Boise, Idaho is not a place I thought I would ever visit. I am sure Big Dog felt the same way, but this was one of our planned destinations.
It must be strange being a guy and not knowing if you have a bunch of progeny floating around in the world unbeknownst to you. I can't imagine how many children Big Dog might have out there. He went through a shotgun wedding at 19, that gave him a daughter along with a wife, but about 15 or more years ago, a phone call from a trusted friend in the middle of the night informed him that he had another daughter.
Apparently, she was the offspring of a friend's sister, a girl Big Dog partied with and slept with one fateful night (or morning, or afternoon…) And, girls, yes, it can happen. All it takes is ONE.
The friend's sister was still a teenager and gave her daughter up for adoption. Fast forward 20 years or so and W., now a grown woman and having children of her own, is frustrated at her inability to answer any medical questions that have to do with heredity. She begins her search for her biological parents. She first finds the mother, then begins the long, slow process to find her father. Needless to say, it was not easy finding Big Dog since he wasn't even in the US, but she persevered and finally tracked him down.
They were in touch for a while, then out of touch, and then back in touch again as she went through several marriages and the birth of four children, but there had never been a father-daughter reunion. Til now.
It was a long journey to Boise and not just geographically, either. Big Dog is not very open with his emotions, so I had no idea if he was nervous or excited or what at the prospect of meeting his long lost daughter, but here we were, about to meet "the other family" for the first time.
Meridian is a suburb of Boise. Typical of suburbs, it's got strip malls and blocks of nice houses. W. and her family live in one of them, in an area where the streets are named after water fowl. Pelican, Eider, Egret… Birds from the oceans, lakes and marshes. The city planners didn't seem to care. Theirs was the one with a banana colored van in front and a giant rose bush covered with dead roses. I am sure it was beautiful a few weeks ago. The bush is overgrown, evidence of their busy lives.
W. works at a local pizza parlour. Her 16 year old daughter, H., works there, too, several nights a week. Together, they somehow make ends meet. It must be tough with so many kids -- there's S., the hyper-active 12 year old, F., the precociously sweet 7 year old and C., the whacked out almost-3-year-old who seems to be from another planet. (I love his oddity!)
It's funny (and fun!) having an instant family. The first night, we were all a bit shy, but by the time we spent a few hours looking over photos neither side had ever seen before, having burgers for lunch and then waiting around for W. to return from her doctor's appointment, we were completely family -- in all ways good AND bad.
"25 dollars?! Each?!"
"C. is under 5 and free. Plus it's after 3pm so it's 17.75 each," I corrected Big Dog who was having a mini-coronary over the fact that he might have to shell out $175 for all of us to get into the water park where we had promised to take the kids.
"Are you sure you want to go in? Wouldn't you rather go to mini-golf next door?"
"You can't renege on your promise now!"
It's still more than $100, but he finally let the park have some of his hard-earned dough and in we went.
The kids were no longer shy with us and F. was the charmer of the bunch, holding our hands, pretending to be scared so that we would stay with her, laughing and hugging and screaming "Granpa!" and "Granma!" at the top of her lungs. She didn't care that I was the lone skinny Asian in a sea of half-naked white people, or that Big Dog's "Speedos" (which would have been embarrassing enough in Baggy Swimtrunk Land) was really his underwear.
Big Dog, being the weirdo that he is, loved that she was calling me "Granma." Me?" Granma?! I was merely amused.
"It's okay for you to call me Granma but you don't have to shout it out so loud," I laughed. "They might hear you in Winnemucca."