Every time I post on my blog I think, “I’ll post again right away maybe even tomorrow, but for sure by next week.” Then perfectionism and real time responsibilities step in like soldiers blocking the literal and figurative way to the computer. Days pass, weeks pass. Perfectionism and procrastination, really just a fear of failure, lock arms and set up camp. Kids, school, work, activities, housework, and exhaustion build a fine barricade to anything not on the Must Do list.
To continue from my last post, my dad does seem to be here in spirit.
Into March and April he seemed to be only feet away, even right behind me, but silent, untouchable, and invisible. As the months passed he seemed to be imprinted on the scenery, especially the trees. His image lay sideways or tilted across the puffy, brilliant branches and leaves of the oaks and evergreens. It wasn’t a visible image, but was created from the memory of his picture displayed on the 10 x 10 foot screens in his church where we had the wake and funeral. Having his face on those screens was something both heartwarming and weird, very weird and undesirable. Like everything else surrounding this “event”, this memory displayed on the trees didn’t seem overly curious. It just seemed acceptable in the same way leaning over the body of your father seems impossible, and yet it must be possible because it’s happening.
I say “event” because that part of me–the part that should be using correct terminology–refuses to openly use correct terminology, except sometimes I do. For instance I just wrote “body,” “wake,” and “funeral” all in context with my dad. That in itself is horrific; momentarily mind blowing. Just as they say you lose brain cells when you’re pregnant, it seems like you lose brain cells when realizing the impossible has happened.
Yet, he is an almost constant presence for me. I can’t hear him audibly. I can’t see him physically. And yet I hear him, I see him. This is how it goes:
If only I could talk to my dad about this problem.
But I know what he would say.
–Gina, many men stop growing at the age of 19 or 20. Don’t be like that, continue to learn. Be humble.
–David was a sinner, and yet he was called a man after God’s own heart.
–Remember that God sought conversations with man. Can you imagine! God sought conversations with people. What does that tell you about God? He wants to talk with us.
–Use that thing between your ears!
–Many times I was the one who found a thing. After everyone quit I would find it. Why? Because I didn’t give up.
–Just pick any old rag out of your closet. No one is studying you as much as you are.
I never hear my dad telling me a whole monologue of advice, but I used to call him (there’s one of those awful air quote worthy phrases–“used to”) and tell him my current struggles and dreams. He could talk for hours if he found someone who would listen, and I would. Now when I need his input I listen to all those memories, piecing together his belief system, his cadence, his manner, his internal struggles, his victories, his guidance from my childhood to adulthood and the many ways in which it changed over time. In this way I hear him.
I have a voicemail from June 2017. He called me while I was at work, and I couldn’t answer. His voicemail says, “Gina. I think I know how I can help you. Talk to you later.” When I talked to him later, he outlined an entire plan on how to approach a situation that was drowning me and that could have led to incredible damage to myself and the others involved. I followed his plan to the letter and walked away, not without tears, but with my conscience clear and my heart hopeful.
Often, however, after I listen for my dad’s words doubt crushes in with its huge shoulders.
–You don’t really know what your dad would think.
–He might even be disappointed in you.
–He might even disagree with the way you’re handling this situation.
I struggle terribly to keep from sinking like Peter. And when this happens, when my confidence founders on doubt backed up by the complete inability to contact my dad and gain solid footing, I do turn to God. I turn to Him first at times, but often I think of my dad first and then God.
Does that sound superior? Weak? Obvious?
For me it is Relief. I thank God for my dad. For his foibles, for his strengths, for his humility, for his pride, for his anger, for his boundless compassion, for his awkwardness, for his eloquence. I thank God I had a dad on earth who was me–just…before me, older, wiser, and…not a girl. But now that he is gone–not a phone call or text away, not a hard earned flight away; now that there are no more June reunions to look forward to–I do fall back on God more often and with greater force. I imagine a sack of flour in a cloth flour sack when it falls. It thuds hard on the floor and the floury dust rises up. I’m the flour sack falling into the sure, strong floor. He catches me every time.
Then when I’ve regained my senses, when I’m walking on water again with my hand in the hand of Jesus, I know…
–It’s foolishness to doubt the love of my earthly father.
–He told me to break away from always needing to agree with him; he told me this just two months before the end.
–I know if he was here today and I crashed on some pertinent point, he would love me just the same.
–Knowing these things, without the benefit of a phone call, makes me stronger.
And this last paragraph brings me to the post that is stuck way down deep and yet rises to the surface daily. The working title is also stuck, but it starts like this “100 reasons to be thankful for —.” And I can’t quite verbalize that last phrase. While my dad passing was and is the hardest of the hard things I’ve had to do so far in life, I’m aware of the good too. It was evident right from the beginning. So the title might say “100 reasons to be thankful for the dates between December 14, 2017 and January 27, 2018” because the d words are rare and too hard and still mostly avoided in my mind and vocabulary. And I’m not quite able to write, out loud, that anything good came from this event. It is only whispered in my mind and spoken of with my family in low tones.
But there are at least, 100 reasons to be thankful..
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