By: Barbara Matousek
Maybe it’s because the Packers are 7-0 for the first time since 1962, or maybe it’s because my sister and I will be together for Thanksgiving for the first time since the year Dad died, or maybe it’s because my son is attending a Catholic preschool and brings home things like “A Christian pumpkin”, or maybe it’s because I recently re-read my friend Katherine’s book about her battle with cancer, or maybe it’s because I watch my mother aging and realize how really tiny our family is, or maybe it’s because I’m developing a friendship with a woman who has complete faith in God the way my father did, or maybe it’s because I’m raising my children surrounded by families with good fathers. Maybe it’s all of these things, but I find myself missing my dad a lot lately.
Last night I had a dream. Dad and I were in a hotel room casually packing up the last of our things after having spent a few days traveling together. We were getting ready to re-enter our normal lives. The time and place of our adventure weren’t clear, but it was clear we were accustomed to traveling together and had been traveling for several days. We had our routine. I was going through the drawers, finding little things we’d left behind and shoving them into one of my smaller carry bags. Dad said he was going to make a trip down to the car with the big bags.
“Take your time,” he said. “I’ll meet you down there,” and he left. Just like that. Casual.
I finished cleaning up the room and threw my bag over my shoulder and then pulled the door closed behind me. The rest of the dream I was going up and down in elevators and going to every door of the hotel, looking in each parking ramp and parking area. I wasn’t frantic, but I couldn’t find him and I wished we’d been more specific about where we’d meet. I wished he had a cell phone. I woke up before I found him.
Yesterday during the daily preschool-to-daycare shuttle another 4-year-old announced from the back seat that “when you’re dead they take you to the hospital and touch your heart and make you better.”
“When you’re dead,” Sam said, “You’re just dead. And you’re always dead. You don’t come back.”
And then the two of them spent ten minutes talking over each other, Sammy talking about heaven and cemeteries, Zayda talking about her cat and bones in the ground.
My dad died in the middle of the night on the 4th of July. It was the first night I hadn’t slept at the hospital in over two weeks. My sister had taken the night shift and I had headed home. I hadn’t said my usual “See you tomorrow, Dad.” I somehow knew I wouldn’t. I kissed him goodnight and left the room and never saw him again.
Maybe he’s in the front of my mind so often now because I know that Sam is on the verge of more specific questions about why he doesn’t have a dad. My friend Kate would probably say this is God inserting himself into my life, God calling. I don’t know. I like to think it’s my dad. He’s found a payphone and he’s calling my cell to tell me he’s still there waiting for me and I can take my time.