so a friend got on my case last night about writing about my trip. i’ve been avoiding that for a number of reasons – busy with work, lazy, details not finalized, unforeseen roadblocks, etc. but the real reason is that this is a very personal, emotional thing and i wasn’t sure if i was ready to be that way in a blog on myspace. after all, i pretty much only write about music and rollerskating and tell horrible stories tainting my friends’ reputations. but then i remembered the values i hold about sharing your experience and how being open and vulnerable may help someone in ways you’ll never know. therefore, this is the deal:
on wednesday i’m going to nigeria. i’m going to meet my father for the first time. my father and the rest of my family – 3 brothers, 1 sister and more extended family than i’ll know what to do with. i am 29 years old, for my whole life my dad has been an abstract concept and this week he becomes real.
my parents met at the u of m, fell in love and got engaged. my father was here studying, but then got a job without a work permit. immigration didn’t like that and set deportation proceedings in order. my parents were married at the immigration detention center in april 1975, and shortly afterward he was deported, as the INS didn’t buy what they thought to be a sham wedding. my mom saved up a bunch of money and took a trip to nigeria in october/november. i was conceived there and my mom returned to the US. i was born here. they stayed married for like 8 years, talked about moving away to another country (nigeria was very volatile at the time), but it just didn’t work out. so they divorced. i had sporatic contact with my dad over the years and never really had much interest in him. when i was in my early 20s a couple of cousins on my dad’s side tracked me down on the internet. they invited me to meet them in jacksonville, florida. they were the first of my dad’s relatives that i ever met. it was really nice, really comfortable.
over the years i spoke more with my dad. i found out a couple of years ago that i have a right to file with the INS for him to return. i have not been able to bring myself to fill out this form. i’m not going to go too deeply into this, but this is where the emotional business comes in. when i was talking to my oldest friend ralee about this last night, she reminded me of how it takes a long time to be emotionally ready for an event like this. evidently for me it took 29 years. i found out i was ready last summer.
i kept in loose contact with the cousins who hosted me in florida. this past summer i got an email that one of them had suddenly passed away from cancer at 34 years old. i was devastated in a way i never expected. i booked a ticket, got driving instructions from philly to dover on mapquest, and just went. i got to meet my dad’s brother and a lot of cousins. it was, of course, one of the saddest experiences of my life.
on the other hand, it was one of the happiest experiences in my life, getting to meet so much family. it was amazing. people came up to me and knew who i was just by looking at me. and everyone who met me told me how happy my dad would be when he heard that they saw me. the overwhelming feeling i got was like… i have a place in my father’s family. i felt so proud of my name. i got a missing piece of my identity. looking around the table at one point, i said to myself, wow. i’m totally ready to go.
i never wanted to make this trip alone. but i was always waiting on someone else, leaving the power of decision in someone else’s hands. after a period of really emotional anguish and introspection, i forced myself to sit down and book the ticket. that was just about four weeks ago.
so many people have come out of the woodwork to help me, and everything eventually fell into place. the last piece was to get my passport and visa to get into the country. i checked the status and it had been delivered to my mom’s house on thursday.
sunday i went to pick it up, but it was nowhere to be found.
the panic and heartbreak i felt was excruciating. i cried to my mommy and she tried to pick up the pieces, calling fed ex, calling family friends, trying to figure out what to do. but there was nothing we could do on the business end as it was sunday and everything was closed. i tried to go on with my night as i had planned it, but i really couldn’t sleep last night at all. after everything i’d gone through, all the emotions, all the work… and now my passport and visa are missing and i wasn’t going to be able to go. i was on the phone with fed ex and the agency that worked on the visa all day today and no one could figure out what happened to it. did someone steal it? what were they going to do with my passport? i couldn’t get a new passport in 48 hours so i kind of almost resigned myself to it not working out. it was funny because what i thought about most were all the people i opened up to and told about the trip. i thought about how happy for me they all were, and then i thought about how i’d have to tell them it wasn’t going to work and i was going to cry all over the place and they’d have to instead share in my disappointment.
around 1pm today i got a call from fed ex saying that they finally figured out that it was delivered to an address a block off from my mom’s house. i immediately went to the house but there was no answer and i left a note. about an hour ago, fed ex called me and said that the person who lived there had delivered the package back to a fed ex kinkos, and that it would be in my hands shortly.
so at this moment i am completely exhausted, drained and slow. i have to shop for last minute necessities and gifts, meet up with some friends later, spend time with family. although i can’t feel it now, i am so excited. i’m not sure why God felt it was necessary to have me jump this last hurdle today. it was one of the most devastating things i’ve ever felt, to come so close and then feel like yet again the rug was going to be pulled from underneathe. but things are in order, i’m packing and preparing, and wednesday morning i will be off!
wish me luck.