I haven’t blogged in a long, long time.
After my father passed away, there were weeks of struggling to return to normal. Trying to reconnect with my kids, who were also in their own little ways grappling with Pop Pop’s death. Playing mad catch up at work. Then just when it seemed we were moving gradually back into a routine, the hurricane hit, then the Newtown shooting, and it just seemed like our lives would never return to normal. There would always be a Nor’easter, or an Adam Lanza lurking around the corner, to keep us in a perpetual state of anxiety.
And through it all, I missed my father so, so much. I tried to keep it together in front of my babies, but every time I got into my car or closed the door to my office my face was bathed with tears.
We went up to Canada over Christmas, to spend some time with my in-laws. While Jo Jo wasn’t so into the snow, Teddy loved it. My normally introverted, bookwormish son wanted to be outside building snow forts and chasing the dog around. One day, Jamie took him skiing. It was too cold for Geoffrey and Jo Jo, so we three stayed inside the ski hill’s play area. There were big glass windows that looked out on the hill and I could just make out Teddy’s green jacket and little green monster hat as he gingerly slid down the gentle slope right by the chair lift. It was his first time on skis and he was doing so, so amazingly well. Daddy, I thought as I watched my small son maneuver his skis, I wish so badly you could see this. The tears came yet again, and if it weren’t for the fact that another French Canadian toddler began beating up Geoffrey while yapping away like Pepe Le Pew I would have had a total meltdown.
That night, I lay in bed, listening to the sound of my husband’s snoring, missing my father so much it hurt. I kept thinking about one of the last times I’d visited before he was in the hospital. I’d had a work deadline and spent most of my time on the phone doing back to back interviews. I’d felt guilty, but I’d figured there would be plenty more time for leisurely visits over the next few months. After all, he’d go into remission, which would buy him a couple more years.
I’d never, ever expected what had happened to happen. And staring up at the ceiling, I just wished I had blown off my assignments for just one afternoon to sit and reminisce with him.
Then I fell asleep. I don’t often recall dreams, but this one was particularly vivid: Jamie and I were standing in the yard of a large farmhouse. We were surrounded by cherry trees and Virgina bluebells and there were five or six golden retrievers bouncing around. Ivry sat a few feet away, happily chewing on a twig. “Daddy would love this place,” I thought, and then suddenly I was inside the house, in a bedroom, and there was a knock on the door.
I opened it and there, smiling faintly, was my father. He was wearing his beige Samuelson sport coat and the blue silk tie with anchors on it I’d given him for one of his forty something birthdays. He looked like his old self, before the myeloma returned, thinner and grayer but relaxed.
“Daddy is that you?” I asked, and he nodded. I reached out to hug him, and he embraced me. He felt solid and strong, like the man I remembered. “I can feel you?” I said in wonderment, and he nodded again. Then he turned and began to walk away.
I stood there, stunned. I couldn’t believe that my father had appeared to me and was just going to walk away like nothing unusual had happened. “Daddy!” I shrieked, racing down the hallway, and then I noticed I was wearing one of my white cotton nighties from high school. How’d that happen? I wondered, but I continued in hot pursuit of my father, shrieking, “Daddy, come back here now!”
My father stopped at the front door of the house, turned, and literally blanched at the sight of his overweight middle aged daughter lurching towards him in a lacey little girl nightgown that barely grazed her knees.
“Hallie,” he said sternly, “stop.”
I halted, right in front of him.
“Little one,” he said, and his voice propelled me backwards 30 years, “you have got to let me go.”
“Well wait a minute,” I said. “I want to know where you are. Are you in heaven? Do you like it? Will we see you again?”
“Yes,” he said evenly.
“Yes to which question?” I challenged him.
He didn’t answer.
"Are you going to be reincarnated?” I blurted out.
He rolled his eyes. “Hallie, I don’t know,” he said, exacerbated and he sounded so exactly like himself I started blubbering.
“I’m a journalist,” I said. “You had to know that if you came back I’d bombard you with questions.”
He smiled. “I promise you, we’ll all be together again very soon. But little one,” and his voice was so gentle, “you need to move on. Please.”
And then he was gone. But before I had time to react the dream changed and I suddenly found myself at a dinner party in the season finale of Gossip Girl. Miraculously, somehow I was 20 pounds thinner and wearing one of my pre-pregnancy Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses.
When I woke up, my head was throbbing. I felt dazed. I crept downstairs, got my migraine meds, and crawled back into bed. I woke up an hour later to the smell of chocolate chip pancakes and the sound of squealing children. Delicious scents, happy noises…was this really my home? I wondered.
Jamie walked into the room with a cup of coffee. “How are you feeling?” he asked solicitously.
I stared at him. My husband bringing me coffee in bed unprompted with no snide comments about sleeping in? I knew my father must have some sort of a role in this.
I told him about the dream. “He was so vague,” I said. “Why didn’t he want to tell me anything?”
Jamie snorted. “Because he knows you’d go and write a blog about it,” he said. “I don’t think they can just visit after death and tell you what goes on. There must be rules.”
He’s probably right about that.
I don’t know what happened with that dream, if it really was my father reaching out to comfort me, or my mind conjuring him up in an effort to heal. But I do know that since then, the grief has abated. I can look at pictures of my dad with my children without feeling like I’ve been stabbed in the chest. I can watch Teddy concentrating on drawing with his tongue in between his teeth—a quintessential mannerism of my father--and not burst into tears.
And I feel different. Stronger, more confident. Nothing seems to faze me anymore, whether it was the decision to switch Teddy’s pre school mid year or tackling Jo Jo’s last IEP meeting. I remember always looking at my father and marveling at how stoic he was, how he always seemed to radiate strength and how secure I felt when he was around.
Now it seems that strength is in me. “He’ll be with you all the time,” one friend who lost her mom about three years ago told me soon after my father’s death. I didn’t believe her, but now I realize she was right.
And whether he’s really up in Heaven or swirling around some spiritual cyberspace, it’s pretty clear my dad’s moved on. Maybe he’s busy attending Board meetings with the rest of the Machers, or maybe he spends his days doing Civil War re-enactments with General Robert Lee.
But I know that every so often he’ll also stop what he’s doing to check in. He’ll be there when Jo Jo reads her first word, or when the boys have their bar mitzvahs, and to kvell over them at their weddings.