Grief is a process, a long one, a weird one, like an onion, with so many layers to it. Some days are easier than others, and mainly because my Dad is a Cool Ghost. I’m not saying he’s “haunting” anything or anyone. He’s here though, most of the time, right next to me, and I know it for several reasons.
My father was SUPER protective of me. He would defend me even if I was wrong, to the death. When people were condescending to me in his presence he pretty much always spoke up. When people tried to prove me wrong or make me feel any sort of negative emotion, he’d speak up. Sometimes I’d be like, “I can fight my own battles, Dad,” but it was always nice, you know?
My daughter can be very snotty. She’s so bright and such a sponge, and yes, I can be snotty too, and she often dishes out attitude worthy of a 16 year old EMO kid. There are times when I have to count to 10, walk away, take deep breaths, mutter silently, rather than go head to head with her. When she’s REALLY wrong though, when she’s absolutely unreasonable and nasty to me, Dad steps in. You skeptics may roll your eyes, but it has happened more times than I can count. You could call it karma – like for example, she’s screaming at the top of her lungs that she doesn’t want to do something I’ve asked her to do or making snide comments and something (little) happens to stop her in her tracks – a noise, she drops something, a stink bug flies by her head, she trips (but doesn’t fall), a drop of water falls on her head, and it changes her demeanor just long enough for us to recover. I know it’s him.
When I’m driving in my car, 2 times out of 3, the song “Sweet Child of Mine” will play on the radio. My Dad and I went to a Guns and Roses concert together (our first concert of several) and Aerosmith played after them. He really hadn’t heard any of the GNR songs until that day and he was really taken with Sweet Child. He said the part, “Where do we go? Where do we go now, where do we go?” spoke to him because of the fact that he and I were always going places and I was getting older and he decided it was “our song.” It used to make me cry, but now it makes me smile. It’s not always the same station either – I’m a surfer – I constantly have the radio on scan, but it will often happen when I settle on a station for a bit.
In my dreams, he is himself. Like last night, I was at some banquet or something, I think I had written a book or whatnot, and he came in the door and started greeting people, and I’m WAITING AND WAITING for him to make it over to me but he’s delving into these long conversations with the people he’s greeting. He looks over at me a few times while he’s talking, with his hands, like he used to, and gives me the look like, “I’ll be over in a minute, after I make this point I’m trying to make.” Rory said she had this “awesome” (her word) dream where she was sliding down a slide and he came down after her and they hugged and my Dad was a big hugger. There was one dream where I was giving a speech and no one was listening except him in the audience.
On my birthday, right after I opened my eyes, I heard (albeit, in my head) clear as day, “Happy Birthday, Honey.” I said, “Thanks, Dad.” He said, “The Big 4-0, huh?” I said, “Yeah, hard to believe.” Yes, this was all in my head, but it was also VERY clear, as if it was out loud. First time that’s ever happened and it hasn’t happened since.
There are several times when Gage will be dancing or saying/doing something cute and I get this warm feeling, like Dad’s right there laughing or smiling with me at him. Then there’s the wind chime. When there’s no wind at all, the wind chime will play – often it is just in the morning when I’m getting Rory ready for the bus. It is a very stressful time of day and Dad was well aware of my morning struggles. I feel like it’s his way of calming me.
I go round and round with feelings of guilt and sadness regarding Dad – I should have called more, I should’ve been there more, but it doesn’t last long anymore – I’ve promised him and myself that I’m going to stop ruminating – it isn’t healthy – and I’ll often see a low flying hawk or turkey vulture that will glide around above me and I almost think it is a reminder that he’s free now.
I feel like my senses are heightened – especially regarding the children, vehicles, my temper, etc. I often hear “Be nice,” in my head. He is and always will be one of the coolest people I ever knew.