a family reunion, of sorts, occurred just a week ago here in this fine city of san francisco and i have yet to tell you about it.
i’m not sure where to begin my story because the beginning of this story is years past. decades, actually.
my father had two children from his first marriage when he lived in Germany. i met both of them for the first time about nineteen (i think) years ago. and then i met them again fifteen years ago. and i haven’t seen either of them since. why fifteen years passed between then and now doesn’t matter. the fact that that bridge of time finally came to an end last weekend is what matters. saying that that makes me happy would be the understatement of the year, or years as it were.
he came into town on a friday morning. he, quite simply, texted me that he was at the fisherman’s wharf and he was tall and blond and drinking a diet coke. as if i could have forgotten what he looks like ? much less, how do you miss a 6’6″ blond german boy who looks almost exactly like your father ? when i set my eyes on him, walking out of a crowd on pier 39 donning a red plaid like shirt, black slacks, and a pair of faded denim converse, i d*mn near got the wind knocked out of me. a handful of words come to mind to describe this experience. surreal and disorienting are among them. there’s no way to describe this experience. i can’t even akin it to some scene out of a hollywood movie even though that is more or less what it felt like in the moment we embraced and i felt hot tears fall on my cheeks. blurry eyed, i looked up at him and smiled. we hugged again and then walked back to my house, about a mile south of the wharf.
the weekend he was here i was sick. quite sick. i was still coughing up all sorts of slimy stuff and finding it hard to catch my breath. i still had a low grade fever. i was still blowing my nose regularly. because i was still sick, this afforded me time off from work. however, because i was sick, i didn’t have the energy to do much outside of my apartment. i’d been hunkered down for over three days already in my room nursing my symptoms with codeine cough syrup, antibiotics, an array of vitamins, and liters of water. as it turns out, it didn’t matter. (side note: let me just say that being diagnosed with bronchitis while you are recovering from a sprained rib is cruel and unusual punishment).
we spent all of our time together talking, there really was no time for sight seeing or doing any outside of the house activities. my roommates invited me out on friday and saturday night, but i declined. or rather, we declined. we were too engrossed with each other and our conversations. i knew staying at home and nursing beers on my rooftop would be a far better use of my time with him in town. and my sister came down on saturday night to join us (i haven’t seen her since christmas). so, for the first time in over fifteen years, all three of us were under the same roof. i was sure to warn my roommates before their arrival that there would be not one, but three Kempins under the same roof on saturday night, to which they rolled their eyes and exclaimed, “oh, f*ck.”)
it was amazing. the night was a blur. i remember every moment, but it passed too quickly. it was like i blinked and it was gone. my sister left for seattle the following day and my brother was supposed to return home with her, but instead extended his stay in san francisco so he could spend more time with me. i returned to work on monday and while i was out of the house, he made his way around the city visiting various museums and attractions. when i arrived home monday night, he treated me and my roommates to a proper wiener schnitzel and more conversation on the roof. when i came home on tuesday evening, he was busy cooking up some more food in the kitchen. this time he made me a ginger and chicken soup for my pending cold (a soup that he says he’s been eating since he was a kid whenever he was sick). how amazing is that ? i would give my left arm for this to be a normal part of my life.
he departed on wednesday and i hugged him in the morning before i left for work and wiped tears from my face on my walk to work, sadder than sad to see him leave. and just like that, he was gone just as quickly as he had arrived. i think my head is still spinning from that weekend. i keep pinching myself that it ever even happened. i have to develop my film to bring this back to life or else this could have just been a dream.
i cannot put this into words. i am not telling this story correctly. i am not doing that weekend any justice. my words seem to be failing me because i don’t think there are words to describe that weekend and what me, my sister, and he must have been feeling. while he was here, i felt like we did just as much watching of each other as we did talking. i felt myself staring at his hands. comparing knuckles. and feeling a chill run down the back of my spine every time he had a similar mannerism as myself. there was one moment in my living room where he was twirling his hair during conversation and i realized i was doing the exact same thing. while he was cooking me soup, he was making a terrific mess in the kitchen. at one point, he cleaned his hands in the sink and wiped the back of his pants to dry them, leaving a large hand print on his grey slacks. at this, i laughed. he is just as wonderfully messy as i am in the kitchen and just as spontaneous with his cooking habits.
and he’s kind. his eyes are so kind and blue. he’s one of the kindest and most genuine people i have ever had the privilege of meeting. i introduced him to a handful of people here and each and every one of them told me thereafter that he was “the coolest guy.” i feel like i won the god d*mn lottery. i feel like the luckiest girl in the world that i get to claim this person as related to me. it goes without saying that we are not going to allow another fifteen years to pass before speaking to or seeing each other again. i’m already making plans in my head for how i can get over to germany to see him as soon as humanly possible.
i wish i could revive my vocabulary. i have been sitting on this post for a few days, unable to breath the life into it that it deserves. every sentence falls short. this entire post misses the mark. but it’s all i have for now. i’m cooking up some good stories to tell and will return to my usually scheduled programming as soon as i develop my roll of film. until then, i’m going to brace myself for my upcoming three day weekend because i have every intention of making some art because guess what ? i have an art show going up on the fifteenth of July and i’d best be prepared.
and my left hand’s ring finger is starting to feel a little naked these days, i’ll tell you more about that in a few days.
[self portrait in a u-haul with one eye closed. nikon 35mm and color film.]