This is in response to a daily prompt from WordPress. Thanks for this one guys – I really needed it….
As I was walking through the city, I felt inexplicably drawn to this one building. When I lightly touched its smooth, mirrored façade, a small static charge raised the small hairs on the back of my neck. I looked up to see where this architectural masterpiece ended, but from my vantage point it seemed to reach right up to the clouds.
Photo credit: Bill Haack
I tried to peek inside the windows, but all that was revealed to me was my own awed expression. I searched for a way inside so I could satisfy my nagging curiosity, and finally found a set of double doors. I assumed that a security guard would stop me before I had the chance to set foot inside, but when I entered the lobby and looked around I was surprised to find that I was alone.
It struck me as odd that there was no company logo on the wall or identifying mark that helped allay the air of mystery that surrounded this building. While most companies shamelessly promoted their logo on every pen, business card, and billboard within a 10-mile radius of their building, this place apparently needed no promotion. It just was.
The stark white walls and metal fixtures gave it the appearance of a hospital, but despite the sterile environment, the room still radiated an indescribable warmth. As I closed my eyes and soaked it in, I heard something ding off to my right. When I turned my head to see what made the sound, a set of elevator doors at the far end of the lobby opened up.
Before my brain had the chance to weigh my options, my feet began to reflexively walk towards the doors. It felt strange to be drawn towards something that would normally kicked my claustrophobia into high gear. I stepped into the shiny, chrome box and the first thing I noticed was that there were no numbered buttons for the floors. The only choices were up or down – buttons that were usually on the outside of an elevator. Eager to see the view from the top, I chose up and waited for the doors to close.
From outside the elevator, I heard a man’s voice say, “Hold the doors!”
I stuck my hand out to prevent the doors from closing. When I looked up to see who would be joining me on this enigmatic elevator ride, I saw a face I thought I’d never see again – my father. He had passed away nearly three months ago, yet there he stood, right beside me.
The doors closed.
“Going up?” he asked with a smile.
I instinctively threw my arms around him and began to cry. After a few minutes, my sobs quieted and I reluctantly released him. My eyes and brain were at war with each other – my brain tried to make sense of the impossible, while my eyes gave proof of its existence.
“How??” was all I could manage to ask him.
He smiled like he had a delicious secret that he couldn’t share with me. “Hmmm, tough question. Luckily, I’ve found out a lot of answers to some pretty tough questions since I died…. but I also learned that some questions don’t really have any answers.”
“So basically, you’re not going to tell me.” I said, wiping away the tears that had already started to dry on my cheeks.
“Doesn’t look like it.” he said with a teasing smile.
I giggled. “I’ve had so much I wanted to say to you these past few months. So many regrets about all the things I was too scared to tell you while you were still alive.”
“Are you scared now?” he asked with one raised eyebrow.
I paused for a moment – I felt nothing but peace. “No.”
“Then tell me what’s on your mind.”
“Remember last summer, when I came to visit you at your house in Florida?” He nodded. “Well, there was a moment when we were bobbing around in your pool and you turned to me and asked if I had had a happy childhood.”
“I remember. You told me you did, for the most part.” he said.
“That wasn’t the whole truth.” I admitted, and then looked down at my feet.
“So what’s the whole truth?” he asked, reached his hand out and tipped my chin up so I was looking at him again.
“The truth was, yes I had a happy childhood… but I also missed you desperately most of the time. I can remember nights when I woke up crying out for you, but you were never there.” I said and felt the tears beginning to build up behind my eyes again.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there to comfort you. It wasn’t because I didn’t love you. I know how you felt – there were nights when I cried out for you and your siblings too.” he said and a sad expression crossed his face as he remembered the past. “In a perfect world, I would’ve been there, but as we both know, our little world was far from perfect. So, we had to settle for seeing each other a couple of times a year – which doesn’t look like it was enough for either one of us, huh?”
“Guess not.” Seeing his sad expression made me feel guilty that I had put it there. I searched to find a means of erasing it and said, “But you should know that you were never far from my mind. I had moments when I felt angry at you because I felt like you had abandoned us…. but I never stopped loving you.”
His face brightened. “Thanks, that’s nice to hear – especially since I thought you spent most of your teen years hating my guts. Eighteen years is a long time to go without a Father’s Day card.” He said and playfully nudged me in the ribs with his elbow. I could see the teasing smile return to his face.
I smiled back, “I bought you a card last year, but then Amy and I went in on a gift and I never sent it. I brought it with me to Chicago when I went to see you after you passed away…. but since there was no casket, and you weren’t being buried, I didn’t have anywhere to put it. So, I brought it back home with me.” I shuddered with the memories of that trip.
“What did it say?” he asked and put a comforting hand on my shoulder.
“It had a picture of The Wizard of Oz characters on the outside cover and said, ‘A good father needs brains, courage and a lot of heart’…”
“What did it say on the inside?”
“Fortunately, the ruby slippers are optional. Happy Father’s Day to a dad who has it all.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I could pull off ruby slippers.” he joked, and then we both started laughing.
“Dad, I just wanted to say that I’m so glad we managed to close the gap over the years. When I really got to know you, it felt like I had found my missing piece – the one I spent my whole life looking for. No matter how many times I tried to shove somebody else in that space, no one else seemed to fit. I saw so much of myself in you. I didn’t know how it was possible to have so much in common with someone I barely ever saw.”
“You can’t fight genetics, Kiddo.” he said with a wink.
“I tried for a little while.” I said with a chuckle and unconsciously reached up to touch the deep crease in between my eyebrows – the one that becomes more pronounced when I’m trying to work through a problem…. the one I inherited from him.
Just then, I felt the elevator come to a gentle stop – the ride had been so smooth that I had forgotten it was even moving.
“This is my stop.” he said.
I felt a rush of panic – I didn’t want to lose him all over again. There was still so much that needed to be said. “Wait! Dad, please don’t go.” I begged and grabbed a hold of his hand.
“I have to. But if you ever find yourself crying out for me in the middle of the night again, this time, I promise I’ll be right there.” he said and put his hand to my heart. “Always.”
Then he wrapped me up in a hug that felt like he was trying to make up for all the hugs we missed out on in the past, and all the ones we would never get the chance to have in the future.
When he finally released me he said, “I love you.”
“I love you too, Dad.”
“And hey – thanks for my Father’s Day card.” he said with a smile.
Then the elevator doors opened ….