Thursday, February 11, 2010
Waiting For Signs Too
So Bethany talked about signs in a post. And I loved that. What she said as well as the subject. I look for them. Even though I think that's the best way, for me, not to see one.
Maybe I'm just dense. Or maybe I need something that is so unequivocal that I won't be able to talk myself out of it, something that makes me go weak in the knees with certainty.
Like things that happened after my father died. Which I kept dismissing. Hearing him laugh, even though he wasn't there. Hearing his truck pull into the driveway. Even though it had not moved from its spot.
He died suddenly, in an accident. And I blamed my mind. Playing tricks, I thought. My mind was unable to accept that he was gone because I did not see him in the hospital bed hooked up to monitors and breathing equipment like my mother and siblings. I did not see them remove those horrible things.
And those things happened as I hurtled through the air for home, my body curled into the side of the plane, face pressed against the window, crying in silence. People stared, repelled by grief, but I was unable to stop or care.
When I got home, and the first visitors left, I could hear him in another room, laughing. He had an infectious laugh. When you heard it, you had to laugh too, even when you had no idea why he was laughing. He would laugh and slap his thighs, then that laughter would take over his entire body. The way I laugh.
But during those days, I thought I had lost my mind. Because I heard him so clearly. And would rush from the room I was in, looking for him. And my mother would be there, just her, no one else, and would look up in surprise because I was almost running. Looking for something. I couldn't tell her what. How could I?
It was so exhausting I ended up leaving sooner than I really had to, flying back to Virginia, because I was desperate for rest. I had slept with the lights blazing because I was certain that if I turned them off and closed my eyes for a few seconds that he would be there. And even with the lights on and my eyes closed I could feel him there. So I squeezed my eyes shut and thought long and hard, "Go away. Please go away." Because I was so afraid.
But he was determined to get through.
So, a few months later, I had a dream. My father called from a payphone. He was dressed in his summer suit, seersucker, and was holding his best cream-colored hat. I said, "Where in the world have you been? We have been looking everywhere for you, so worried." And he told me not to worry, that he was fine. And he talked about his travels, which I don't really remember much about. But we had a nice long chat. And he hung up and I felt better. So much better.
But, still, he wasn't done.
A couple of years later, I woke up at midnight. I was in labor. This was my first and only child. I had waited quite late in the game to become a mother. I had not thought this would happen. The pregnancy had gone fine and I was taking off a couple of weeks before the due date to rest and get ready.
So I called the doctor and he said it was early in the labor, yet, to wait until daybreak to come. So I told my husband to sleep, that I wanted to go into the basement to watch television, read, maybe doze by myself. I insisted on this, I needed him to be rested and strong.
I went downstairs and settled on the sofa. And over the next hour I became overwhelmed with terror at what was about to happen. What have I done? I can't do this. I change my mind. I did not want my husband. I felt no one could help me. I think I prayed, I was so terrified that I don't remember.
And then I looked in the dark corner of the room. I couldn't see him, but he was there. My father. I thought I smelled his scent, aftershave, something. I felt him as strongly as I have ever felt anything in my life. I calmed down. I settled back into the pillows and pulled up the covers. And I kept my eyes on that spot.
I felt him, hovering nearby, for the next 19 hours. Through my healthy son's uneventful birth. And then my father was gone.
I missed him so during the next few years. I thought about how much he would have loved my son, who was like him in so many ways. My father was an accomplished baseball and tennis player. And my son, when he could barely walk, would pick up little rocks and hit them with straws he pulled off juice boxes. He wasn't talking much when suddenly he was singing "Take me out to the ballgame..." swinging an imaginary bat the entire time. Where did he learn that song? We never knew. And tennis is his sport to this day.
And one day, a friend amazed me when she pointed out the way my son was walking onto the soccer field. "I love watching him walk. Look at him, he walks like such an athlete, chest first." My father walked exactly that way. Chest first, cock of the walk. My friend had never laid eyes on him.
Of course I talked about my father to my son. And my husband talked about his father too. My son didn't meet either of his grandfathers. They both died before he was born.
But it was my father my son was talking about when he wrote this poem. His teacher told me that, when she handed it to me, with tears gathering in her eyes.
"I never met my grandfather.
I wish I had
Sometimes I feel he is watching me."
My son was six when he wrote that. Six years old. You can think maybe I'm crazy, that I was so grief struck that I was hearing things right after my father died. And that people have dreams about the dead all the time to try to comfort themselves. And that the hormones of labor do all sorts of things to the mind.
But I did not feed notions to my son. I never talked about any of that to him. I was always very careful about not putting my ideas in my son's head. Besides, he has always been like his father, he is very literal, he wants proof. He's not one for signs. Show him.
But my son knew, back then. The way I knew. That my strong, larger-than-life father had given up his earthly form, yes. But that he was still here, too, for a while, anyway. That his huge spirit had things to do before going on ahead, without us.
He cheered us, with his laughter, which is mine now too. He comforted, with his strength. And he watched over us even when I could not see or feel him. But my son felt him. Fresh from that place beyond the veil, he knew.
Just in case, I'd like to say this out loud, in case he's listening. In case he wants to talk, or laugh out loud, or make his spirit's presence known somehow again.
Thank you, Daddy, for everything. My eyes are wide open and they'll stay that way. And I'm not afraid. I promise, I won't ever be afraid to see again.