I felt his rough skin against my lips as I leaned into kiss him on the cheek. I breathed in the familiar scent of lacquer thinner and a hint of garlic. “I love you, Daddy” I whispered as I tilted my head back to look at him. His face, while scruffy and wrinkled, was perfectly healthy and peaceful. “I miss you… all the time.”
“I know,” he replied with a gentle smile on his lips. He hugged me and we stood for a few seconds in an embrace. I felt warm and safe with his arm around me. A moment later my eyes fluttered open to my darkened room.
I’m not one to believe that our loved one’s visit us in a vision and I know my father’s spirit isn’t hanging around the house. My dream wasn’t a sign or some sort of communication from beyond the grave. It was my heart longing to see him and my mind creating a perfect moment between us. No, my dad wasn’t here. He’s far too occupied in the presence of his Lord to even contemplate the workings of Earth.
Yesterday was my 40th birthday, the first birthday without my dad. I suspect that every birthday from here on out will be tinged with sadness that he isn’t here to celebrate with me. My father was 40 years old when I was born which means I didn’t even know him for a full half of his life. We share April birthdays, me and my dad. This year, on what would have been his 80th birthday we were going to have dinner at his favorite restaurant. Because of the virus, everything is closed. We stayed home and instead we made his favorite meal- sauerkraut and sausage, and played his favorite game while gathered around the kitchen table.
Years ago, I asked my father if he was afraid of getting older and dying. He paused for a moment and then answered, “It’s like you’re walking and there’s a wall in front of you, but you can’t see it. You know it’s there and you know you are going to hit it, but you just don’t know when. The only thing you can be certain of is that you are getting closer to it. But no, I’m not afraid of it.”
The day before my father went to the hospital in September of 2018, I took him to get an x-ray because he was complaining about pain in his shoulder. After the x-ray we stopped at a local fancy doughnut shop where we ordered overpriced doughnuts and bitter dark coffee and we sat at a booth and just talked. It was the last long talk we had before cancer and illness and impending death hung over every conversation that remained.
Wow, I miss him.
Thankfully, my children were darlings, making me breakfast as I supervised. I gave them the day off from school and we tried our best to be lazy and unproductive. We ended the evening with a feast and a cake and I was surrounded by the people I love best. It really was a lovely day.
The last birthday text dad ever sent me, “A happy birthday is not enough for someone like you. May I wish happiness and success in everything you do. Love Dad.”