Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Visitation

On Wednesdays, I get up at 7am to take Luke to school at 8am. He had fixed himself a hearty portion of corned beef hash with a scrambled egg mixed in. It was tight getting out of the house in the nearly sub-zero temperatures. I dropped him off, fiddled around a little catching up online and went back to sleep for a couple of hours.

Last night, Luke and I were on our own for dinner, so I took him to IHOP after his final makeup basketball game against St. Andrews Park Ridge. (They lost, barely.) On the drive home, Luke asked me if my father would've liked him, thinking because my dad was a cop when he died that he'd be mean, when nothing could be farther from the truth. I told Luke he was a big softie and a pussycat, that the prisoners scared him more than he scared them when he worked in the Skokie courthouse carting prisoners around from jail to court, where he would confiscate all types of contraband from the prisoners, many of which the loon would bring home to myself and my brother. (I still carry the kubaton weapon in my pocket when I'm riding the L. It could kill someone in an instant and I know how to use it, FYI.) I regaled the story again (which I'm sure I've told him before) about the boy who was chasing me around during a basketball game when I was in 5th or 6th grade, whom my dad, in full uniform, handcuffed to the Pre-K classroom doorknob, leaving him until he pleaded for his life and promised not to chase me around anymore.) About the only criticism I could give Luke regarding his grandpa was that he would've told Luke to cut his hair; otherwise, he'd have been crazy about him and vice-versa.



When you lose a parent who never met your children, you kind of wish for what I call "just one afternoon." Nothing grandiose like fishing or kite-flying, just sitting in a diner, having some coffee, or sitting in the living room of your house. Just enough hours for your mom or dad to cross-look at you, look at your kid, cross-look at you again, think about himself and silently whisper a "Damn!" ("That kid needs a hair cut!")

(I think that's what I like most about visiting my Uncle Jerry, my dad's big brother. His anecdotes (which are always preceded by a "when we lived on XYZ Avenue and the paint store was at Damen and Armitage...") paint a portrait whose espirit de goofy is the undertone of both my brother and myself, and slightly more loosely, my own son.)

While I was sleeping this morning, I had a vivid dream of encountering my father again--in the incarnation in which I last remember him--early 40's.....driving me to Adler on his giant fire truck (remember, he was a fireman before he was a sheriff). I was supposed to meet with someone regarding my (failing, though not by my own doing) community internship, and my father kept telling me not to worry about it. As is prevalent in my dreams about him, I asked him where he had been, and he didn't answer. We met up with an African-American woman who represented one of the women in charge of my service project at school, and my dad said, "She's here. That's all you need." The woman said to him, "You've been sober for what, 5 years?" And Dad said, "More or less." It was a non-issue. He dropped me off, nary a hug or kiss goodbye, and the fire truck was gone. I don't know where he'd been or where he was going. That's the general theme of my recurring dreams about my father. He just shows up. I don't know where he's been or where he's going, but he can never stay.

Ironically, when I regaled this story (begrudgingly, I know she doesn't like to talk about Dad) to my mom this afternoon, she ironically had a dream that her own late father picked her up to take her somewhere in the white Mustang my grandparents had (it was grandma's car, they were WAY hip). She wasn't sure about his presence in the dream either, but I found it interesting that we both had dreams of our late fathers the same night.

Guy's daughter was baking an angel food cake recently and couldn't remember the ratio of butter required for the recipe, and her first inclination was to call Madame Guy and ask her. Yet she couldn't. And that stark realization is one of the first stages of grief. And all of us who have lost parents or grandparents go through it. I'm sure Kate has had thousands of things she'd like to call her mom up in Massachusetts and excitedly tell her, but she can't. Death is funny that way. So much is left unsaid, unknown, unfinished, unbeknownst. A stick of butter in the frosting for Guy's daughter's angel food cake? Start flipping through her recipe book, as my mom has hundreds of times making my grandma's recipes. Did my grandpa drive Gram's Mustang at ANY point? Most likely not. (He left the hot car to the wife!) Does Kate have news about her blood tests being good or other anecdotes she'd like to share with her mom? Of course. She still has things she wishes she could share with her father, as I do.

When I wrote about the 30th anniversary of my father's death, and a friend told me he thought my dad's been watching over me all this time, I truly believe that. His appearances in my dreams are usually a pleasant visitation of a "holy cow, it's you!" revelation. Yet it's always temporary. With Madame Guy gone so few months ago, I wonder if Guy is dreaming about her yet. I assured him that if he isn't yet, he will. We all do. Our parents and grandparents are such fixtures in our lives and in our psyches that their reassuring appearances in our dreams are reassuring, rebooting, and realigning. They assure our spirits that their souls aren't as far away as we, as earthly beings, imagine them to be. "You're gone, your body's gone, but your presence is right beside me."

It's comforting, it's reassuring, and it's saddening. It's part of why we should appreciate those whom we love in the present time all the more. It's why an extra hug or a hand-hold makes so much sense. "I want to feel you now so that when you're gone, and you infiltrate my mind, I have every sensory recollection of what you felt like when you were present with me."

That's not to say we don't do that in the present as well. One might gaze into an eye, and memorize the hue of the brown or the green and gold flecks. Or the turn of a cheek. Or a shiver in the cold. Snapshots. Personal, real-life Instagrams we compose with our brains; after all, that's what our brains are wired to do, without electronic augmentation. But over time, we change. We age. We reform, both in body and mind. We either stagnate or become more compelling. Much is in what we are willing to invest within ourselves and the support and encouragement of those around us.

My personal artistic community is growing. I'm reconnecting with writers, with linguists, with painters, with photographers, with disc jockeys, with intellectuals, with humorists, the wise, and that satisfies me. I feel that the more I can envelop myself surrounded by thinkers I love, the more of the spirit people like my father would be happy with whom I am friends and colleagues. They may not have been his bread/butter, but my heart knows he had higher hopes for me as an individual.

That's why he dropped me off at Adler in the fire truck. Right?


7 comments:

Rob Cheney said...

This is a great post

Andrea Miklasz said...

Thanks, Rob. You're in the network, you know. I appreciate your friendship more than you consciously realize. Thanks for always being there for me, from so far away. xx

BMF said...

You're surrounded by creatives and intellectuals because you're a creative intellectual. End of story. Like a bee to a can of soda in the hot summer sun, you are.

I dream about my lost relatives a lot, too. Many of the dreams don't seem as calming to me as the dreams about your dad are to you, but our circumstances were both very different in how we lost our loved ones. But I agree with you that their presence is right there--in your face--I don't know if I believe in a heaven (and especially not a hell), but yes, souls surround us every day. It's their own little trick when they decide to reveal themselves.

I'm sorry about Guy and sad for his kids. I know this is a hard time for all of them, so please convey my regards, again.

Baby, if your Daddy dropped you off at Adler in a fire truck to speak to people who pissed you off, bet your ass while he was at it, he'd have hosed them down at full blast. I know enough about your father to know what kinda guy that fella was. And please, please assure Luke that indeed, your dad would've loved him with all his heart and soul and yeah, probably would've bitched about his hair (though Jake's had his moments, too!). But my point is that anything that came from you, your dad would love. Because it came from you. It could be a handmade greeting card when you were 5 years old or a master's degree a year or two down the road, or a poem you wrote, or a funny t-shirt you wore. Anything. Because it was you. And you, my friend, are amazing, and your dad would be very, very proud of you, bugger what the naysayers might think (ahem, cough cough).

Consider the visits from your dad (or your grandparents) blessings and while it may hurt to awaken from those dreams to find them gone, know their spirits took the time to visit your heart. I wish I could visit your heart that often.

xoxo

BMF said...

I forgot! Would you PLEASE give me Kate's current mailing address so I can send her something? I feel like I'm neglecting her, which I don't mean to be. :/

Andrea Miklasz said...

BMF, I'll text you w/Kate's mailing address.

Andrea Miklasz said...

BMF, thanks for your kind and reassuring words. You seem to know my dad almost as well as I did! I can't sleep as usual and don't want to pester Rob in the UK. But know that I know your family memories are even harder to bear than mine and I truly sympathize & understand what you've endured. Too much trauma....let's raise happy kids!

BMF said...

Agree 100%!

The best thing we can do for our own kids is to not put them through what we went through as kids. So take care of yourself, please. Thank you. I've been trying, it hasn't been perfect, but I'm feeling in a good place right now. You'll get there, babe.