I'm lying in a strange bed, at three in the morning, so tired I could cry. There is no man to reach for in the dark night, I feel lost, and alone. The sheets are unfamiliar, the bed laden with heavy blankets, and somehow I've grown accustomed to the sounds of the night that should be strange to my ears. I can hear the faint traffic on high way seventeen, the rain flowing through the drainage pipes just outside my window, the footsteps of the person living above us, who just used the bathroom. In three short hours my alarm will go off. I have allotted exactly thirty minutes for a shower, grooming, and coffee. This will be followed by six hours of formal instruction at Notre Dame, a meeting on curriculum, and prep time before I flee the campus, and return to mom. I'm haunted by the fact that the semester ends in two days, grades are due, and my anxiety is wound up like like a jack in the box. Self talk is not working. I can't help but ponder what the hell happened to my life?
I must have dosed off because when my iPhone sounded I was startled, groggy, and confused. I know my Dad was here, he died over five years ago, and now I only see him in my dreams. I try to pay attention when this happens, I'm aware of the rarity of Dad sightings, and I try to keep him with me as long as possible, or at least until I figure out what he is trying to communicate. They call that cognizant dreaming, or something like that, but dreams are difficult to control (like most things in life). He is always evasive, usually disappearing as one scene fades, and another takes it's place, but his visitations are always memorable.
I felt his familiar presence before I recognized him. He was wearing a Saints jersey even though he never watched sports in his life. I quickly realize he's trying to coach me. I giggle at the set up. He's calling the next play, ushering me forward with humor, and love. He did this for me in life and now from the grave. "Dad, I'm fifty-six, you're done parenting." I question my lucidity, but the memory is so clear, so discernibly real. We form this little huddle, he says, "Cheryl, it's time to wretch up your endurance, rise above these minor discomforts, stretch the boundaries." He was a good Dad and I believe he is trying to retain his title. I whine, "Dad, I'm tired. Go haunt Nancy." He has a rather odd sense of humor so he could be messing with me, but he said, "Honey, life is a game, focus on the goal." I'm cranky, "What goal?" He says, "You're winning by a landslide, it's the fourth quarter, what do you do?" Me, "put in the second string." He laughs, "It's called the mercy rule." I'm perplexed, "You want me to give up?" He pauses before answering, "Honey, mercy is the rule." In my dream I'm sweating, out of breath, exhausted. He holds up a mirror, in the reflection, I become my mom. He jogs off the field as I wake to the sound of coughing. My Dad, always the center of calm, is calling for mercy. It's either real or I belong in a psych ward.
Well here I am, up at the lake, I've had several nights of good sleep, amazing how this improved my attitude. I'm ready to come home, take up my position next to mom, and trust that I am right where I need to be. I was a lucky soul, incarnated in the womb of a remarkable woman, married to an extraordinary man. I marvel that both of them continue to stretch me, right through my rigid years, with such a merciful love.
There's more at Living in the Gap
There's more at Living in the Gap