For my stepmom, Lee, to commemorate the anniversary of our reading -
January 26th 2017 - and the beautiful story that she wrote about it (below).
The Reading: My Dad, Samantha (My Stepdaughter), and Me.
Veiled in the heaviness from the night before, or maybe even the years, Sam sat on the steps facing the ocean.
“Come a little closer,” she said, “I need to touch you.”
We hadn’t done much touching in the first 22 years of our relationship, but one morning last summer back home in Toronto doing yoga outside, our hands touched above our heads. Then, as we lay in repose, eyes closed, we held on and both began to weep. I could feel her heartache from the weeks before, and perhaps a lifetime, but mostly I could feel how much I loved her. She never knew because I never knew (she never let me in). Samantha began to trust me. In the weeks that followed, the portal creaked open. She discovered her gifts, her calling, and the unbelievable began.
On this day with my back to the sea, I sat at her feet in easy pose on the deck. Floating above the dunes, amid the sea grass, my eyes and my heart were wide open. My left hand was on her right knee, her right hand on mine. It had been 960 days since My Dad died. Not a day had gone by that I didn’t wish for one more conversation, to have one more question answered.
Sam said, “I have to tell you what I tell all my clients, my spiel. I am Clairvoyant, Clairaudient and Clairsentient, which means I see images and pictures, hear words and phrases and feel the emotions of your loved one(s). Please know that I do not have any control over who comes through.”
The other Medium said the same thing, and My Dad did not come that day.
Sam continued, “Sometimes objects provide a stronger connection. Do you have anything of your Dad’s?”
“I don’t,” I said.
“That’s okay,” she said. “Your Dad is already here. Actually he came to me last night. So did Nana and my mom.
“Your Dad is excited to do this. Last night he showed me this woman who must be your Mom, all curvy.” She released her hand from mine and made the universal sign for, Big Boobs. We started to laugh.
“He loves her so much. I told him to save his energy and to come tomorrow when you and I were together. He indicated the morning and showed me the yoga deck. Let’s begin.
“Did your Dad ever wear a uniform? I see a uniform with three, no four, ribbons on his chest. Did he ever go to war? He just showed me a swastika.”
I didn’t want to interrupt her as I watched the questions shift across her forehead.
“No, he didn’t go to war but he was an officer in The Cold War, a Commander. Three stripes on the sleeves, I think. He probably had four ribbons on his chest; Sub-lieutenant, Lieutenant, Lieutenant-Commander and then Commander.” She wouldn’t have known that. I barely did.
“Oh, I thought he was an engineer and he just wore coveralls. Oh My God, he’s so animated! He keeps showing me this curvy woman with light brown puffy hair, your Mom. He really loves her. He’s so funny. I didn’t know your Dad was so funny. I only met them once, and it was more in passing.
"Now he’s wearing a hat, it’s white or natural, like straw with black trim on it. It’s a really big hat.” Her eyes were still closed and she flew up her hands and indicated a really big hat.
“It’s my sister’s hat,” I said. “She has this huge hat”, I indicated with my hands. “ There’s a picture of her in my parents house, wearing that hat. If you are anywhere near her when she has the hat on, you’re in the shade.”
Sam opened her eyes for a moment and we laughed before we joined hands again. My Dad gave Sam details about my sister, and Sam relayed this information to me. Again, Sam wouldn’t know any of this.
She said, “He’s showing me silver streamers… when was your anniversary? Oh yeah, a few days ago but it wasn’t your 25th, was it?”
“No,” I said, “it's only been 23 years that we’ve been together, we’ve been married ten. Last week was our wedding anniversary.” Tin and aluminum are the suggested gifts. I forgot. Would Sam have known?
Sam said, “That’s your Dad acknowledging your anniversary. Now my dad just came up. My Dad is acting very weird around your Dad. He’s not acting like himself at all.”
“Yes,” I said, “ one time your dad made a sarcastic remark to My Dad about his engineering skills. My Dad screwed the top on the pepper-grinder on wrong and spilled all the peppercorns. Your dad thought he was being funny and said, ‘I wouldn’t want to be on a ship that you were the engineer of.’ My poor Pops, he took offence. When it came out that My Dad thought your dad was a Shit, well your dad spent the remaining years walking on eggshells trying to … Curb His Sarcasm.”
“Your Dad forgives him. It doesn’t matter anymore, he loves him.”
Sam began to tear up then asked, “Did your Dad have a friend named Henry or Harry… a tall, dark haired guy? Did they travel together and did something happen to their friendship?”
“Yes, it was a friend he called Healy. He was my Dad’s best friend from the time he was eighteen. They joined the Navy together. They had a falling out that lasted many years. Oh, and he is my God-Father. His wife is my God-Mother.”
“Your dad forgives him too. He loves him. Have you seen Healy recently?”
“Yes, I saw him a few months ago. They live in the same neighbourhood as my parents but we were never very close.”
“He’s waving, I guess he wants to say, ‘Hi’ to his friend,” she said. “Your Dad sure loved the ‘good ole days’.
“Your Dad has a red hat on now, he’s showing me all sorts of hats, different colours, all stacked up or something.”
“It’s my Mom’s hats. She has a stack of hat boxes in the corner of their bedroom, up to here.” I indicated my shoulder. Sam would not have known that.
“He’s showing me himself in white navy dress with other men out at sea.” Her eyes were closed and her face lit up into a sweet smile as she drew her left hand up and saluted the sea.
“Your Dad just saluted” she said. “Was he a pilot too? He’s showing me himself in a fighter jet or some kind of warplane, maybe he’s in the back seat. I thought your Dad was in the Navy.”
“My Dad was stationed on an aircraft carrier when we lived in Norfolk, Virginia. But I don’t know about any fighter plane” I said.
“Your Dad is showing me an outdoor kitchen, or a BBQ area with the counter to the right of it. Do your parents have an outdoor kitchen with the BBQ backed up to the wall?”
“Not in Ottawa, but that sounds like their place in Florida,” I said.
“Is there a boat dock outside in the yard? I’m seeing posts, with rope strung between them. And the pool is over there to the right.” She indicated with her left hand as she faced me and tipped her head up to the sky.
She continued, “It’s two or three stories, and there are other buildings around it. What was the roof like? He’s showing me those round tiles, like the Mexican terracotta tiles. Did they have that kind of roof?”
“They lived in a condo complex with inland canals running through it. It’s a canal in the back and the pool is where you said it was. I don’t remember what the roof looked like.” Sam would not know any of this.
“Your Dad loved Florida. He loved all the fun they had there. He’s indicating he didn’t like the last few years in Ottawa. He’s showing me himself in his wheelchair. He says, ‘That wasn’t me.’
Did your father die of a heart attack? I’m getting a pain in my chest like I do when someone has died of a heart attack. But I thought your Dad died of Lewy Body Dementia.
“Actually, it was my Dad’s heart in the end. His poor little heart had had enough. The doctor told my Mom that a few days after Dad died.” Sam wouldn’t have known that.
“He’s floating above his own body looking down on it in the bed. This usually indicates someone has died and they’ve seen themselves. Your father did die, at least his heart stopped. He’s showing me your Mom and she’s not there yet so he went back to his body and waited for her. He loves your Mom so much.”
Tears streamed down Sam’s face as she felt the love of my father for my mother.
I was getting fidgety. As much as this was all so amazing, I couldn’t help notice there was no mention of me. What about me Dad? My hand was still on Sam’s knee.
“Your Dad is showing me you as a little girl, he’s patting you on the top of your head.” We both laughed.
“He hangs out with you here on the deck, he sits behind you. He showed me the little shrine you have for him at home in your studio. At home he sits near the house and looks up at his tree.”
Sam would not have known I was looking for a little pat on head, a little validation for all the signs I believed I’d had from him.
“He likes that you find all the signs he leaves for you. He’s making this gesture, he’s so funny.” Sam stretched her arms out into … Big Hug position #1.
I thought of everything I believed had happened, all the signs and that one question I had for My Dad. Were you there that night Dad, the night the measuring tape moved? I didn’t say anything out loud.
“Your Dad is showing me the number eleven. Was that the number of your house?”
“No, it was 915….”
“Now he’s showing me bones, they’re on a beach. They’re whale bones or some sort of really big fish that washed ashore. Do you know if your Dad every came upon a beached whale carcass?”
“Not that I know of.” But what I was thinking was; didn’t someone at Christmas just tell me this story? They were walking their dog on the beach and came upon a beached whale carcass? Sam wasn’t even home for Christmas this year.
“Someone else is trying to come through. It’s an older man, tall, heavy-set but not fat, maybe 75. He’s just standing there. He’s showing me a tarp, I just see a tarp flapping and there’s a baby-blue sports car underneath the tarp. It’s a convertible. Who has a car like this? He’s a father figure.”
“Oh, that’s my step-grandfather, Wally. My Dad’s father died before I was born. I only knew him. He had a baby-blue sports car in the garage he was always working on. I don’t know if he ever drove it. It was under a tarp.”
“Your Dad is showing me green, lots of green and sticks. What does that mean?”
“Golf, my Dad loved to golf.” I said. “My parents live on a golf course in Ottawa and he golfed all the time in Florida.”
“Well, maybe, but he’s showing me those short sticks and the green is your yard beside the pool. Did you ever play that game with the short sticks?”
“Yes, croquet, we used have a croquet set and play when my whole family came in the summer.” We never played croquet at Nagthall Family gatherings.
“He’s showing me Happy Gilmore. What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” I said. I was thinking of ‘Dancing in Sky’ the song that means so much to me. I sat up a little straighter and looked at Samantha. Her eyes were closed, but her face was searching the sky. I was wondering if My Dad was in fact, Dancing in the Sky.
Sam started to laugh and opened her eyes. She looked into her left hand. “Your Dad has on this silly red hat, you know the kind with the pom-pom on the top. The Scottish kind they wear in golf. That must be the hat someone is wearing in Happy Gilmore.”
“I don’t know what they wore in Happy Gilmore, but that’s the hat My Dad is wearing in the dream where he’s dancing, but it’s plaid” I told her. I was laughing, crying, covered in goose-bumps. I couldn’t believe what has just happened.
Sam’s face began to fracture as tears seeped through her eyelashes and trickled down her cheeks. She opened her eyes and let go of my hand. Then she handed me something with her right hand. I looked down but there was nothing in it.
“It’s for you, it’s a red rose. Your Dad wants me to give it to you. He really loves you.”
My heart crumbled into a million tiny pieces and I sobbed. I knelt and put my arms around Samantha. Unbelievable! All of it. It was like she was pulling balloons out of the sky and there were tiny pictures or puzzle pieces inside each one. Clues to a story.
Sam and I sat for a bit, absorbing what had just transpired, when the gardener came out of nowhere and walked down the boardwalk towards us. He reached the steps in front of us and stretched out his arms - like he was looking for a Really Big Hug. He then said thank you for his Christmas gift.
The spell was broken, but the magic remained. I needed to tell my Mom everything, ask about the roof in Florida and the fighter jet. And what about the number eleven?
A few hours later I caught up with my Mom in Ottawa. We talked about this and that and then I dropped the story in her lap. I was still rattled myself. When I got to the part about the house in Florida, I didn’t ask her if the roof had Mexican tiles. I asked her to describe the roof.
My Mother said, “Well there was an attic, we used to put stuff up there. It was hot as hell. They had those Spanish tiles. Your Dad liked them because his grandmother’s house back in Winnipeg had them. That was quite unusual for that time period.”
“Oh, okay then, well Sam got that bit right,” I said and continued on. Mom listened for the longest time until I got to the part about Dad in the fighter jet. Then she interrupted me.
“As God is my witness.” She began. “Last Monday I was downstairs in the basement sorting out some of your father’s cloths in the storage area. There really isn’t any point to me hanging on to all of it any longer. Somebody could use those things. There was a sport’s jacket there and I took it into the bedroom to get a better look at it in the light.
"I was rifling through the pockets and inside the breast pocket were some old photographs. Your Dad must have worn the jacket when we went to Kingston to visit some old friends years ago. One of them was an American Air Force Pilot your Dad knew from our time in Virginia. He was the one who took your Dad up in the F-16 fighter jet.
“Well,” my Mom said before we hung up, “I was going to go over to the village and pick up some milk and bananas, but I think I’ll just have to sit down here the rest of the day and think about what you’ve just told me. You know your Dad really did Love my big boobs. He was heart-broken when I had them lopped off.”
The next day, Sam, Rachel and I did yoga on the deck. I was still sifting through the mysterious words and images of the day before. Did I really just have one more conversation with My Dad?
With yoga finished, I closed the computer and the three of us laid down on our yoga mats in repose. The silence fell. There was only the wind and the heartbeat of the ocean washing over us as we lay, listening to our own souls.
And then … My Father who art in heaven whispered unto me…
“Eleven. The measuring tape moved eleven times. I was there.”