Jeff Shane/Cañon City Daily Record
Jeff Shane/Cañon City Daily Record
CAÑON CITY (AP) – The only link Kimberly Miller had to her paternal roots was an old teddy bear. Robert Miller had only an outdated photo of his daughter as a reminder that she did indeed exist, in a place somewhere across the globe.
The father-daughter story sounds much like a made-for-television movie. But the pair deems their unique tale as a real-life dream come true.
And it’s just beginning.
Robert, 48, last saw his 22-year-old daughter when she was just under a year old. He was in the army and stationed in Germany during the first Gulf War before being activated for Desert Storm in Iraq. When he returned, his wife at the time had left and given the baby to a foster family.
“When I came back to Germany she was gone,” Robert said.
Kimberly’s mother had gotten her back and given her up three more times, playing a small role in Kimberly’s upbringing, which was void a father.
“I didn’t know where she was,” he said. “(Kimberly’s) mother just (disappeared). She wouldn’t talk to me; they said I’m an American soldier, she’s German – so I had no rights.”
Robert was stationed back in the United States in 1999, forced to continue life in America while part of his heart remained in Germany.
“I would write (my former wife) and I would never hear anything – nothing,” he said. “But my (current) wife, Karyn, wrote her and she started answering back. I don’t know why she would talk to her and not me.”
Robert and Karyn invited Kimberly to visit them in the United States one summer when she was 13, but her biological mother wouldn’t let the girl go without her. The call ended abruptly and reunion did not take place.
Communication once again was severed, but Robert didn’t give up the search for his daughter.
Little did he know that half a world away Kimberly also was searching for him.
She was told that her dad lived in Colorado Springs, but somehow, her maternal aunt and uncle in Germany tracked down a Robert Miller in Guffey.
They called Rita’s Café in March or April, where Robert stops every day to get a cup of iced coffee on his way to his job as a correctional officer at the Cañon Minimum Centers.
“A girl named Valerie was working there,” Robert said. “I went in and she said, ‘Someone from Germany called here.’”
Valerie misplaced the note with contact information, but Rita, the café owner, found it a week later.
“A few days later I went by and she had the piece of paper,” he said. “It said ‘daughter looking for you’ – and then the phone number.”
He was excited, but also extremely nervous.
“I did the easy thing and asked Karyn to call,” he laughed. “But she told me I had to call.”
Robert mustered up the nerve to make the phone call that allowed him to hear his daughter’s voice.
“I couldn’t believe I was talking to her,” he said. The conversation was short because of their timidity.
They began communicating through email, and they both were anxious to find a way to meet face to face.
Robert was nervous to meet Kimberly, who bears a striking resemblance to him, but he and Karyn did so at Denver International Airport on July 13.
His eyes welled with tears when asked how it felt to hold his daughter in his arms after so many years.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “Twenty-one years later, I didn’t think it was possible.”
He is more than pleased with the young lady she has become.
“Very proud – very,” he said. “She makes a father happy.”
Kimberly rarely takes her eyes off her father and their newly formed bond is evident by their teasing and bantering.
“Sometimes I look at her and I think she’s a little 12- or 14-year-old kid,” he said. “Other times she’s a grown woman.”
During the week they spent together, the Millers created some very special memories to carry them through until they see one another again. They both went rafting for the first time, they took road trips to Salida, Buena Vista and Fairplay, and played for hours on Xbox.
They also did some horseback riding at Robert and Karyn’s Guffey home.
Kimberly, somewhat intimidated by the language barrier and also a bit shy, wrote down how she feels about her father and her first visit to the U.S.
“I’m happy to stay here and I will come back as fast as I can,” she said. “It is a good feeling to know where I came from. My dad and Karyn are nice people and I love them very much. I’m happy to see them again.”
Kimberly and Robert had a long talk about the events of her early life and the years leading up to their reunion.
Robert said Kimberly’s mother never told her the whole truth about those early years, which clearly is still a touchy subject, but nevertheless, this visit brought some healing and marked the dawn of a brand new beginning.
They still have many “firsts” to share – Kimberly meeting her grandparents who live in Utah, meeting her aunt and namesake.
One thing that is certain: They are never letting go of one another.
Kimberly returned to Germany and her job at a post office in Frankfurt. She has applied for dual citizenship and if things work out, she could be back in December for good.
No immediate rush, though. Robert and Kimberly have the rest of their lives to make up for lost time and to create new memories.
And Father’s Day undoubtedly will have a whole new meaning to the Miller family.