When Phil Baker and his estranged son, Benji, decided to have a father and son reunion after 13 years apart, neither one of them imagined their meeting would be quite as eventful as it was.
Both Phil and Benji were anxiously awaiting the reunion they had planned when 21-year-old Benji, a UK native visited Australia, where his dad has lived for years. To calm their nerves, both men took to a local beach: dad went on a stroll along the water, and the son decided on a kayaking excursion. Neither one of them knew the other was there at the same time.
As Phil looked out into the water during his walk, he spotted a few kayakers in the distance who seemed to be having trouble. Realizing it was a dire situation, the 62-year-old dived into the sea to offer his aid, according to the Mirror.
“Two people were desperately paddling on one of the kayaks and it seemed like someone was slumped in the middle” he remembers, “I told [my wife] ‘Something’s not right, I’m going in to help.”’
When he got closer he saw two instructors onboard, along with a man in the middle who was shaking violently – he was suffering from a seizure.
“Linking arms with one instructor, I helped to carry the man out of the water. He was drifting in and out of consciousness and his hands and feet were blue” he says.
And then, he had a mind-blowing realization: “I looked at his face, and something occurred to me. Those brown eyes were very familiar.”
The brown eyes belonged to his son. Although he had only exchanged a handful of pictures with him over the years since they drifted apart, he recognized him right away.
“In an instant I knew,” he said. “That ‘stranger’ was my boy.”
When he asked the instructor for the boy’s name, he confirmed it was Benji.
Back on shore Phil checked his son’s breathing and pulse and said “It’s me, your dad. You’re going to be OK.”
When Benji came to, he had a similar experience.
“All I remember is waking up on the beach and seeing my dad there,” he recalls. “And I recognized his face straight away.”
Talking about the incident now, he says “When he went into the water to help he thought I was just some random kid, but he recognized me instantly even though he hadn’t seen me face to face in years.”
Indeed, the two hadn’t been in one another’s life for quite some time. When Benji was only three, his mother took him from Australia to Britain after separating from Phil. Over the following five years, he had a few visits with his dad and they kept in contact through birthday cards and emails, but lost touch around the time Benji was eight.
“With my dad being over in Australia and me being in England, there was always this big gap between us making things difficult,” he says.
So this meeting between them – which came out of a backpacking trip Benji was going on – was a big deal for them both.
“Up to that point we’d only exchanged the odd photo now and again” he said.
As for what caused the kayak incident, Benji explained he had a seizure – something he deals with during stressful situations. Ironically, he’d gone kayaking to calm his nerves about the upcoming meeting with his father, but it ended up catching up to him anyway.
Luckily for him, dad was there.