TITLE: "Looking for His Father"
By Venice Kichura
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Thanks, ma’am, you’re all set,” the Canadian/US border patrol guard said, giving Jen back her birth certificate.
“Sir?” He said, looking at her husband, Paul.
“Here,” Paul said, handing him his folded birth certificate.
Paul sensed a problem from the guard’s prolonged stare at the document and head shaking.
“I’m sorry, sir, “he said, looking up, “but this is only a copy. We need the original birth certificate that has a raised seal like hers.”
“Oh, man! You’re gotta be kiddin’ me.” Paul exploded in disbelief, banging his fist against the dashboard.
“You’re telling me I can’t cross over?”
“Not today, sir. Come back with a raised seal on your birth certificate and you can enter. Sorry, rules are rules,” he said, handing Paul back his birth certificate.
Paul O’Brien turned to his wife, Jen and smirked, “So God’s in control, right? Maybe we shouldn’t have left Connecticut.”
Jen closed her Bible and laid her hand on Paul’s tired, gearshift arm. “I’ll drive,” she said.
Without saying a word, Paul got out of the driver’s seat and Jen turned the car around to head south.
“I’m sorry, Sugar,” comforted Jen. “I know you’re disappointed. But there’s nothing we can do right now. After 9/11 the world just isn’t the same.
Let’s don’t drive all the way back to Hartford tonight. It’s late. I see from my tour book there’s a Bed and Breakfast, just south of Burlington, just off the highway. We both need a good night’s sleep and maybe we could make it a small Memorial Day vacation right here in Vermont.”
But it wouldn’t be a vacation for the discouraged young man who had just run into another roadblock in finding the father he never knew. His hopes had been rekindled when found his father's name on the internet as living in Quebec City. Now that his mom had recently died of breast cancer there was nothing stopping him. He had loved his mother, but he wasn’t anything like her. He had shared her last name for 28 years, but her clear blue Irish Eyes and light auburn hair contrasted against his dark brown eyes and complexion, making him look more like her adopted son. His mother was short and stocky, while he was stood six feet tall. His 31 inch waist concerned his wife who thought he didn’t eat enough and spent too much time exercising.
It wasn’t his fault that he had been the product of a teenage affair. Embarrassed that she had conceived a child out of wedlock, his mom never told him much about him his dad. When his father had learned his mother was pregnant, Paul’s grandparents, originally from Canada, sent their 18-year-old son away to college, somewhere around Montreal where he had relatives. All he knew was that his father was French.
“Jen, you know I hate those B & Bs. There’s no privacy, not even a television in your room. But I don’t care. We just need a place to crash. I’m too upset to even read a map, so you’re on your own.”
“Don’t worry, Sugar,” Jen assured her in her sweet Carolina drawl. “God will get us there.”
“Good luck with finding anything in Vermont,” he said. This state doesn’t believe in highway billboards. He loved his beautiful southern wife, but sometimes her Bible belt feelings clashed with his New England logic.
“I’m sure we’ll find it. You get some rest.”
Less than half an hour later, Jen pulled off the highway, just as her tour book had directed. Five miles down the road and up a rolling hill was a large blue sign, bordered with dairy cows, “Phillips Hill Inn”.
“Here it is,” Jen said, pulling into the driveway.
“I’ll get the suitcases,” Paul said, “but don’t expect to stay. It’s late and we don’t have a reservation.”
The scent of orchids led them up the walkway, bordered with yellow daises. It was midspring and the flowers in northern New England were coming into full bloom. The stately white colonial house shone brightly against the dark evening sky and the columned porch arches added to the home’s New England charm.
The big wrap-around porch complete with hanging plants looked homey and the young couple wanted to plop in one of the porch rockers, but were afraid to feel at home yet.
“We’re total strangers to these people. You can’t trust anyone these days, so don’t expect them to let you in. This isn’t North Carolina where you’re from, where you can get a checked cashed without ID just because the bank teller has positive “gut feeling” about you. You’re up north now, Hon. He said, ringing the doorbell.
Five minutes later the door opened and behind stood a middle-aged couple in their pajamas.
“Hope we didn’t wake you,” Jen said before the surprised innkeepers could say anything.
“Sorry to come so late, but my husband and I need a place to stay tonight. I‘m Jen and this is Paul.”
Bowing his head for a few seconds, the large, muscular man looked up and studied their tired young faces. . “Welcome, he said, I got a feeling you’ll be fine here,” he said with a warm hospitable smile.
Jen turned to her husband and winked.
“Please come in, Jen and Paul,” the slender, dark-haired woman said. “Let us take your luggage.” Paul wasn’t sure but he thought he detected a French accent from the woman. Her husband was, however, was no doubt, of English descent.
“We’re Ken and Claire Phillips,” your innkeepers.
“We’re the O’Briens. Thanks, again, for letting us stay. What are your rates?” she continued, afraid to ask. Their home was lovely and surely one of Vermont’s finer B & Bs.
“It‘s $75 a night, which includes a breakfast feast you’ve never had before. You wouldn’t think my beautiful wife was much of a cook by looking at her. She looks more like a model than a chef and grandmother of five. But she does a one-bang-up job in the kitchen.”
That’s reasonable,” Paul said, in relief. He was glad his new job as an insurance actuary paid well.
“Follow me up the stairs to your suite, “said Ken.
Up the winding stairway, the O’briens knew they were in Vermont. Trinkets of dairy cows were scattered throughout the house. . Even the wallpaper had a cow theme. Pictures of family graced the walls, making them feel they were at home and not at the Holiday Inn.
Opening the bedroom door, Claire said, “Here’s your room. Everything should be here for you. We had a cancellation at the last moment, so I had a room fixed up before you came. Just let me know if you need anything. And please feel free to come downstairs and help yourself to anything in the refrigeration. Just think of yourself as family.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Phillips. It looks great,” said Jen, admiring the freshly cut flowers and king-sized bed adored with soft hand-embroidered pillows. She felt the presence of the Lord there from the beginning. Spotting a Bible on the dresser, she knew God was working His plan even though they had a setback.
“We just want to get some sleep before we go back home tomorrow morning,” she said.
“When would you like breakfast?” asked Mrs. Phillips. "And please, just call me Claire,” she added.
“Oh, don’t go to any bother. Cereal’s fine. We need to get out of here and hit the road early. Just some cereal boxes around 7 a.m. would be fine.” Jen said.
“Nonsense! Just wait ‘until you see what’s on the table! Like I said, my wife gets up before dawn and puts a lot of love into her breakfasts.”
“Well, Ok…but, we just want coffee and cereal,” said Paul.
“Goodnight and thank you.”
“Goodnight, kids and God bless you.”
““Isn’t this lovely, Sugar?” Jen said, brushing her long locks and getting ready for bed.
“Well, give me the Holiday Inn. I just want to be by myself and not try and make swallow small talk with some strangers, no matter how nice they are.”
"Let’s get some sleep."
Jen feel asleep immediately, but Paul moistened his pillow with tears. . Would he ever find his father?
Before their alarm went off the next morning, the inviting aroma of fresh coffee and fresh baked cinnamon rolls traveled upstairs and reminded them they hadn’t had a decent meal in 24 hours. However, Paul still insisted on just coffee and cereal. He put bills totaling $75 in an envelope marked, Thank you, Mr. And Mrs. Phillips, and sealed it.
Careful not to leave anything behind, they double-checked the room. Jen made sure the birth certificates were secure in her bag.
Then he asked his wife if there was any way they could escape without being seen. Tiptoeing down the stairs, carrying their suitcases, they were met by Ken.
“Good morning, kids!” Hope you slept well”. He said. “Let me take your luggage. You can’t leave yet.
There on the dining room table was a smorgasbord of breakfast food, everything from scrambled eggs to even breakfast cookies.
“This is incredible, Paul!” Jen said.
“Well, OK, it does smell and look delicious,”
Paul gave in, sitting down next to his wife. “But we have to leave after we eat.”
“Eat all you can,” Ken said. “But before we start we always pray first.”
Everyone at the table bowed their heads except for Paul.“Dear Father, thank you so much for bringing these special young people to our home. May we glorify to you in all we do and say today. We love you, Father. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Studying the faces of his innkeepers, Paul had never seen such love and tenderness toward God, except for his wife when she prayed.
“So, you’re from Hartford?” Claire inquired.
Jen jumped in, “Paul is, but I’m originally from Charlotte. Paul and I met in school at Boston College. When I got my scholarship to Boston College, Mamma said, “Jenny, I just know you’ll go up north and marry a Yankee. That’s exactly what happened.”
Ken turned to Paul, asking, “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m in insurance---work for Aetna.” Paul was brief but polite.
“Well, it was supposed to be something like that, only it was more of a trip to find someone. But it looks like it’s not going to happen this weekend.”
“I’m sorry,” it’s such a lovely Memorial Day weekend. “Where were you headed? Up to Mount Mansfield? Ken continued.
“Nope, Canada,” Paul said, thinking of someway to end this senseless chatter.
Feeling the awkwardness, Jen pulled out their birth certificates from her bag.
“We thought we were all set,” she said. “We’d brought our birth certificates and even had our currency exchanged at the banks. But no one warned us our birth certificates had to be originals with the raised seal. Mine was fine, but not Paul’s.”
“Could I take a look, please,” Claire asked. “We haven’t crossed the border since 9/11 and were thinking of going there in the summer to see some family.”
Jen pointed out the differences of Paul’s document not having a raised seal. However, all Claire could see was the name, “Ronald Bouchard”, listed as Paul’s father on his birth certificate. The letters were tiny, but in her eyes they were three feet high, jumping right off the paper. At the top of the document, she read where Paul was born on 4/22/77.
Trembling, she said, “Paul, I have to ask you something. Is your mother’s name Ameilia and does she come from New Haven?”
Paul’s soft brown eyes registered shock. ‘Yes, yes! Did you know my mother?”
Well, not really. I just knew her name and who she was. You see, my brother, Ronald Bouchard was in love with her in high school, sometime around 1976. She was two years older than me. I just know that they had an affair and my parents sent my brother away to some relatives in Canada to go to college.”
“I think that you’re my nephew, Paul.”
Paul and Julia sat frozen in their chairs, speechless and in shock.
“You’re my aunt? You know my dad? Where is he? I have to meet him!”
“Oh Paul, I’m so sorry. But my brother, your father, died last year in Quebec City. He had gone there to start a new business and when things didn’t work out, he stressed his heart and died at the young age of 46.
"I have albums of pictures of your dad. Would you like to see them?"
“Sure.” Paul said. He remained sitting still in his chair. He didn’t know how to feel. Should he be happy? He’d found his aunt, but would never meet his father. But at least he had some pictures to see where he got his tall, dark French Canadian features. He studied Claire’s face and saw his eyes and nose.
“Paul,” Claire broke in, “I know you must feel terrible, that your search ended without ever meeting your father, even though I can introduce you to the paternal side of your family. Most of those pictures on the walls up the stairway are family members related to you.”
“But, Paul, just before your father died, we had the wonderful opportunity to introduce him to His Heavenly Father. Do you know him, Paul?”
Paul, again, lost for words, just stared blankly out the window. “My wife’s the religious one,” he said. “She’s the good one.”
“You’ll never be good enough, Paul.” That’s why Jesus took our place on the cross. It’s not about religion. It’s all about a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“That’s what my wife’s been telling me since I met her, “ Paul said. "But now that I see how God did have a plan for this trip…I mean, just think about the odds of meeting you and finding out about my father. I think I’m ready now.”
This time all four heads at the table bowed and Paul O’Brien prayed a simple prayer of repentance and salvation. Not only did he meet some of his earthly paternal family that day, but he also met his heavenly Father.
He found his long lost Father. And, he’ll also, finally, meet his earthly father, someday.
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