They called and told me that he’s ready to come home and I was confused because we’d all moved on with our lives. There’s this vague idea in the back of my mind that I thought he had died. That’s why we grew up. That’s why we moved away. That’s why we got married. But maybe he didn’t die? Maybe there wasn’t a funeral? I thought for sure there was a funeral. I remember exactly, buying a pink sweater to wear because I refused to wear all black. If I’d known he was just in a coma or something, I never would have left him. I would have had no reason to buy that sweater. I never would have gone to college, moved to South Dakota, moved back to Kansas, worried about what my next move was, lost my religion, fallen in love with my neighbor, gotten married—without him. I never would have done those things. I would have just sat there, next to him, for fifteen years, waiting for him to come back.
But they called and told me that he’s ready to come home and I was confused because we’d all moved on with our lives. And, of course, he’s coming to my home. He’s going to live in my guest room because what else could he do? Everyone else is so far-flung around the country.
And so he moves in and I try to explain what a Facebook is and how to read our e-books and make our coffee in the French press. And he tells me that he’s amazed at how some things feel so space age and foreign and other things have gone back in time. Like pressing the beans out of our coffee water? With our hands? Meanwhile, no one has a phone in their house anymore, they just type into this flat piece of glass all day.
And I imagine how terrifying it must all be. How it must feel like he’s living in a science fiction movie. How he must feel like a time traveler. How he went to bed 45 years old with cancer and woke up 60 and healed. How his youngest boy is now a full grown man with a full grown beard and a full-time life camping across the states.
What would he think of me? Thirty three years old. Living in a town that he talked about moving to, one day. With that Monaghan boy that he knew since he was a kid. I wonder if I’d be one of those things that felt vaguely familiar and completely different.
My father died just a month after 9/11. People were so afraid. I often wonder what kind of a world he thought he was leaving us to. But then again, I take comfort in the fact that he didn’t know he was leaving us. But I think back to the fear of that time and how we thought the world was ending and how many times we’ve felt that since then. And how the world has, so far, not ended. And not only is it not over, there’s a lot of gorgeous, sickening beauty in it. Have you ever seen a ripe, prairie sunset? Have you ever heard your nephew say something completely hilarious? Have you ever had a proper cup of coffee?
I have these dreams sometimes where he comes back to life. Sometimes I’m the time traveler—just a kid again and I jump into his arms and feel the cold of his black leather jacket against my face and then the whole world just dissipates. And it’s gone. And I grieve all over again. And I tell myself, “I’d give up anything in my life to just have ten more minutes with him.”
But sometimes they’re dreams like this morning—where they called and told me that he’s ready to come home and I was confused because we’d all moved on with our lives. I can’t see him or touch him but he’s there the whole time. Like, standing behind me or in the other room. And he’s learning about me and this whole big life his family has gone on to create without him—spanning the US. And there’s this world that’s kept manufacturing and developing and changing in huge and small ways. And I wake up slowly, trying to hold on to his essence and trying to see his face just one more time in my dream. Because in these types of dreams, if I’m being honest, I know that I probably wouldn’t trade this life for ten more minutes with him. I just wouldn’t. And I don’t think he would expect me to. I don’t think anyone would fault me for that. Because this life is good and beautiful. It’s scary at times and it’s impossible and there are days when I can’t imagine that we’ll ever be able to move on. But on those days, my sister calls and tells me that my nephew has started to read. And I’m rejuvenated.