather and I shared a love of philosophy and languages, among other things. And so began what I know will be a lifelong connection to my biological grandmother and my step-grandfather, who has done everything short of adopting me as his own daughter. I confide in them. We talk over the phone for hours every week and I visit as much as possible.
Our regular contact (and rather eerie compatibility) has imbued in me the feeling that my grandparents have been there all along, that I didn’t just met them my first semester of college. I eat and talk in their dining room with my Chicago cousins. I run an occasional errand for them. And after a rocky start, my dad and I are cool, too.
This journey of reconnecting with my family is an unbelievable privilege, something I could only dream about when I was young. I’d long ago assumed these kinds of happy reunions only happened on Hollywood sets. But sometimes, to badly paraphrase Lord Byron (and surely many others), real life is more incredible than fiction. Not everyone gets their family right the first time around, I’ve been lucky to have been granted a second try, for my sake and for my father and grandparents.’
Our friendship, and kinship, has become a rich, if not unlikely, cornerstone in my life. Even though we were estranged for 18 years, and even though I am 21 now and they have no obligation to me, my grandparents have been some of my most fervent supporters. They have loved me unconditionally, not because I am technically their granddaughter, but because they fell in love with me, and I with them. Despite the distance and the time spent apart, they are, and will always be, my family. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Victoria Cavazos is November’s Writers Club winner; follow her on Twitter.