Who am I to say? That might be my father, two tables over, staring out at me from behind that old man’s eyes, as I drink my iced coffee and try, unsuccessfully, to leaf through this mammoth brand new copy of Stephen King’s It. I mean, we all have our ghosts…and as it is two weeks from Christmas, it would be in keeping with some kind of Dickensian sense of poetic justice, I suppose.
I just wish he wasn’t looking out at me…staring at me actually…with such directness…with so little warmth. There almost seems to be a sorrow there, a hurt. …and of course, ever analyzing, I could see how my father would think I had betrayed him, given the world a flawed impression. So, I sit here, guilt boiling, tears almost welling up in my eyes….and…
I think back to recent Facebook posts I’ve made to commemorate certain events – the anniversary of his death or his birthday. They’ve always been difficult for me to write, even though I’ve felt compelled to do them. I’ve never been able to compose simple, carefree posts about him. Our relationship was rocky at times and while I’ve tried balancing my ruminations with fairness, I’ve also tried to be honest. The wounds still run deep. But my dad was always someone who kept his council, his deepest thoughts and secrets were shadowed things…and I have made private things public, if even in a slightly masked way.
So, I begin to talk to my father in my head. I reassure him that I know he loves me. I tell him that I know he is looking out for me still. That I know, days ago, when I accidentally kicked the stuffed lion, that he gave me for a long ago birthday, out of my bed during the night, and it landed at the foot of my mattress in a protective pose, that he was watching out for me and that I felt comforted, protected. I tell him I love him and that I miss him, but that I also must tell the truth about the sad times, the frustrating times, the hurt.
…and this man continues to look me straight in the face, unmoved. …and still in his focused orbs, I see the exact replica of my father. In reality, I know this stranger, who seems to be so wired to my presence, is probably not even aware of me. He is probably lost in some other place and time. He is probably not even there. Look…his female companion is crumbling his food up and feeding him, bite by bite. He accepts the nourishment, blankly, with no true sense of need or desire. But, I also (unreasonably, perhaps) believe this could make him the perfect vessel for my father. Would there be anything wrong with possessing someone who is totally unaware? Would there be any danger to someone’s soul then? I know I am actually not the one to seriously analyze these implications. I categorize myself as agnostic because I know that there is no way for me to truly guess at all the world’s mysteries. Who I am to say for sure that there is no god? Who I am to refuse to believe that a spirit could imbue the husk of some old soul… even momentarily?
I contemplate these things as I put on and zip up my hoodies and then throw on my coat. I ponder these mysteries even as I head to the garbage bins to throw away my plastic cup. And still he looks through me, unconvinced. And in turn, I keep looking back for some acknowledgment, some relief, as I walk away. I seek some understanding from him and there is none. And this could be because this really is just some poor lost man on his last wavelength of life. Or…this could be because it is two weeks before Christmas and, in some sense of Dickensian poetic justice, this really is the essence of my father pouring forth from this stranger’s intent gazes. He could be here to remind me to be very careful of what I reveal, to remind me that there are a million sides to every story and that he will never be appeased by any of my attempts at heart filled reasoning.
And who am I to say that this isn’t so? I know really nothing about god…about life…except that it is the holiday season and I could very well be seeing ghosts.