It started out as an ordinary day. Or so I thought. I baked a pumpkin pie, took some to Mom at assisted living, and we shared it before going outside to enjoy the last of the unseasonably warm November day. As I wheeled her into the courtyard, a white-haired woman flagged us down, inviting us to sit with them. The woman, Irene, introduced herself and her friend, Mary. Like my Mother, Mary was wheelchair-bound, and had only lived there a month….which explained why we had never met her before. Irene explained that she had worked for a home-healthcare agency, and had taken care of Mary before it was necessary for Mary to live in the assisted living facility. A friendship had blossomed, and Irene continued to visit Mary a few times a week. I thought to myself that this Irene was a kind, sweet soul to do this. There was an obvious 20+ year age difference between them.
We chatted a bit, when Irene looked at me and said, “I don’t want to ‘freak’ you out, but there’s a man standing behind you”. I told her I wasn't. I was used it.
Irene continued, “He is tall, has a big smile on his face, and light brown hair”. I was elated. My father. It must be. I smell his cigarette smoke quite often, and I was sure this was him. She said, “He has on a brightly-colored flowered shirt. Like a Hawaiian shirt, but not with palm trees, just flowers.” My heart fell. No….that wasn’t my conservative, vee-necked sweater, shirt-and-tie, all-business father. My mother’s face fell. Was this women toying with us? Was she simply a whacko? Mom and I exchanged looks. My Mom is quite used to these kinds of experiences, too, as is my sister and my late brother. But we had our doubts about this new acquaintance. This stranger.
All-of-a-sudden, Irene stood up, and touched her eye. “Something’s wrong with his eye”, she said. I screamed, “Oh my God! It’s my FIL!”. Irene said she was sorry I was upset. I wasn’t upset. Just a bit disappointed and surprised. You see, my FIL had a glass eye. It had been shot out with a BB gun when he was a child. Not a ‘typical’ characteristic like height and hair color. And yes, he wore flowered shirts. Again….not a typical attire for a man living his entire life in the Midwest. But Mom and I were still skeptical. We said nothing, waiting for this woman…this ‘Irene’ to show us something more. Something we could be absolutely sure about.She continued, thrusting her tongue around her mouth and sniffing, “I’m tasting something strong. Like liquor. Whiskey, maybe. I don’t know. I’m not a ‘drinker’”. That meant little to me. My MIL was a recovered alcoholic, and I seldom saw my FIL drink. “He says to tell you it’s ‘C-C’”. Once again, this meant nothing to me. “He said he used to ‘sneak’ it”. Again….I didn’t know.
“He said to tell you he loved geraniums. They’re so bright. And they’re easy”. Well….there had been geraniums in their yard…but…..
Before we parted, she said that he wanted me to know that he intended to have another conversation with me, just he-and-I, one-on-one, before he died, but he never did. He wanted to know he was sorry it never happened, and was I okay with that. Yes…I understood that perfectly. In the 30+ years of my marriage, he and I had exactly TWO of the conversations he was speaking of. Two specific conversations that I loved him for. They were on the same subject. They were the only two times I ever remembered speaking solely with him. So, no…we never talked one-on-one again. I told Irene to tell him I understood. And I was okay.
Irene has had this ‘gift’ since she was five. At the age of 16, her family tried to have her ‘committed’, as they couldn’t understand why she talked about ‘seeing’ dead people. That was in the 50’s. The beginning of all the talk of ‘life-after-death’. Before the time of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ work on death and dying, the grieving process and out-of-the-body experiences. Yes…before John Edward came forward with his books and TV show, and before The Ghost Whisperer.
Irene asked if my husband was understanding of my ‘gift’. I told her that yes, he was. She said I was lucky. Her marriage had ended in divorce because of it. I shook my head. I felt her sadness.
We exchanged phone numbers, and plan to get together for lunch. I have a feeling it will be a long one!
As soon as I had a chance, I called my husband, and asked him if his dad had a favorite drink. “Yes….he drank Canadian Club. He called it his ‘CC’”. He snuck it so he wasn't drinking in front of my MIL. I asked him about the geraniums, but he didn’t know. I talked with my SIL, and asked if dad had a favorite garden plant. Without hesitation, she said, “Oh yeah. He LOVED geraniums. He said they gave SO much color, and were just ‘easy’ to plant”.
So, Dad, thank you. I could never be mad at you. And yes, I’m okay. Perfectly. And I know you are, too. Kiss Mom for me, 'kay?
This post won a Post of the Day award over at authorblog. Take a peak at the other winners for some wonderful reads!