When Tracy Chavez saw her father three years ago she gave him a chilly reception. She didn’t give him a hug. She wouldn’t let him carry her bags.
It had been almost 16 years since Ronnie Simmons disappeared from her life, and Chavez felt no need to embrace a man who for so long was nothing more than a picture in her mind.
Her father and mother split up when Chavez was a toddler, and the family lost contact with Simmons.
The Eastern New Mexico University graduate student said she spent years on her knees asking God for a chance to meet.
After some searching, Chavez, now 22, found her oldest half sister Lissa Bussbey and they organized a family reunion in January of 2001 at Simmon’s home in Marshall, Texas.
The 10-day reunion was tense, Chavez said, but cathartic.
“I went to see him with the attitude of not expecting anything, because I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” Chavez said. “But I am glad I met him because I needed that closure.”
The reunion prompted the communications major to do what she loves, write about the experience.
Her story will be published this month in “True: Real Stories About God Showing Up in the Lives of Teens.”
Irene Dunlap, author of the 52-story collection, said the story, which will be published under Chavez’s maiden name Simmons, showed not only Chavez’s faith and trust in God but also God’s protection.
“Sometimes God’s timing is different than ours — we must trust God and she did that,” Dunlap said.
Chavez will be paid $200 and will own the story’s copyright.
Chavez talks freely about her experience with her father: the anger, the pain, the false hope she held on to for so long.
Before returning home she told the father she so resembles — the same red hair, the same freckles — that she didn’t want any more false hopes.
“(Before I left) he was like ‘I promise I’ll never,’ and I cut him off,” Chavez said. “I told him don’t make any promises you can’t keep.”
After the reunion Chavez wrote her father a letter expressing her feelings.
“I told him he needed to either stay away from me forever, or he can come back in my life, but he had to be willing to be my dad until the day I died,” Chavez said. “And I never heard back.”
Attempts by a reporter to reach Simmons in Marshall were unsuccessful. He is not listed in the phonebook and Chavez or her sister Elena Simmons didn’t know his number.
While not hearing from her father has been tough, Chavez is happy the reunion spawned a relationship with her 18-year-old half sister Elena, who played the saxophone at Chavez’s wedding.
“I’m very happy I met her, she’s my sister,” said Elena, a student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
A Christian, Elena said God must have planned the reunion, or it would have never happened. Elena said she hasn’t spoken to her father Ronnie in almost three years.
“My little sister came out of all of this and I didn’t even know about her,” Chavez said. “That’s the best part.”