Jay Walljasper | June 4, 2019
Tragedy and joy collided in my life the week my father died unexpectedly and my wife —equally unexpectedly — discovered she was pregnant. My view of the universe changed, too, in a way I could never have predicted at the time.
Up to then, I didn’t give any thought to the existence of spirits. That was for fairy tales and New Age mystics. The world is already so fascinating in its verifiable reality that I wondered why people feel the urge to fabricate ghosts, fairies, sprites, specters, reincarnation and other figments of their overwrought imaginations.
That stiff skepticism was shattered a few days after Dad’s funeral, when I spotted him peering at me through the window of my front door, exactly as he looked through the window on Thanksgiving Day two months earlier. He had called that morning to say there was too much snow for him and Mom to make the trip to Minneapolis. But then he changed his mind and they showed up at our door with beaming grins, just in time for turkey.
A former coach, he was very fit and active for a man of 70 — I had recently chewed him out for climbing a ladder to paint the third story of his house. I never dreamed this was the last time he’d sit at our Thanksgiving table, or that the next year his first grandson would be there instead.
Stunned to see him, I shook my head, thinking, This can’t possibly be true. When I looked back, he was gone. At first I felt relief that I hadn’t slipped into the pages of a ghost story. Then I felt overwhelmingly sad. I wanted so much to tell him I was going to be a dad.
But he came back. I sensed him sitting at the kitchen table and passing on the staircase; I thought I heard him whistling in the basement and scoffing at “know-nothing” sports commentators on the radio. His spectral visits cheered me at a tumultuous time — my mother had a major stroke the day he died — though part of me vehemently resisted the idea that my dead father was lounging around the house.
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