Sep 23, 2011

Finally, Daddy came for a visit!

Just a little over five years ago, my father passed away. He had been confined to a nursing home for the last two years of his life, following a series of strokes. For the last few months, he was also suffering from dementia, and the times that he could recall who we all were became fewer and farther between. He was responsive to questions, but with only one to two-word phrases, and he never initiated conversation or asked any questions himself. It was some solace to all of us that he at least seemed fairly pain free. When the end finally came, he slipped away rather peacefully. Daddy's memorial service turned out to be a rather complex, two-day event because many of those who wanted to attend the funeral service were young people he's mentored over the years as a track and field coach. But on that same day, there happened to be an invitational meet that had been named in his honor a few years before. So, there were actually two services so they could all make both events, and many of them wanted to speak about how their lives had been impacted by Dad. It was very moving, and also very like him to die just before a meet named for him.

After the final service was done, and we'd left the cemetery and spent time at a repast with family and friends in the church banquet hall, we made our way home. It was just the immediate family, with spouses and the grandkids. I was the first to enter the front door. As soon as I did, the aroma hit me in the face like a blast of wind. It was cigarette smoke, Kool's brand, to be exact. It was the brand Daddy had smoked for decades, but not for the last two-plus years of his illness and convalescence. Mom and the rest of us had complained endlessly about the smell of that smoke and how it lingered in every organic material throughout the house. But things had finally aired out and the house was smelling fresh again by the time Dad passed away. So, when I smelled that smoke, as did everyone else in turn as they entered the living room, we all chuckled. We knew then for certain Daddy had stopped by the house he'd loved on his way to the other side, to let us know all was well and he was still there, just in another realm. After just a few minutes, the Kool's aroma was no longer detectable. It was then that my youngest brother revealed that when he'd gotten out of bed that morning, he distinctly heard our father's voice in the bedroom, just saying, "Heyyy, therrre." Daddy had always given everyone that greeting, and always drew the words out so it sounded like a half-dozen syllables.

We settled into the house to rest, and chatted about the events of the day. We reminisced. Then my other brother showed up at the house. He's always the lagger, the one who has some special and mysterious, quasi-government business to take care of. We've learned that it's best not to ask a lot of questions, since some high-level government agency finds it necessary to kill us on account of classified knowledge. We related to him the occurrences of the cigarette smoke and hearing Daddy passing through my other brother's bedroom in another city earlier in the day. He started to laugh, and said, "I had something happen, too." He said before he'd left the family home for the funeral after the rest of us, he was sure he heard Daddy clearing his throat on the back porch. That semi-enclosed porch is where Daddy would retreat to while taking a secret smoke break. And he had a signature throat clearing sound, very dramatic and annoying. My brother looked out onto the porch, but no one was there. He said he simply said aloud, "Hey, Daddy. See you later."

Having been the family intuitive, I was certain I'd see or at least feel or get a whiff of my father's presence over the next few days and weeks. But it never happened. Not a thing. I felt disappointed, but then resigned myself to the fact that he had important heavenly business to take care of and couldn't get away. (to be continued soon...)

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