I remember the summer when I first had the strange suspicion that I might miss my father. I was five years old at the time. It was the hottest summer I had ever experienced in Hà Nam. I was sitting on the veranda, staring at the deserted street, when I suddenly realized that something was wrong. The longer I thought about it, the greater the emptiness in my chest. I wondered if I would ever see him again, and then I comforted myself with the image of him coming through the gate, sitting down next to me, and telling me that he wasn't going anywhere. Of course, the gate stayed closed that day. I stayed on the porch and stared at the sun until I felt blind. From that day on, thinking about him began to hurt. By the time I was eight, I had slowly given up hope that he would ever come back.
But then, at thirteen, I found myself standing in front of a bus that was supposed to take me and my mother to Nội Bài airport to fly to him. What will the new life be like? Why has my father been out of contact for so long? When will I return to Hà Nam? These and hundreds of other questions had been running through my mind since the family reunion was decided. But none of them were urgent enough for me at the time. All I wanted was to get to Germany and run toward my happy ending.
After saying goodbye to relatives and neighbors, which felt surreal, I boarded the empty bus and took a seat by the window. Then we drove off. The day was sunny and warm. I counted the cyclists who passed us and listened to the sounds of the road. The late summer wind crept in through the open window and tickled my face. It smelled like the beginning of fall. Or the beginning of something brand new that had its origins in something old. A rebirth. I thought of kintsugi, the Japanese way of repairing broken ceramics with gold or silver pigments. Afterwards, the object is even more valuable than before. I thought of my father, rummaged through my memories and found a vague image of him holding me in his arms as a baby. Soon he will be able to hold me again. I will finally know what it's like to have a father. For the first time in my life, I felt complete. There was nothing left to be afraid of.
A few hours later, I walked into Munich airport full of joy. With every step I took, I pushed away some of the doubt that still lingered inside me. I walked through immigration, past suitcases and travelers, smiling at my mother. Outside, my father stood in the arrivals hall. It was finally happening. I was about to see him again, after all these years. Behind that door, the other part of the family was waiting for me.
I took a deep breath as the glass door opened.