with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

My Father Helps Me Fill in the Blanks of Our Story

In going through stacks of papers from my father’s home more than a year after his death, I found a manila envelope with my name on it. Inside were printed copies of emails I’d sent out in 1996 onward before we had an easily-updated website.

Emails I sent out about our early travels kept for many years by my father - Lorelle VanFossen.When we left my father’s driveway in Marysville, Washington, I was saying goodbye to more than my ancestral home in the Pacific Northwest. I was telling both of my parents, especially my father, that they were going to have to do some growing up and get along without me for a while. It was my time to walk by myself.

This is a bit dramatic, yet looking back, this is part of my experience.

It would be six years before I saw my father again.

For many years I knew my father cared about me, but his caring manifested by pushing and shoving, bad jokes, and tiny moments of appreciation with the occasional grasping hug and push back, as if it hadn’t happened. He wasn’t a man to hold your hand, though I have many pictures of him doing just that when I was tiny. As a grown-up, he struggled with emotions and appropriate behavior when it came to expressing love. I knew that. I understood that. Intellectually.

In my heart, intellectual understanding didn’t hold you close and tell you it would be okay when you cried yourself to sleep.

Finding the stack of emails was amazing, and delightful. Over the years of hard drive crashes, email accounts shut down or changed, servers crashed, and viral hacks of our websites, data has been lost. The stories of our first adventures on the road had evaporated. I had pieces, but not the whole story.

Here in my hands were most of the lost emails. I wondered what happened to them and asked one of my father’s friends.

“Those emails. He’d be so proud. He’d bring them into the pancake house and read them to us, laughing at all the crazy things you two had been up to.” The pancake house was our euphemism for the breakfast cafe my father and his cronies hung out at daily, a second home, or first home for many of the guys who were retired, out of work, and near to living on the streets. “If a guy really liked one of the stories, your old man’d give him the pages.”

That is just like my father. That explained the missing pieces, but there was enough for me to work with.

I released “Journal: December 18, 1996 – Friday the 13th The Journey Begins” and recently edited it again as I continue to work on our autobiography, thanks to the holes filled in by my dad.

As I go through the stories and journal entries of those early years, long before we had an easy-to-update website like this, I wonder what else got lost along the way.

The older I get the more I think that life is a journey of discovery and rediscovery.

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