Watching my dad slowly fade from this Earth over his last few years were some of the most excruciating of moments in my life, but some of the best too. My brother and Mom and I would work together and talk together and sometimes even get mad at each other as we would try to determine the best course of action, the wisest way to ease his pain, give him some breathing relief and comfort.
I remember the last few times I was with him, it was just me and him together, and I'd put on music either he or I or both of us liked and just sit near each other. For him it was often The Platters or an old "real country" musician. For me it was usually the Avett Brothers or yes, some old "real country" musician. It's coming up on the second year anniversary of my Dad's passing. And it's still hard to believe he's gone sometimes.
He comes to me in my dreams often, and it's like he's really there. When I wake up from one of those dreams I try so hard to go back to sleep and recapture that place where we were together. But after multiple attempts, I've realized I can't will myself to go back to sleep to that special space we just shared, nor can I will him back to life.
There is one thing I can do though that brings something of him back to me when I'm awake. And it's usually when I'm working with my hands, something he was so amazingly good at.
The other day was one of those moments. And the extraordinary thing was, I got to experience it with my daughter. She had received a really cool hammock chair swing for her birthday which we decide to finally hang up. That swing had sat in her room corner on the floor for months, and I'd think to myself If Dad was here he'd have it up in five minutes. So rather than look at it for one more day on the ground I told my girl that we were going to do it ourselves and that Pop would be so proud of our work when we were done. We got out our tools for the task: electric drill, screwdrivers, bits and stud finder (a new tool tool that she and I would giggle about every time we said its name). It looked like an Ace Hardware grand opening in her bedroom.
We measured for accuracy three times to ensure we had the right hidden beam in the ceiling. I told her that was what my dad always did, measure at least twice before cutting. Then we checked how high and how far from the wall, something else dad would have done since he didn't just do it, he did it right. When we were through (it had taken us about 35 minutes) we stood back together and looked at that chair in the air, both of us grinning at the good work we had done. "Pop would be so proud of us for our good work today," I said. And then she looked at me eye-to-eye and smiled and said, "Yes, he is." And I felt him in that room as sure as he was really standing there, and I was so glad to be awake.