Shaheen Schneider finally meets the father who time and circumstance took away before she was even born.
"It's, like, pinch me..."
Shaheen Schneider could hardly contain her anticipation as she stood in the cold outside the Long Beach arrivals terminal.
She's was there to realize a life-long dream: meet the father who time and circumstance took away before she was even born.
"First time meeting him," she says. "So it's going to be a surprise."
Facebook brought her to this point. A childhood friend of her mother's found him on the social networking site and connected them. Over the past few months, Shaheen's mom, Lisa Ketting, flew to Portland, where her biological father, Richard Elizondo now lives.
But Shaheen never had a chance to accompany her.
The two of them smiled broadly as Elizondo stepped through the doors, brushing away tears as he embraced his daughter. He broke up with Ketting 29 years ago, the result of a relationship they couldn't sustain.
"We were really young, and I just never let him know I had the child," says Ketting.
Elizondo says he agreed to the reunion with some sense of trepidation.
"I always kind of thought in my mind that, you know, my daughter resented me not being in her life," he says.
Shaheen says nothing could be further from the truth; she holds no grudges. In fact, she was relieved to find out that he accepted her when she confessed to him that she's a lesbian, and married to the love of her life.
"He texts me and says, 'It doesn't matter who you are. I love you as yourself,'" she says, eyes clouding as a broad smile crosses her face.
This holiday visit will bring father and daughter together after nearly three decades apart. And there's another reason for the newly re-united family to rejoice: Elizondo recently proposed to his long lost love, Shaheen's mother. It seems the frequent visits have allowed them to re-kindle the romance they'd left behind so many years ago.
Shaheen says it's the best Christmas present she's ever received.