Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just Maybe, Part 2

It makes me feel a little better to think that my dad is around me in literal, living form.  When I sat down on my deck to write this, a blue butterfly circled just over my head several times.  It makes me smile even through my tears to think that maybe, just maybe, that was my dad (whose favorite color was blue), swooping in to check on me. 

Not long after he went on ahead, I had to go out of town to a conference for my job.  When I say I was not very focused on the presentations at this conference – that is an understatement.  I was barely hanging on.  If not for the kindness of my coworkers who were also there, I would not have been able to find the hotel, make it to any of the sessions, or figure out at what restaurant to eat during that time.  At one point, I felt another onslaught of tears coming on as one of the sessions ended, and I went outside and sat down by the hotel pool to try to collect myself.  About 60 seconds later, a little bluebird landed near my chair on the concrete and hopped over to within a few feet of where I sat.  “I’m trying, Dad,” I said.  The bird looked at me and just sat there peacefully for a couple of minutes more and then flew off into the sky. 

If it is him, if he can see us, I know for sure that he is happiest when we are happy and that he likes it best when we are together as a family.  When we were on our family trip to Destin this summer, I kept thinking that if Dad was around in spirit or other form, he would have been glad that he could check in on all of us, his children, our spouses, his grandchildren, and my mom, all at once.  Dad loved being efficient! 

Who knows for certain how things work after people go on ahead?  All I know for sure it that it makes me feel a little better to feel a connection with my dad, and thinking that he can see or hear me is one thing that gives some peace to me.  So when I see a squirrel stop and stare at me when I’m running or when a beautiful bird or butterfly floats by me, I will be thinking …

… maybe, just maybe, he’s just checking …

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Try

Dad, on Lookout Mountain

When I read the reports and heard the talk,
The prognosis and the circumstances gray,
An exception, a miracle, a reward for our fight
I thought surely would come our way.

Even as you put so much effort into
Eating, and talking, just holding on,
Even as your body bore the brunt,
The thought of you going seemed so wrong.

You told me once that it’s possible
That tears could run out in supply.
I know now that cannot be true
And that my pillow will never be dry.

And now, so many days, hours, months later,
The knowledge that it happened settles in my brain,
In spite of the confusion, rage, and sorrow,
The devastation and most of all the pain.

If you wonder, if you have a trace of the thought
That any of you may be forgotten or gone
Or your impact lessened by the hastening of your departure,
This is one time I have to tell you you’re wrong.

I miss so much the way we were;
I miss you every minute of every day.
I try to be tough so I’ll make you proud,
But I just don’t know how to be ok.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Family Secret

When I was growing up, my family was selected to participate in a Top Secret Project – we were Shoney’s Shoppers!  In case you haven’t had the pleasure of eating at a Shoney’s Restaurant (I’m not kidding – I love Shoney’s!), it’s a casual, “sit-down” family restaurant that’s been around for over 60 years. 

My mom saw the call for Shoney’s Shoppers in a magazine and applied when we first moved from Illinois to Mississippi, and we were chosen!  They had a very strict rule, though, that no one in the family could tell anyone else that we were in The Program, all very hush-hush.  We felt like we were the 80’s version of Spy Kids, having all this knowledge and this top-secret job that seemed so very important at the time. 

As Shoney’s Shoppers, we had to remember or very covertly write down certain details about our visit so that we could later report back on those things, including what the first thing that was said to us by an employee when we arrived at the restaurant was and whether or not the waitress told us about the specials.  We could order whatever meal we wanted from the menu, and then, after we went home, we had to score them on things like food temperature, appearance, and taste.  We were also supposed to comment on the cleanliness of the table area, the salad bar, and the restroom, the latter of which delighted my younger sister because for some reason at that age she loved to see what the Ladies’ Room looked like everywhere we went.  

In a weird way, it was one of the many things that united us as a family during that time.  (My dad used to get confused about the term “bonding,” instead calling it “binding,” as in “We need to spend some ‘binding’ time together a family next weekend.”)  It gave us a sense of purpose as we plotted and strategized so as not to get caught.  It was our family secret, one that I’m pretty sure very few people outside our family know even decades later, until now …