Have you ever had a decades-old memory just pop into your head out of the blue?
One popped into mine as I was driving west towards home last week.
But the first thing I was thinking about was my very sick mother-in-law in the hospital.
And, I don’t know why this other thought jumped in.
Maybe because, like I said, I was headed home.
Just another out-of-town worker going home again.
Like many do. So, no point in complaining about that.
It was a thought I’d had hundreds of times after his funeral.
The thought was that dad’s home.
That my dad was alive and at home.
How many times did I dream that he was actually there?
That there had been a colossal mistake and that he was alive and was there just sitting on the couch in the living room talking to us.
That he was not gone.
Well, you know how dreams are.
But he was there, I could hear his John Wayne voice
Echo in the hall.
He wasn’t there at all.
And the dream faded to black.
And I’ve cursed it a thousand times.
Or, I’ve cherished it.
It works both ways sometimes.
Now, there were times that the words, “Dad’s home,” didn’t bring comfort.
So, one time, my mom shows up at school.
She collects two of my sisters and me. Drives home.
I walk in the front door and see that, hey, my dad’s home.
And not at work.
Drunk as Cooter Brown.
Passed out in the reclining chair.
It would take years until I understood the idea of human emotional shields.
As if elementary age kids could provide such.
But there were other times.
Where he’d be home and I’d slouch in for the weekend from college life.
And I was glad that he was there.
Man, I was glad.
And not drunk.
He always made sure I had some spending money before I left again for Jacksonville.
And I’d hug him and say, “thanks, dad.”
So, this warm random thought appears to me.
While I’m heading west,
somewhere around the rice fields of Earle, Arkansas
And a million migrating ducks.
To a town, my dad likely never visited.
To a house, my dad never saw.
And a family he never hugged.
Nor spent the afternoon at all
talking about Alabama football,
Or why it is his grandkids can speak Russian,
Or about God.
But whose presence.
I still feel.