Thursday, January 13, 2011
Searching for Signs
When I first sat down to write about my search for signs the original piece was twelve pages long. I detailed everything that has happened to me since February 18, 2010. I decided to edit my post down to the last couple of months; one due to the length of first draft, second I truly believe some people might not understand all that has happened to me. They might be uncomfortable with what I had written. Instead of revealing my entire pilgrimage, I have decided to confess the final leg of my journey. Thank you for reading.
Signs, do they exist?
I believe love and life are eternal. With that knowledge, is it possible for those who have passed on to send us signs letting us know they are happy and in heaven?
Can they send us signs to let us know they love us when we have lost hope? Are signs a way for our loved ones to let us know they miss us in heaven as much as we miss them here on earth? Do our loved ones try to guide us on a path we may hesitate to travel? Is it possible for them through signs to give us answers to previously unanswered questions. Are signs a way for them to ease our hearts and minds, let us know they love us? Do we always recognize the signs they send? If we do not see a sign does that mean one does not exist or does it mean we are looking too hard? Is seeing believing or are we simply believing what we see?
Of course the most complicated question of all, what is a sign? Is it something as simple as a rainbow? Can a sign be a song played on the radio from long ago to remind us of a special person? Perhaps a sign is soft breeze on a still day. Can a sign be a strange sensation we suddenly have in our heart, the same one we felt when they were here with us. Many people see a flower that blooms out of season and assume it is a sign. Can watching a television show you normally don’t contain a message, a sign? Is our wonderful world full of signs or are they simply haphazard occurrences that remind us of a loved one we have lost and miss dearly? Individually we must determine if signs exist or if they are coincidences combined with wishful thinking.
The questions above are the center of my internal debate that has had me confused and lost for the past few months. A debate I have been afraid to share, afraid of the reaction I might receive from some. I honestly do not know if what I am seeing and feeling are signs or simply me wanting answers to questions that have none. I find myself looking at stars asking for permission, guidance from a person who is no longer here. Am I crazy asking him to send me a sign? Is he answering me or am I believing, seeing something that isn’t really there? When is something a coincidence or when is a coincidence really a sign?
For the past several months I had questions and doubts running through my mind. At the heart of my doubts should I continue to write my book? The main questions, why was I suddenly feeling so much this past year? Why was I remembering Bobby so clearly? So many memories came rushing back, it was at times overwhelming. I thought after visiting Bobby in August I had my answers. I thought I knew what to do. I was convinced he had given me the answers I needed. I truly believed he had given me signs while I sat and talked to him at his grave. As positive as I was when I left, things changed after labor day weekend. I began to have doubts. His friends who weeks before said they would be sending me stories and photos of Bobby never did. My follow up emails were never answered. I only knew one side of Bobby. I am the first to admit, through my mistakes I lost so much time, time I could have spent with him, learned more about him. In order to paint a better portrait of Bobby I needed his friends help. I needed to see him the way they did so I could write a better character in my book. My doubts and writing were soon interrupted, I was soon distracted.
Dad’s health began to decline rapidly and by the end of October he was in the hospital. To occupy myself when Dad was sleeping I began to write about Dad’s cancer, my feelings of helplessness at the hospital. Every day I would bring my writing bag with me when I stayed with Dad. Inside along with blank writing pads and pens were the completed chapters for Bobby’s book. I would see the notebook that contained the chapters every day when I pulled out my writing pad. A friend of mine, Janice, her father was in the hospital as well, staying few doors down from Dad. Her mom had read my blog on Bobby and asked if she could read the first three chapters I had completed. I didn’t see any harm, so I gave her the notebook to read one night. I thought if she hated it, maybe that would be the sign I needed to convince myself to finally give up on the book and throw it away. The next afternoon while Dad slept I was staring out the window when I felt a gentle squeeze on my hand. I smiled at Dad, he was half asleep, half awake, in a very drugged up stage. Out of the blue he told me I needed to write my story. He continued to explain, the fear I had, that some people doubted me I should forget. He continued once they read my story, felt the love I had for him in my words, they would know it was true. He had faith I had a New York Times best seller waiting to come out of me. He was sorry he wasn’t going to be here to see my book top the charts. He wanted me to know the first time I walked into a book store and saw my book at number one, he was going to be there with me. Then Dad fell back to sleep.
A few nights later (Saturday) I sat in the sixth floor lounge waiting for the techs to take Dad’s vitals and change him. I passed the time by editing the completed chapters, circling typos and sentences I wanted to rephrase. As I read the chapters, I debated if I should finish writing the book or throw it away. I didn’t know what to do. I understood I had to many emotions running through me from Dad’s cancer, they were definitely adding to my confusion. Later I returned to Dad’s room and held his hand until he fell back to sleep. I am not sure why but I found myself sitting in the recliner next to his bed, staring out the windows at the stars and talking to Bobby. I told him I still missed him. Watching Dad die was the hardest thing I had ever done. I wished he was still around to wipe away my tears like he had done many years before. I stared out the window remembering our conversation from long ago when he asked me why I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant. I told Bobby I thought I had to do it alone, it was my mistake so it wouldn't be right to burden anyone with my problems. I remembered he sounded upset with me when he answered, “You know you never have to be alone, all you have to do is ask and I will be there. No matter what happens (with us) I will always be here for you.” I knew listening to his voice, he meant it. He would always be there for me even if we didn’t work out. He had a huge heart, loyal, he was simply that type of guy. I stared out the window and told Bobby I could use one of his amazing hugs, I was feeling pretty lost and alone. I didn’t know how to say good bye to my Dad. I wasn’t ready yet. Then I apologized to Bobby I hadn’t written in his book for several weeks. I had promised him when I was at his grave that I would write with my heart and do my best to honor his memory. I was lost, I did not know if I should even try to finish the book. I felt like his friends were against the idea. Life would be so much easier if he were here, he could tell me what he wanted me to do. What I wouldn’t give to see him one more time. I told him I really needed a sign, something to let me know if I should finish the book.
Sunday afternoon I went to my parent’s house to retrieve some papers my Dad had asked my sister to get from the bottom drawer of his dresser. Debbie was busy so she asked if I would stop by and pick them up for Dad. While Mom was visiting Dad I drove over to the house, found the papers in the bottom drawer exactly where Dad said they would be. I put everything he had requested in my bag. For some unexplainable reason as I sat on his bed I felt an urge to open the top drawer of Dad’s nightstand. I resisted the temptation, got up, began to walk away when I was overcome with a compulsion to turn around and look inside the drawer. I sat back down on his bed, opened the drawer. There sitting on top of his Bible was the Army Navy Football program from 1983. Army Navy was the trip/game where I first met Bobby. I sat confused, staring at the program trying to understand how it ended up in Dad’s nightstand. The football program should have been in a box along with all my other football programs and ticket stubs from all the Navy games I attended. I wondered why Dad would take this one Army Navy program over all the others and place it in his drawer. I marveled at the perfect condition of the program after twenty seven years. I placed the program in my bag to take back to the hospital with me. I needed something to hold on to that reminded me of Bobby. I was still in shock from finding the Army Navy program when I arrived at the hospital parking garage so I called Janice. I confessed all my crazy thoughts, my questions to Bobby then asked what she thought. She very bluntly stated, “I think Bobby gave you your answer. He’s here with you, now start writing.”
A few days after Dad died I was in the basement searching through boxes for my mom trying to locate the titles to the cars. In the corner next to the bar from Thailand I found the box that contained all my old football programs, ticket stubs and newspaper articles. When I opened the lid sitting on top, my Army Navy program from 1983. Mice had gotten into the box, my Army Navy program had the edges chewed off, along with several other papers, letters and photos. I had to sit down, I knew I had only bought one program in California. my sister did not go to the game, she was in Virginia. My hands began to shake as I held my program. I stared at it for a few minutes trying to make sense of what I had found. If I was holding my program, then whose program was in Dad’s nightstand and how did it get there?
I did not try to write after Dad’s death, I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I copied what I had written in my notebook to my blog. For a while it was hard getting use to not having Dad to talk to, call in the middle of the day. I kept busy catching up with work. The day after Christmas I decided it was time to write, I opened my laptop and began to write about my Nana Kay and our last Christmas together. I thought when I posted the article I had broken my writers block but I was wrong. I sat down Monday night determined to tackle the next chapter in the book. I opened my file marked Bobby. I tried to write, nothing flowed. It seemed my sentences were filled with doubts when I knew my words needed to convey the love and infatuation I felt for Bobby. Frustrated. I deleted everything I had written that night and closed my computer. I realized I was still lost, I still doubted myself, my ability to write his book. I needed to feel Bobby. It was ironic, I was having the same doubts about Bobby now that I had back in 1984-1987. I thought I was getting signs from Bobby yet I was afraid to trust the signs/him, the same way I was afraid to trust Bobby when he said to have faith in what I was feeling, what we both were feeling. Later when I let Raider out I stood on the deck looked at the stars and whispered, “Seems like nothing has changed since we were in our twenties. I am still lost and need your help.” I wasn’t sure what I was asking for but I needed something. I needed a sign. I needed to know he was looking out for me. He was, like he had promised, always going to be here for me.
The next evening, December 28, a bunch of friends and I headed to Carroll’s Creek to visit Beth while she worked. We had been hanging out for awhile when Mary suggested we leave and head to the Irish Channel in Crofton. Karen asked how I was heading to the Channel from Annapolis. I told her I was heading down 97 to 3, the way I always went home when Mary interrupted and said no D go 50 to 424 it’s much faster and easier. Eileen and I hopped in my car. I took Mary’s advice and headed down 50 to 424. Eileen and I were talking away when I looked to my left and saw a number seven outlined in Christmas lights on the firehouse on rt 424. I had never noticed the station number before. I smiled, seven was Bobby’s number when he played lacrosse. I remember telling Eileen I loved the number seven lit up, it was Bobby’s number. I even made a joke, maybe it was a sign from him.
Before heading out on Tuesday my daughter called to tell me she wasn’t feeling well, she was going to call in sick to work the next day. She asked if I would still come and watch Cole for a little while so she could sleep. I told her not a problem I would be there about eight or so. When I babysit Cole I watch Fox News until 1:30 -2:00 then I change the channel to TNT to watch the Closer than Cold Case. That afternoon Kathryn came downstairs after sleeping, commented how we did not have to watch Fox News, we could watch something else. Her subtle hint to change the channel. When I was scrolling through the guide channel Kathryn saw Man vs. Food and asked if we could watch. I believe the show was in Denver. The opening scene of the show; Adam is sitting in a booth talking to the camera about the day’s challenges ahead. The restaurant they were filming in was old. The booth walls were filled with scribble and writings. Above Adam's shoulder in huge white letters the name "Bobby". I chuckled when I saw in the same white writing in smaller print, "Will you marry me?" I watched part of the show before I left Kathryn’s house and headed home.
It was still early when I arrived home so I changed and decided to take a few laps around the neighborhood. I admit I was still chuckling inside and wondering if seeing the name Bobby on Man vs. Food was a sign. If Kathryn hadn’t been home sick I would have never watched the show. I wondered why Kathryn wanted to watch Man vs. Food at that time? She never really watched the show when she lived at home. I had to ask myself was it coincidence or sign. I was trying to convince myself it was only a coincidence when I looked up to see a couple running toward me, both wearing Navy sweatshirts. I have been taking laps for over a year in my neighborhood, the same route and not once have I ever run into this couple. I asked myself how could two people running really be a sign, it was impossible. I found myself walking verses running as I debated everything that I had seen in the past twenty four hours. I turned back onto Jamestown went over two streets and headed to the bottom court to complete my first lap. My iPod shuffled to Bruce Springsteen's, “The Rising”, I found myself picking up the pace to match the beat in the music. As the chorus began to play I looked up and saw not one but two cars with New Jersey plates, both with the same decal in the back window, “Navy Air”, parked in a row. I smiled then wondered why I had never seen the two cars before. I said out loud, "Nah can't be anything" I thought they are only visiting for the holiday, simply a coincidence. I turned the corner headed toward the court when I had to stop and catch my breath there sitting in the middle of the sidewalk directly in my path a lacrosse ball. I stopped with my hands on my knees, catching my breath and staring at the ball. I looked around to see if there were any kids around. There were none. Call me silly but I picked up the ball, tossed it high in the air, as I did I said out loud, “Thanks Bobby!” I caught the ball, looked at it for a minute, smiled, then placed it on the grass next to the sidewalk and headed home. For the next seven days, every time I turned the corner the lacrosse ball was still where I had placed it. Then day eight the ball was gone.
For some reason after those two days filled with signs or coincidences, I have been able to write. I no longer find myself filled with doubts. The words, our story seems to be flowing once again. There are still times I find myself debating whether what I was seeing were signs or simply my wishful thinking. Even as I write this, I wonder are there really signs? The Christmas lights, the cars, the lacrosse ball, etc. all can be considered coincidences, wishful thinking, nothing out of the ordinary. The only ‘sign’ I cannot rationalize, the Army Navy Program I found in Dad's nightstand. I only bought one program when I was at the game, yet for some unexplainable reason I now have two. So who knows, just maybe, I really was sent signs. Maybe signs really do exist in our crazy world.