When I was small, my dad would take me for ice cream. He always got peppermint stick. I usually got chocolate chip. We would eat ice cream and chat. My Dad always said that these were father-daughter dates. This was the normal parent-child relationship that I enjoyed.
My father also took me to workshops about drawing my own aura. He let me sit in when he performed psychic readings on friends. I learned about tarot cards and palm reading from his girlfriends. He traveled everywhere performing “rescues” for earthbound souls trapped in our reality. He placed purple amethysts in the four corners of my room to chase the bad dreams away. This was the paranormal parent-child relationship I enjoyed as a child.
My parents were divorced so when I was with my dad it was just the two of us. He would always cook steak and potatoes for dinner. He drank red wine every night of my life. Sometimes he had one glass, sometimes four or more. He played traditional Irish music in the car as he drove me back to my mother’s house. I leaned the lyrics to songs about war, dismemberment and whiskey. We would sing along but it always meant that I was going home without him.
He was married three times, and engaged on at least ten occasions. He was in love with falling in love. He went dancing every weekend. He didn’t work consistently so he rarely had money. After his third divorce, moved from state to state living with various girlfriends.
My dad believed that before I was born, I chose to be born to him and my mom. He says that I watched over him in World War II and kept him safe as his guardian spirit. He says he knew me well in spirit form. According to my dad I decided to be born as his child in order to experience human life and to help him on his journey. Unfortunately for my dad, I held the belief that I was born in order to live my own life and form my own destiny.
As I grew up I continued to disappoint him. He had a grand idea to build a psychic healing center. He thought I would come and work with him and run this center. He wanted to pass this legacy to me. The only problem? I’m not psychic. I don’t want to work running a center. He would always say, “Yes you do. You told me before you were born. You forget I knew you before this incarnation!” And who could argue with that?
I’m a teacher. I’m an Episcopalian. I married an amazing man. A Hispanic man with two children from a previous marriage. We grew our family trough adoption. Dad was bewildered at best. “Why would you want to raise someone else’s children?!” He said that with a disdain that would have been more appropriate if I had said I was going to start wearing other people’s dirty clothes.
As the years went by he moved farther and farther away. For the last 6 years he has been living in California and working on his healing center. We spoke on the phone every week on Sunday. He never remembered the names of my kids, or how many I have. He really wanted me to learn more about the big project he was working on and how I would play a pivotal role in it. I gave up trying to convince him that I had my own life or that it was something to be proud of.
I was always glad that I talked to him, though. I knew I was making an effort in our relationship even though we were miles apart. No matter what he thought about my life choices, he always called me “his angel,” to anyone who would listen.
My father died on Saturday, at 90 years old. When he became seriously ill, I flew out to California in order to be there at the end. I spent the week massaging his feet, holding his hand, and reading out loud to him. I shared stories about the fun things we used to do together. I showed him pictures that family members sent, and played him songs that they requested. As the days wore on he regained consciousness less and less often. I spoke to him anyway so that he would know he was not alone.
As the time grew near for my return flight to Connecticut I became anguished over leaving him. I didn’t want my father to be alone at the end. His girlfriend and her family visited but I was there all day brushing his hair and using a small sponge to keep his mouth from drying out. Didn’t he need me there? The hospice doctor explained that he could survive for days or even weeks. I made arrangements for his remains. I contacted family members about a memorial service. And then I waited. And waited. I didn’t want him to be alone when he took his last breath. Like many things in life, he had other plans.
Finally the time came for me to go back to Connecticut. I simply couldn’t afford to stay any longer and I needed to get back to my children. On our last day together I played him that Irish music he had played for me so many times. The last song I played was “Irish Rover.” I dipped my sponge into some red wine and dabbed the drink on his tongue. I said my goodbyes and I kissed my dad for the last time.
He died exactly when I got to the airport. I think he was waiting until I was through security and couldn’t come back. They say he took his last breathe in his sleep. I think he waited until I was gone and then he let go. His approval really didn’t matter anymore. I think he knew that what I really needed, in my grief, was my family.
Back in Connecticut I melted into Luke’s embrace. Even though it was 2 AM, I snuck into each child’s room. I hugged my children close. My daughter woke up and exclaimed, “Mommy! You came BACK!” My son rolled over and mumbled, “I love you, mom. I’m sorry about your dad.” I realized that as different as we were, I passed some of my father’s traditions onto my family. Both children have a purple amethyst in a corner of their rooms. And that was all I really needed. My family.