From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Finding Lost Love

In life there are meetings which seem like fate.

Owen Meredith

“I want to try to find Sarah,”* my eighty-one-year-old father announced to me one day.

“Why now?” I asked.

I knew that Sarah had been his first true love in college, at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he studied pre-med. In 1934, at twenty, he contracted a life-threatening case of tuberculosis and had to travel to Colorado for treatment. At their tearful good-bye at the train station, Sarah had said she felt she would never see him again. My father had reassured her they would be together. She had written to him faithfully, even though his recovery was doubtful. Then her father’s death changed her family’s financial stability. They wanted the security of marriage for her and had pressured her to start dating. When my father had recovered after several years and returned to New Jersey, Sarah was engaged to a doctor.

My father had been advised not to pursue his medical career because it would be stressful and expose his weakened immune system to other contagious illnesses. He had not yet found another career. He knew he wanted to live in Colorado, where the slower pace of life had helped him regain his health. He felt he had no future to offer Sarah compared to the doctor, so he had never contacted her. After returning to Colorado, he met my mother, and they were happily married for forty-four years.

“Well,” my father answered, “your mother’s been gone for a few years now. I would like to see Sarah and thank her. If she hadn’t kept writing to me while I was in the tuberculosis sanatorium, I know I would have died. She gave me the inspiration to get well.”

I knew this was important to him so I said, “Dad, I’ll help you as much as I can.”

“Great,” he replied. “It will be a fun adventure for the two of us.”

So, the search began. My father only knew Sarah’s maiden name, and we assumed she married in New Jersey. At the time, we did not have access to the Internet so he just started telling people about his search. He spoke to a friend who worked in his office building, and through her contact with the head of the vital statistics department in New Jersey, we found out that Sarah’s married name was Hostad.*My father called this “beneficial coincidence” a “co-inky-dinky.” This was one of Dad’s special “words to live by” that he developed because of his brush with death as a young man.

My dad’s cousin, a doctor, suggested that we contact the medical society for any records on Dr. Hostad. We found out he had been a gynecologist in New Jersey. We decided to call numbers in New Jersey for anyone with the last name of Hostad. It was a tedious job, but Dad said we had to “practice patience.”

One day he called me and said, “I just finished talking with Dr. Hostad’s brother, and I have good news and bad news.”

“What’s the bad news?” I asked.

There was a long pause, and then my dad said, “Sarah died a few years ago.”

“Oh, Daddy, I’m so sorry that you aren’t going to be able to talk to her,” I responded.

“I’m sad, but you know I always tell you, ‘Don’t be sorry.’ I wish things were different, but the good news is that Sarah’s brother-in-law and his wife are coming to Denver next week, and they said they would love to meet us for lunch. Isn’t that another co-inky-dinky? They also told me Sarah has a daughter.”

My dad sounded happy and excited, but I was not sure how I felt about Sarah’s daughter. I wondered what she was like. Did she know about her mother and my father? I kept these thoughts to myself, however, and said, “Great, hopefully we can get more information.”

At the luncheon date, my father told the Hostads how wonderful Sarah had been to him, and how he felt she had saved his life with her letters of encouragement. After he spoke, there was a long silence. They looked somewhat shocked and told us that Sarah had not been very happy, that she had struggled emotionally. The lighthearted, warm and giving person my father described was not the Sarah they had known. They did say she had been a very beautiful woman, and they were glad to know she had been such a positive influence in my father’s life.

At this point I said, “What about her daughter?”

“Her name is Lynn.* She’s a little older than you are. She lives in Boston, is divorced and has a grown daughter. She works as a psychologist with prison inmates. Here’s her phone number,” they answered. As our lunch ended, we thanked them for sharing their information.

That night my father called Lynn. Then he called me and said, “Lynn told me that her mother had often talked about me, and she knew the whole story about her mother and me. She wants to meet us in Denver for a few days in the fall. I told her she could stay with me.”

“Dad, that’s great, but I don’t really know if she should stay with you.” I was suddenly very concerned. In my mind, Lynn was a stranger. I felt very protective of my father. As an only child, I had fantasized that she could be like a sister, but could she be trusted? What if she was angry or resented him?

“No, I insist she stay here. We won’t have enough time otherwise. Don’t worry, you know what I always say, ‘Worry is like paying interest on money you haven’t borrowed yet.’”

“Okay,” I agreed, but privately I decided to intervene if I had any doubts when I met her.

A few months later, we found ourselves waiting inside the airport terminal to pick up Lynn. I had butterflies in my stomach and clutched my dad’s hand tightly. I knew he was excited, but his face looked calm and relaxed. Suddenly, she was standing in front of us, greeting us warmly.

As my dad hugged her, I noticed that she looked a lot like me, but with redder hair. Once we arrived at my father’s house, we settled at the kitchen table to talk as my dad prepared dinner. My dad said, “Lynn, your mother saved my life with her love and encouraging letters. I want you to know how thankful I am.”

“You meant a lot to her, too,” Lynn replied. “She told me how sweet and loving you were to her. She loved you until she died, and when she was unhappy, she used to say she was going to go find you!”

As we continued discussing Sarah and my dad’s history, my previous concerns vanished. I realized that I felt totally comfortable with Lynn. The relationship among the three of us blossomed through the years until my father’s death, and Lynn and I have continued as “sisters in spirit.” My search with Dad for his lost love strengthened our closeness and confirmed his guiding life principle. Indeed, “love conquers all.”

Marna Malag Jones .

*Names have been changed.

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