Imagine Seeing You Here

I’ve had two more dreams about my dad in recent weeks. Both times, he came to visit during a family dinner.

In the first dream, he was 70 years old and sitting at the center of a long table. Family members were spread out to his right and left, and the composition of the room and the group reminded me of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. (Dreams are weird. Also I’m obsessed with them.) We were filling my dad in on all the news of the family, but we realized as he talked to us that he already knew all of it. He was very aware of the things currently happening in our lives.

In the second dream, he was young and healthy, in his forties. He was sitting on a white couch from which he looked up, grinning at me. My jaw fell open and then I grinned back. I exclaimed, “I am so happy to see you!” Then I woke up.

Both dreams left me with a sort of glow. They were warm and lovely, though brief.

The second dream essentially washed away the gritty angst I’d been gnawing on for a few weeks prior. I’d felt so angry and blue and just blech about his loss. I just couldn’t shake the feeling. Until the dream. Then the awfulness evaporated.

Meanwhile, Truman is struggling not only with school but with eating anything besides dinosaur nuggets, with attending church, and with frequent meltdowns relating to hunger/anxiety/social situations. He’s also regressed with toilet training. He’s smart as a whip and super adorable. He has friends at school and at church. But autism and anxiety are rearing their rotten toothy heads and making things difficult in all areas of family life at the moment.

I’m going to write more about this, but first, an important vignette:

Last month, two of my sisters and their families backpacked and kayaked into a certain lake in the Grand Tetons. It was a favorite hiking and camping location of my dad’s, and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know why. It’s pristine and exquisitely beautiful.

On the last day of their trip, Sarah waved goodbye to Kate and Oliver as they paddled away. She stood on the shore of the lake and watched a golden eagle swooping down low. Just then, a canoe skimmed over the water to where she stood.

The person paddling the canoe was my dad’s dear friend and business partner, Dr. Keller.

In the middle of the wilderness. Randomly. At the same campsite and at the same moment.

“What are you doing here?!” Sarah exclaimed. Dr. Keller went to find his wife, Jean, who was walking in on the trail, taking her by the hand and telling her, “I’ve got a sweet surprise for you.”

There were hugs and smiles and photos, and Sarah said, “Imagine seeing you HERE, in this place.”

Jean responded, “It’s the exact right place.”

The Kellers had spent the day reminiscing about my dad as they begin their journey into the lake. While Sarah stood and talked with them, a yellow butterfly fluttered and landed between her and Dr. Keller. It stayed there the entire time they spoke. Sarah felt that the eagle and the butterfly were signals from our dad, telling her that he was there, in that beautiful place, with people that he loves.

Now remove your mind’s eye from the splendor of said lake and return to the present, specifically my car, as Truman wails and yells about not wanting to go to school. It was a Friday, after many days of dragging/fighting/cajoling the boy to first grade. We were all pretty exhausted. Jeff was along to help carry Truman. Almost-seven-year-olds who don’t want to walk into school weigh a lot, you know. Especially when they kick and hit.

I was driving. Jeff was saying the prayer. As I reversed from the driveway, a yellow butterfly flew by and stopped, hovering by the windshield, directly in my line of vision. It stayed there for the duration of the prayer. When we finished the prayer, it flew away.

As it fluttered off, I distinctly felt that my dad was showing me, in a way that made all sorts of sense to me, that he would be with Truman that day. I didn’t need to worry about Littlest Boy. Grandpa was going to help him at school.

All of these things have educated me in the beauty of family bonds, which last beyond death. They last. They’re real. They don’t end. People don’t end when their lives on earth do. They still exist and they still care. They know us and they are close to us.

This is pretty ding dong amazing stuff. I’m awed by it.

And feeling pretty loved, too.

40-year-old dad paddling us around in GTNP circa 1985.

Dad and Wes Keller. Ye Olde BFF’s.

Me and Dad. I think this is 1979.

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