My father was a practical man. He dealt with life as it came, did the best with what came about or worked very hard to change it to his liking. When he died, he moved on immediately. He was not present at the funeral, the wake at his home, or the site where he died.
I called Dad every weekend or he called me. We had become extremely close after I grew up and spent as much time together as we could.
I have a friend, Jeff Davis, who lived next door as I grew up. He taught me to drink and swear and all that, but he always felt he was my protector as well. If I was stressed or something was wrong, he would know it and come over, even years later when we grew up and away out of our parents's houses.
It's the first Thursday in April, 1986, I think. I am sewing the last stitches on the blue and pink flowered blouse I will wear to go up to Dad's ranch on the weekend. It's about one in the afternoon. My husband is at work, I have no idea where my son was.
For some unknown reason, I got up from the kitchen table and called Dad. His wife, Betty, answered the phone. She said he was down in the lower pasture on the tractor and should be up for lunch since he was already late. Unheard of. Then she said, "Oh, I heard the tractor stop, do you want to wait?" I said, no, just tell him I love him and I will talk to him later. As I hung up I thought that was odd that I said that. I would have normally never told her this, as she seemed to resent our closeness.
Three special knocks on the door and in walks Jeff: What's up? Not much, what are you doing? Dunno, just had a feeling I should come over.
We sat down at the kitchen table and chatted. I sewed. An hour or so passes. Time is distorted now. In walks Dan, my husband. I look up at the clock, back at Dan, wondering why he is home so early? He doesn't speak, goes to the phone, calls a number. He can't remember any number without looking it up and I am amazed by this, jaw still on my chest. He says "I'm home, yeah, ok" and hangs up. I am still hand in mid air wondering what the heck. He got FIRED?
Dan turns to me, and it hits me, out of the blue. I can see it in his face. No words have been said yet. I started almost screaming, and probably did. Dan had to hold me and keep me still. It was sinking in faster than I had felt anything in my life, and I didn't want any of it, not one single solitary part of it. This was NOT happening. I turned to the wall where a picture hung, a yellow house surrounded by the most peaceful river, an oasis of dreams, a picture my dad saw and immediately commented, "That is where I want to retire." Nothing was real.
It took me months. Six months to realize Daddy had come to say goodbye and I didn't recognize it. I felt it, but I didn't get it at the time.
The last time we were together, he was telling me where the combination to the safe was, all that sort of stuff. I stopped the conversation to tell him that I just didn't want to go here, that losing him was just not an option. I wanted to go first. I got the standard 'it isn't natural for parents to loose their children so I have to go first' talk. We fought in our joking fashion about who would win this one, and ended it by making a deal. Who ever went first would come say goodbye to the other one.
He held up his end of the deal.
However, he was heard from again. Several times.
Cheryl was one of my bridesmaids at my wedding and my Dad fell head over heels in love with her. Not really, but was really charmed. On my birthday, a year after his death, that day was tough. For the first time in my life he was not there to wish me a happy day, something he never ever forgot. No funny, carefully selected birthday card arrived in the mail precisely on my birthday.
The Monday after the weekend of my birthday, Cheryl called and said she had to see me. Now. Weird. Okay. She drives over, sits me down. She and her husband were at Laguna Seca for the weekend races. The crowd was enormous, and the area for the drivers, where they were, was wall to wall people. She sees my Dad, working his way through the people, struggling to get to her. She is just standing there, almost in shock. He finally makes it, takes her aside a bit (guiding her upper arm) and says that he needed her to tell me everything was all right and that none of it mattered. His death and will started a great deal of unease and inter-family dissension regarding his estate.
Once I woke to see Daddy standing in my bedroom door, holding Kiki, our family cat that had been missing for a few days and we were tearful without him. He never wandered at all. Then Daddy was gone. I bolted out of bed, so sure we would locate Kiki. We did. I wandered outside to an area I rarely go, for no apparent reason, where there were screen openings to our basement storage area. I heard his meow. He had gotten locked in the basement storage area and for the first time we were able to hear him.
My younger sister has seen him, although I did not again. I miss him still, after all these years, but am very content knowing he, or his spirit, is around and just might be forever. When it is my turn, I know, beyond an ounce of doubt, that Daddy will be the one to welcome me.