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.


  1. Oh Gosh Glimmer. Thanks for writing this. It blew me away. I got goosebumps when you were in your basement, so scared. I can't even imagine that feeling and then the comfort of your father. Of course he was there, was there from the beginning and you couldn't help but hear his laugh. I'm sorry it scared you at first. You were not crazy. I love how he's watched your son and become such a part of him. Astounding. Wonderful that you have his laugh. You DO see. You always have. This is so moving and real and I don't doubt for one moment that he's been with you this whole time. What a comfort. Thank you for telling this so beautifully and truly.

  2. This is a beautiful piece of writing, and I almost couldn't read some of it because it was so moving and I knew I owould feel it so deeply.

    I really think that your Daddy read this, and has read it all before because he knew your rythyms, your heartbeats. My own Daddy told me once that he knew those things about me, and I feel confident that yours did too. It's a true blessing in life.

  3. When I saw your post, Bethany, I knew. I had written about bits and pieces of this, but it all crystalized into one when I read your lovely post. That is the beauty of this nice little community we have made here, isn't it. Thank you for your writing, too. I see you so clearly. And that is a gift.

  4. Oh SJ, thank you so much. For the praise and for saying that about my father. I hope you are right. And I think you are. I really do. I had issues with him, for one thing we were "just alike," my mother would say, and that caused problems at times. But I was lucky. Blessed, in fact, I know now.

  5. Glimmer, I had an experience in which my dead mother and father visited me. They didn't stay around for years but for a few weeks after their respective deaths. Their presence comforted me. They still visit me through dreams. Interesting because I haven't known many people who have expressed these "visitations".

  6. I think more people do than talk about it, Syd. Two friends told me they had similar experiences after their parents died. They were relieved to hear me talk about this. One of them talked about the "veil" concept. That the death of someone close brings the veil very near to us. And it feels as though you can reach out and touch it. And those who have passed away are standing just there.

    This was someone you would never have imagined speaking this way. She lost both parents within a very short time. And before that happened, she said, she wouldn't have believed what I wrote, or what she relayed either. I am not saying this is universal, of course. And that there is something wrong when it doesn't happen. I have no idea why it does or doesn't. I was staying at my father's house after he died. My siblings were not. I was a middle child like him and had always identified with him. So maybe that's why. I just would ask people to keep an open mind. Because, as I said and as people commenting here have pointed out, this can be a comforting thing. And can mean the world.

  7. I did not have such a good experience of my father but he too visits me in dreams.

    I think what you have written here, Glimmer is a poignant and beautiful tribute to your beloved father, your son's grandfather. You keep your father alive in your memory, in your thoughts and in your writing. Thanks.

  8. I have been to births and deaths and I can tell you that the process of both has shown me that there is a veil. Birth: There to here. Death: Here to there.
    This is beautiful. I have experienced things like this after my father-in-law died. I loved him so.

  9. Glimmer,
    I had cold chills while reading this. I wish I had met your father. I can feel your profound love for him in your words. He must have been quite a man.

    Much love, SB.

  10. Wow! That was such a powerful story of what you have felt upon your father's death. There are so many mysteries in life we wish we could understand but I think it sometimes is more comforting to accept that to analyze the details. To allow, as you did when you were in labor, the comfort of your father's presence.
    Children we should give more credit to for what they feel ~see! It must be endearing to see the similarities between your son and father.
    Your writing I just keep gobbling up...I feel tongue tied to day...

  11. Elisabeth: I wish you had experienced better. I hope in writing about this that you are able to feel a "glimmer" of it too. The morphic resonance I am starting to go on about and will continue until I have it wrestled to the ground. It is seeping into me.

    Ms. Moon: Of course you experienced that, I am not the least bit surprised. It shows up in everything you write. Although I think sometimes you argue against it a little bit, the rational part of you. You see both-all sides. We need that. Otherwise some of us might drift off the very face...

    SB: He would have found you a very guilty pleasure. You know the slap his thighs, throw himself into the laughing thing? He would be doing that around you. Probably is now, reading over my shoulder. Love you too, G.

    Ellen: You are exactly right. When I was so afraid, I was in the "this cannot be happening" mode. Then I relaxed and stopped trying to understand it. I wasn't supposed to get pregnant, have a baby. I had been told not to risk it. And then I did. We sailed right through all of it, went home less than 24 hours later. You can't tell me that was not a miracle.

  12. Beautifully expressed and you're so lucky to be sensitive to these things and be able to gain comfort from them.Funny how gestures and ways of being are passed down the generations sometimes.

  13. I love this post. I know if my dad had gone first he would have lingered for me. Instead it was my mother hovering and the voice of her inside my head as critical in death as she had been in life. When dad left they were both gone instantly. I wrote so much trying to come to terms with the death of my mother because we never settled our issues in life. I write for my dad too but only about happy memories. My daughter helped me sort our the mother daughter relationship and fix a lot that was broken in my heart. Still a little part of me just cries when I think about the things she never said to me. That's why I tell my children so often that I'm proud of them and that they are doing a wonderful job with their lives and in rearing their own children. Your father sounds like a wonderful man. I am so sorry you lost him too soon. I am not religious but I still hope for something beyond this life. If there is nothing then I am comforted to know that he lives in me and in my children as do all the best traits of my mother. Here are my words when my father died from my other blog. Perhaps they might comfort you.

  14. My mother died quite suddenly at a rather heartbreaking time, and everything was ... so difficult.

    Shortly after, I'd been woken from a nap to have an unpleasant conversation with my father, and afterwards I sat and sobbed my guts up, and said out loud, 'my heart is broken'.

    I distinctly heard a voice say 'sorry' into the quiet room, but at the time I wasn't able to accept the apology gracefully, I regret to say.

    After my aunt died, far more suddenly than my mother had, my cousin said that a small bird kept coming around on the deck, and came into the house and hopped around very calmly. Several times. Sure, it could have been just a bird, but it had never happened before. And they took it to mean everything was alright.

  15. This is such a lovely story. I think our relatives are with us a lot. I can sometimes "smell" pipe smoke. My great grandfather was a pipe smoker--he died long before I was born. I think the connection is unbroken between family. We just don't see them. What a treasure it is your boy is so like your dad.

  16. Von: I think deep inside I was hoping for something else by writing about this. But I guess for all things a season.

    I love that Jo! Those things are exactly what I mean, things you can't accept gracefully at the moment because you can't believe them and are frightened. And I wrote another post here about a friend's very elderly grandmother who died after we visited her in Pennsylvania. She was very fond of her grandson's girlfriend, the ones with us on the visit. And as this woman was speaking at the graveside, a small bird kept flying into the circle and playing with her. Just the woman speaking. Almost dive-bombing her, but not quite. The grandson was a confirmed bachelor, never married and into his 40s. But they later married and had two children, the grandmother would have loved this.

    Lynne: I think so too. My father was a reformed smoker at my mother's insistence. Although when he was sitting with his friends at the "liars table" in the cafe he would have the occasional smoke. So maybe that wasn't the neighbors out smoking in the night after all! Interesting thought...

    Christina, thank you so much for stopping by and especially for commenting!