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My Surprise

and what I learned about myself

By Shirley BelkPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - October 2023
Emotional States

I was fourteen that summer, and it had been five years since I had last seen him. Meeting with him again had not been my idea, but my grandmother's. She had planned it as her little "surprise." But it hadn't seemed like such a good one at the time. In fact, the whole scenario had struck me with such discord, that even now, some fifty years later, I care very little for surprises. They are to me, just neatly wrapped packages of deceit bestowed upon the unwilling. They are the gift bearer's way of manipulating or controlling the receiver. In short, I do not trust surprises!

I don't really blame my grandmother, though. She was only trying to reunite her son with his daughter. But I would have appreciated some forewarning. I then could have gained a small proportion of dignity and wit about myself in face of the situation. As it was, she had not afforded me any of the such. She had just let him walk back into my life again, no questions asked.

I will never be able to forget that extraordinary experience. After lunch, Grandmother Mary had suggested a walk in the outer lobby of her apartment complex. As we strode out of the elevator and around the corner, she exclaimed, "Well,'s your father!" I had not wanted to look up, but I couldn't help but to do so.

I remember feeling emotionally naked against the face of my emotions. I had wanted to run and hide, if only for a moment to regain my composure. But escape had not been possible, for my feet refused to move. It is both a strange and pathetic feeling to watch as a slightly familiar stranger approaches, knowing full well, at that same instant, that the stranger is your father.

It wasn't that the silver-haired gentleman had changed much in physical appearance, even though I had remembered him to be slightly taller. But I recall thinking, had my grandmother not introduced him, I probably would have failed to have recognized him. That thought shook me to the very core.

It is a much simpler task to ignore one's feelings rather than to face up to the simultaneous loving and hating of a person. But I had been forced to confront it because of my grandmother's cunning surprise and my unmoving feet.

As my father, with arms open wide, made his way to me, I had much to remember and much to forget about him. I made myself recall the times when he had showered me with affection and dressed me in the clothes of a princess. I then made myself forget that he and my mother had divorced, that he had not paid us any child support support for those five years since, and that he and his new wife had lived like royalty in South America. We had done without many of the sheer necessities of life, which made forgetting all the more difficult.

As my father reached out to embrace me, I made a very profound decision for a fourteen year old. Since I could not readily assume two attitudes towards him at once, I decided that we had to begin a totally new relationship with one another. It was acknowledged by our embrace.

I then realized that all had not been lost by my grandmother's exuberant, yet insensitive reasoning. It, indeed, had produced the effect she had hoped for. But I still do not trust surprises!


About the Creator

Shirley Belk

Mother, Nana, Sister, Cousin, & Aunt who recently retired RN (Nursing Instructor) who loves to write stories to heal herself and reflect on all the silver linings she has been blessed with

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (16)

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  • Lena Folkert2 months ago

    Wow. This hit home for me in many ways. Though, my dad was well. My childhood with him could never be forgotten. But there was much of this I just felt I could’ve written. Hugs to you. Glad you got a new chance with yours. 💕💕 and I never really thought about it before but I agree. Surprises are not my fave.

  • I'm so sorry your grandmother did that to you! 🥺 That was a ambush! I'm also sorry that you and your mom struggled while he lived luxuriously 🥺 You were very mature for a 14 year old. I just don't know how some people have the audacity to come back into our life after ruining it. It may not have been easy for you to write this but thank you for sharing this with us. Sending you lots of love and hugs ❤️ Also, congratulations on your Top Story!

  • This was Great, Congratulations on your Top Story♥️📝👍

  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    Great work! Fantastic 💙♥️💜

  • Naomi Gold2 months ago

    This is so well written! Nothing better than a writer who practices self reflection and shares their insights with the world. Not yet knowing what the story was about, this made me chuckle: “In fact, the whole scenario had struck me with such discord, that even now, some fifty years later, I care very little for surprises. They are to me, just neatly wrapped packages of deceit bestowed upon the unwilling.” Then, this made me think: “They are the gift bearer's way of manipulating or controlling the receiver.” I’d never seen it that way before, but you’re absolutely right. That is blowing my mind right now. Even when the surprise is well received, the gift giver has their motives for doing it. I like that you acknowledged your grandma was doing what she thought was best. And I agree completely with your message here. We have two options. We can wipe the slate clean and start anew with someone, or let them go. Holding onto the past while trying to forge ahead can never work.

  • Onah chidera2 months ago

    Nice work ❤️❤️ I wish I could cope with my stories

  • AMENA ISLAM2 months ago

    wow, nice mentality

  • JBaz2 months ago

    You showed maturity, it is amazing how a ‘moment’ in time can change a life. Congratulations

  • Margaret Brennan2 months ago

    I'm also not fond of surprises. Being ill-prepared is super annoying for me. Whether it's to put on a bit of makeup, prepare emotionally, or just get my thoughts grounded, I like at least a hint. Even with gifts; give me a hint so if I received something I'd rather not have gotten, I would know enough to give my best smile and an exuberant thank you.

  • Dana Crandell2 months ago

    A very important moment, in which you grew as a person. I applaud 14-year-old you for that and the current you for the excellent telling of the story!

  • L.C. Schäfer2 months ago

    You write so well I feel like I'm in the same room watching it unfold 😊

  • Certainly a very poignant moment that you captured brilliantly 💙Anneliese

  • Naveed2 months ago

    Your writing style is so captivating. Congratulations on your Top Story

  • Veronica Coldiron2 months ago

    I feel this so much! A surprise like this is very inconsiderate. I'm grateful that it came out alright, but regretful that it left its mark. Beautiful and bittersweet telling! Great story!

  • Wow! I love your work 🤍🤍🤍outstanding!✨✨🤍

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