I went for a walk along the river to watch the sunset & walked up to a bench at the same time as a man, a baby & a dog. This would have been a great ‘first time we met’ story or a good beginning to a romcom if he was 30 years younger & didn’t have a baby under his arm.
After confirming that he didn’t send off serial killer vibes, I sat down & watched the sky light up with color while sharing some nice chit chat. Stephen Taylor, or Steven, I didn’t catch the spelling but my dad spells it with a ‘ph’ so I’m going to stick with that, is a retired 54-year-old single mom/dad Canadian with a 1-year-old baby. (The mom/dad thing is Stephen’s words. He kept referring to himself as both a single mom and dad.)
As we sat there, Stephen playing with Zeena & his dog chasing bugs in the sand, he told me how he ended up a single dad in Cambodia at 54.
Stephen retired 15 years ago & moved to Thailand where he lived for 10 years until he “got bored” & moved to Cambodia.
Stephen never imagined having children, he had crossed that option off his life list a long time ago. But when a Cambodian woman he was sleeping with told him she was pregnant he couldn’t imagine a life where he wasn’t a dad. The woman wanted nothing to do with the baby but carried it for Stephen. During her pregnancy, he reflected on his life & remembered that when he was “around my age”, he made a bucket list & on this bucket list it listed, only have children when you are retired. He had completely forgotten about that minor bullet point until now. When Zeena was born, the mother signed her over to Stephen & left Zeena’s life forever. From that moment on, Stephen became a single parent in his 50’s.
Stephen has fully embraced father, mother & friend for Zeena. I felt a rush of joy come over me as I watched them play together & as I listened to him tell me how he is raising her. How if she is banging on pots & pans, he gives her something to bang them with.
I asked him if he would raise her in Kampot. He said nothing is forever & he can’t say where they will be in a couple years but he knows they will be safe & happy.
Stephen advised me to change my life every 10 years. He explained with great enthusiasm, “friends back home are complaining about the job they’ve had for 30 years, but that’s because they’ve only lived 1 life! I’ve lived 5!!”
With many other words of advice, Stephen encouraged me to create a bucket list. At the end of our talk, he left me with, “I have completed my bucket list now it’s her turn”.
I have taken Stephen’s advice & life lessons with a grain of salt, but one valuable lesson I interpreted from him is to say yes to adventure!! If you want to go after a different type of job, DO IT. If you want to move to a city you’ve never been & don’t know anyone, DO IT. If you want to take a gap year, DO IT. If you want to go skydiving, DO IT. Do what you want to do & say yes to adventure.
Note: I have seen Stephen & Zeena around town many times after this night & we continue to share interesting conversations.