Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Day My Dad Said Goodbye

The week after my dad died, my workplace required me to go for counseling in order to provide "evidence" that my "condition" was being "treated" so I could get approved for stress leave and not have to go back to work four calendar days after he died (let's not get into that - but note that the government actually only requires companies to provide three days of bereavement leave, yet you can go on compassionate care leave for months if you know that the person is going to die). Anyway, during that counseling appointment with a social worker who wasn't specifically trained in bereavement, but had lost her mom unexpectedly as well, she said something that I kind of brushed aside/rolled my eyes at.  "You may not think it now but you'll get to say goodbye" she said. She told me a story about how a few weeks after her mom died, the phone rang and she heard her mom say hello at the other end, and then the line went dead. She said she tried to tell people about it and they all told her she was making it up or remembering a dream, but she knew it was real. She couldn't explain it but it was very much a real experience to her.

I honestly forgot that story until a couple weeks ago, when I was debating writing this post. I don't know who, if anyone, reads my blog these days other than my husband, but nonetheless I feel kind of vulnerable putting it out here. I haven't told this story to anyone but close friends who I knew wouldn't laugh at me. But this story is what it is. It happened and however one chooses to try and explain it is fine with me, as long as they don't try and tell me my interpretation is unacceptable. Just like the counselor choosing to believe it was her mom at the end of that phone call, I am choosing to believe that my dad came to say goodbye in March 2015.

I was at home alone, sitting in my living room and watching TV. Brahm was out of town for the weekend and my mom was staying in our guest room but she was out of the house at the time. There was a heart-shaped helium balloon hanging out on the ceiling of the living room that my mom had brought over a week or two prior, which had stayed put in the living room pretty much that whole time.  My cat liked to grab the string every so often and pull it around the house/chew on it, but it didn't move much other than swaying a bit when the heat turned on.

As I was sitting there, the balloon started to shift. I noticed it was slowly moving towards the stairwell and I wondered if it would stop or get stuck at the top where we likely wouldn't be able to reach it. Eventually it did make its way into the stairwell.  A few minutes later I went to check on it, assuming it would be stuck at the highest point in the house, but it had actually turned the corner and was moving toward the upstairs hallway. This seemed like slightly odd behavior for a balloon so I stayed put and watched it travel along its course. Finally it came to a complete stop in the middle of the guest room door, where I mentioned my mom was staying for the weekend, as well as where all of the photos of my dad from his funeral were being kept.

It took a few minutes for the significance of where the balloon stopped to hit me and then I broke down and cried, sitting on the floor in the hallway. The balloon didn't move for the rest of the day. When my mom got back it was still there. My mom left it there while she slept that night.

The next day, I don't remember exactly when, I heard the balloon start to rustle and watched it move over a few feet, to some pictures from our wedding. It stopped, and stayed in this spot for another day.

After that day, the balloon was downstairs again when I got home from work. I'm not sure how it got there, perhaps the cat brought it down, but I swear the balloon followed me around for about an hour that day while I moved around the kitchen and main floor. Following that, it started losing its helium and moved around the house a bit sporadically but nothing as (what I'll describe as) "determined" as those couple days.

If you are shaking your head, or rolling your eyes, or feeling uncomfortable that I might believe this scientifically explainable balloon movement to have anything to do with my dad, please don't. It is not hurting anyone or anything for me or my family to derive meaning out of this. And if it was just a bizarre coincidence, what does it matter? It was an experience that will stick with me always and an experience that brought and still brings me immense comfort.

After this happened for a while I was hyper-vigilant about balloon movements and placements when we had them in the house, hopeful for more significance, but it never happened again. That is why I'm confident that it was a one-time shot; it was my dad coming to say goodbye, and no one can tell me otherwise.

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