Another year passed in the blink of an eye. On the 13th of February, it was time for dad to visit again, as he does on every anniversary since he left our world six years ago.
This year, he surprised me.
I imagined he would arrive softly, at night, and sit for a while in my room to comfort me or argue a little.
But no. This year dad just waltzed into my office like a movie star, in the middle of a sunny afternoon, looking young and tanned and very handsome. His hair was perfectly groomed, and he wore a trendy suit of a dark blue, shiny material, with a white shirt that must have cost a fortune. He even wore great shoes! Which is quite the miracle given his unfortunate choices for these accessories while alive.
I was stunned.
There he was, elegant and cheerful, removing his jacket and taking the seat on the other side of my desk. He crossed his legs and smiled as he looked around the room, lingering on the pile of papers that betrayed my hectic schedule over the past weeks.
“So” he said finally, looking straight at me. “How’s my feisty little girl today?”
Considering I had been crying all throughout the morning with an approximate frequency of three times per hour…had not slept well, was hungry, sad and very frustrated with the project I had to finish, his question was rather insensitive. So I did make “a face” even though I wanted to smile. He WAS, after all, rather adorable. And I do enjoy surprises.
He waited for me to say something, but I kept silent and returned to my work. A few seconds later I couldn’t help myself but look and ask.
“Zegna” he answered with a huge grin. “I didn’t get the tie, but your mother would approve.”
Indeed. Gods how I wanted to take him out for a coffee and a nice walk somewhere. Hold on to his arm, tempt him to try an almond croissant, drive home with him so he could see the kids and our zoo and make him lunch.
A cello concert started to play on my Pandora station. I felt the tears again and fought them. It’s just that he looked so handsome and so happy. And I was happy he was there, even for a little while. Yet somehow, his presence made me miss him even more.
“Now now little Jo” he said as little tears started down my face and I looked away. “It’s a beautiful day. Beautiful music. And I am very well dressed. Can it get any better?”
“Well”…I thought. He heard me of course.
“Well nothing young lady. I’m not worried anymore” he declared.
I turned my head abruptly to look at him.
“Really?” I asked. “Because you know…and also you’re not really here…”
He burst into laughter. It was unnerving.
“You’re being ridiculous” I told him. “You’re not supposed to laugh or be cryptic. This isn’t easy for me you know.”
He stopped laughing but still smiled.
“There no reason for me to be worried. It’s different now. You’re strong, you know what you’re doing. Feisty and strong!”
I rolled my eyes and fought a smile. How I used to love it when he was proud of me or something I did.
“I’m tired dad”.
“Nonsense. Get more rest, take vitamins. You’re fine. In heels no less! Remember that story you’ve been telling about the little girl who wanted to go to the edge of the world to see the sunrise” he asked. “Well…you made it didn’t you?”
I smiled. “Yes, that I did. I guess I’m not so tired after all. But what about the sunrise?”
“Ah..it’s just timing” he said. “You go find something to do for a while and come back later. The sunrise will be there.”
He reached over my desk to pick up a print and examine it, turning it every which way as if he was holding some mysterious artifact. He looked impressed.
“You know how I always used to tell you what my dad used to tell me….the first 40 years or so are a little harder but then it starts to get easier.”
He laughed and so did I.
“I didn’t get any smarter you know. I have fewer answers now than ever” I told him.
“Thank God!” he rushed to reply with an exaggerated sigh of relief.
We both laughed again.
“See? I told you I’m not worried anymore” he said, and then told me a story about some silly thing I did when I was little.
We sat for a few moments in silence, just looking at each other.
“Do you miss anything dad?” I asked.
He turned to look out the window at the perfect blue sky and palm trees in the distance.
“Oh dear one” he replied, “if I answer that it will make you sad. And you already know.”
Yes, I do know. And it got me into so much trouble…that following of the wisdom he didn’t always practice himself…always following my heart, refusing boundaries.
He smiled again.
“It’s not trouble. It made you real. And it keeps you real.”
And that is when I lost it. Someone walked into my office to bring me a package and there I was, staring at a chair and crying and smiling at the same time.
And I know that this little story is very self-indulgent, but it really did happen this way, and I needed to write it. And I also know it makes dad smile. Because it was a very good visit this year.