My dad died in 2011, when I was 37 years old. It happened suddenly, with no warning, and it broke my heart. I had spoken to him on the telephone just a couple of hours before he died. He sounded happy. He sounded fine. I knew he was getting older, I could see it. Sometimes I would think about him dying, but I still thought I had at least ten more years with him. He was only 63 after all, and in my mind, that’s not very old. Dad did not exactly have an easy life, and the hard times caught up to him sooner than I had hoped they would.
Dad and I had a rocky relationship through my teen years and twenties, and it wasn’t until I reached the age of thirty that we began to see a little more eye to eye. I really enjoyed our newfound relationship and relished in the time that I got to spend with him, either talking about politics and current events, working on the Sunday crossword, or just being silly together.
Dad was a generous guy and his tradition was to give me $100 for my birthday every year, which I greatly appreciated! And he loved to share his zip up sweatshirts with my sister and I; he knew we loved them because they were cozy and too big for us. If we ever complained about being cold, he would hand us one of his sweatshirts and insist that we put it on.
Fast forward to 2014. I packed the kids up and we took a road trip to the Oregon Coast for summer vacation. On the way, we stopped to visit my mom, who had moved to Oregon to be with my sister and her family after Dad died. We spent the night at my sister’s place and planned to caravan to the coast together early the next morning. I happened to wake very early that morning, about 4:45am. I laid in bed and thought about getting up and showering before the whole household got up, but decided that I could probably use another hour of rest for the drive ahead. I closed my eyes and quickly drifted back in to a slumber. It was during this extra shot of dreamy sleep that Dad came to visit me; the first and only time since he has passed.
I am a skeptical person, and typically do not believe in things like ghosts and gods. However, some things happened in the hours immediately after I dreamt about Dad that were too much to ignore. Recalling the dream brings tears to my eyes, but even more so, the events that followed after I awoke.
When I went back to sleep that morning, my dream seemed very real. It was as if I had not really gone back to sleep, but instead had decided to get up and shower-exactly what I had been thinking about doing. After the shower, I got dressed and went to the kitchen to make coffee. When I flicked the kitchen light on, much to my delight, there was my daddy! He was smiling, sitting at the table with a pot of coffee already made. My heart skipped a beat, and I felt such joy. I walked toward him to give him a hug, but as I got closer he began to fade, and by the time I made it to where he was sitting, he was gone.
I started to cry, and that is when I woke up. I’m sure I am not the only person to have a dream that ruined a day. A day ruiner- on a day that was supposed to be exciting- I was taking my boys to see the ocean for their first time! I was deeply disappointed by my teasing dream, and there were tears hanging in the corners of my eyes. I tried to feign happiness so as not to upset my mom or sister, and I decided not to tell them about it.
The morning went on, everyone was busy getting ready to go. My mom came upstairs from her room holding a blue sweatshirt and handed it to me. She said it was Dad’s, and that I should take it to the beach with me for extra warmth. I thought to myself that it was just a tiny bit odd that I had just dreamt about Dad, and soon after she gave me something of his.
We loaded into our vehicles and headed out. I asked my brother-in-law to stop at a gas station so I could fill up, and I followed him down the road. When we stopped for gas, I went in the store to get a few snacks for the kids. The cashier was friendly and talkative and mentioned to me that her 40th birthday was coming up in a couple of days. Mine was too, I told her. July 6th. Her eyes widened, and she exclaimed “I can’t believe it, so is mine! I’ve never met anyone with the exact same birthday as me!” Come to think of it, I hadn’t either. I left the store with a smile on my face. What a funny coincidence, to meet a random stranger in a different state that was born on the same day as I. It brought me out of my bad-dream doldrums a little bit.
My smile quickly turned into a frown when I hopped in the car, turned the key, and-nothing. I had accidentally left the headlights on while I was in the store, and the battery died. Thank goodness for family. With the help of my brother-in-law, we pushed my car out of the gas island and got ready to jump-start it. While everything was going on, I happened to notice a little old lady in a super fancy white Mercedes-Benz who was curiously watching us from across the parking lot. She even drove around the parking lot a few times, circling us from a distance, and watching.
We finally got my car started and I was about ready to get back in, when I turned and saw that the little old lady had pulled up right next to me. She was a beautiful woman of about eighty years, with shiny white hair to match her car, and big, round, dark sunglasses. I said hello, and she asked me if everything was okay. I told her it was, that I had accidentally drained the battery while they were pumping my gas, but we got it started and everything was good. She asked if I was taking my kids to the coast for a vacation, as she had noticed my out-of-state license plates. I told her that I was, and that we were really looking forward to it. She told me to have a wonderful time and warmly grabbed my hand. I felt her slip something into my hand, and realized that it must be money, but I did not look at it. I told her that I really appreciated the gesture, but that we were okay. She smiled at me, insisted that I take it, told me to enjoy my vacation, then she slowly drove away.It was so sweet, but I didn’t need the money, and I felt kind of bad that she gave it to me. As I watched her drive away, I opened my hand to find two wadded up bills. I was expecting them to be two fives, but when I unrolled them, I saw that they were two fifties. One hundred dollars.
The rest of the drive to the coast was somber as I thought about my dream, the sweatshirt, the cashier with the same birthday, and the little old lady in the white Mercedes and the hundred dollars. All of this happened within a period of about five hours. How did they connect? Or did they? Finally, I realized exactly what happened.
My dad, he came to me in my dream to say hello, and to make sure that he was on my mind. Through my mom, he gave me his blue sweatshirt to keep me warm at the coast. He reminded me of my birthday at the gas station through the cashier, and the little old lady was his medium, his way to give me my birthday money.
I still don’t believe in ghosts or gods. But I do believe that something happened to me that was more than just a coinky-dink. Was the little old lady an angel? Perhaps our spirits or souls inhabit some other plane of consciousness and my dad was able to harness energy from it. I don’t know. I’ve thought about it every day since it happened, and the bottom line is that I’m happy that it did, no matter what the explanation is. I wonder if Dad will ever come to visit me again?
I found a cute little gift shop in Newport, one of my dad’s favorite coastal towns. He took me to the Oregon coast for the first time when I was 2 years old. I have a treasured picture of a young him tossing me high in the air at the beach, his pants rolled up and his bare feet in the sand, a huge sea stack in the background. I bought myself a ring at that gift shop with the money, and when people ask me about it or compliment me on it, I tell them it was a birthday gift from my dad.