Out in the Open

What do you say to your father after almost a decade of estrangement?

Sandy Jorgenson stopped talking to her father when she was 23 years old after he left her mother. Almost a decade later, she sent him an email and told him what she learned and how he hurt her.
For years, Sandy Jorgenson didn't know how reconcile the version of her father that had torn their family apart, with the one she'd grown up with. (Submitted by Sandy Jorgenson)

Sandy Jorgenson says her family was close growing up. Her parents had been together for about 30 years and her childhood is full of memories of family vacations and warm dinners eaten together.

So when she was 23 and found out that her father had been having an affair, she was completely blindsided. Especially when he left their family home. She says it made her question her father not only as a parent, but as a person as well.

"He was my Dad. And then suddenly, the man that I knew him to be was gone," Jorgensen says. 

After attempting to talk to her father about her concerns and getting nowhere, she decided to cut him off completely.

I was so tired of being angry. I was so tired of being sad.- Sandy Jorgenson

For the first year, she says not speaking to him left her with feelings of sadness and anger. She felt betrayed, as if her childhood was a rouse.

Those feelings stuck with her, and she barely spoke to him for nine years. She calls those years her "lost years".

Ending the lost years

After the better part of a decade being estranged from her father, Jorgenson decided to reconnect with him. She sent him an email.

"I was so tired of being angry. I was so tired of being sad," she says. "I just felt like I could not possibly do this another day."

Jorgenson says that it took years of maturity, along with getting married herself, to understand who her father was as a person, beyond his role as her parent.

"He's this person who's going through the gamut of daily experiences and emotions that I do," she says. "And I just had never given him the benefit of his own humanity."

Once they reconnected, it took some time to push through her anger and resentment. Jorgenson says it was not a fast or easy process, but she says eventually got the apology from her father that she had been yearning for for a decade. She says she could exhale again.

Now that Jorgenson and her father have reconnected, she's witnessed him become a cherished grandfather. (Submitted by Sandy Jorgenson)

So, what is their relationship like now after almost ten years of being estranged?

"It's good, it's long distance but we text. He loves to FaceTime with my daughter. They absolutely are smitten with one another," she says. 

"And, it's incredible for me to watch because I see him as a grandfather being the father that he was to me. He's still that incredibly kind and loving and gentle and funny human being that he always was."

This story appears in the Out in the Open episode "Estrangement".