Typing, deleting, rewording and second-guessing, Nick Muehlen recently struggled to write a Facebook message.
“All of a sudden, you want to pour your heart out and you don’t know. Would that scare somebody away?” Muehlen said. “I was a walking mess. It was very, very intense.”
A few days earlier, Muehlen received an email from his sister. The message said a woman, Caren Patriquin, had contacted her through Facebook looking to reach her biological father.
Knowing that her brother gave his eight-month-old daughter up for adoption 32 years ago, she passed the message along.
Muehlen fought hard to come up with the right words to say to his daughter.
“He sent me this little cute message saying, ‘I hear you might be looking for me, please contact me if you want to,’” Patriquin said. “It took me 24 hours to build up the nerve (to write back) and I wasn’t sure … What do I say? What do I ask?”
Patriquin replied and told Muehlen a bit about herself, including that she had a husband and three daughters. Muehlen had no idea he had grandchildren.
For the next few days, they sent messages back and forth, sharing photos and asking questions. They soon discovered that they’ve both been living in the GTA for several years.
They spoke on the phone for three hours straight one afternoon and decided to meet in person at a North York coffee shop.
“We just happened to walk up at the same time; he was maybe 10 steps ahead,” Patriquin said. “I stopped a few feet away from (him) and I just started smiling … I think I said, ‘Hi’ …. Then we hugged.”
Since that snowy day in February, Muehlen has met his three granddaughters for the first time. As he described the girls painting each other’s faces, he contemplated his good fortune.
“I’ll get used to it, but right now it’s just so new,” he said. “I almost feel like I haven’t deserved it, but I know that’s the wrong way to feel.”
Of the many ways this experience has affected them, Muehlen explained he has made one notable change in his life.
“I just quit smoking,” he said. “I want to see this progress … I’ve always wanted to quit, but here’s three, four beautiful reasons. Five (including) Bret; her husband’s amazing.”
Every week now, he added, the newly reunited father and daughter spend an afternoon together. With summer vacations on the horizon, they plan to spend a lot more time getting to know one another.
“Life’s become richer all of a sudden,” Muehlen said. “Much, much richer.”