I wrote this a year ago, and there’s not a word I would change. I simply must share it again to honor the man whom I still love and cherish so very much.
Since my father died four years ago, Father’s Day has always been a bit melancholy for me. No longer can I just give him a call and wish him a great day before he goes to church or ask if he got that tie I sent in the mail in time to wear it. My dad was never big on gifts and honestly never wanted anything material. His desires were always unselfish–he wanted his family to be happy, healthy and thriving. He wanted a grandson that would carry the Russell name, but would never get a chance to see him, because he was in Heaven two years before my sister-in-law gave birth. He also never met The Babster. He died the same month she was born.
But while my father missed these two big events, I’m grateful of what he was able to be there for most of my and my brother’s rites of passage. I was born when he was 50 years old, and I would always worry if my dad would live long enough to see me graduate from high school, college, walk me down the aisle, and see his grandchildren. My prayers were answered on all of it, until the end, when his body could no longer sustain this life. But I know my dad was there during my grief about losing him, during the scary time when I had given birth to The Babster so soon because all the stress caused a massive infection which forced my body to expel my child at only 27 weeks gestation.
At the times I wanted to just die, he was there. Theodore Russell was always a man who loved the bible and believed prayer changes things, so I would sleep with his old tattered bible under my pillow, praying that all the things the doctors told me about my baby wouldn’t come to be, like that the veins in her brain, so weak and premature, might cause her to have a stroke; bleeding in the brain that could leave her a vegetable. Or that she might need surgery to close a valve in her heart that was supposed to close at birth, but stubbornly wouldn’t. She might go blind. Her intestines could die off (necrotize) and poison her.
When I was on the ledge and ready to jump, right after the doctors had given The Babster her second spinal tap and we anxiously awaited the results, my father came to me in a dream. Without using words, he appeared to me as he did in life, wearing his old work khakis and plaid long-sleeved shirt. He was well…the brightness in his eyes had returned, he was lucid, not like the months before he died, when multiple strokes had caused him to be in a permanent vegetative state. He was Dad again, just as I’d remembered him.
But instead of smiling, his face was serious. He had something very important to tell me. He put his large hands on his bald head, and shook his head as if saying “No.” Then he put his hands on his chest, and shook his head again. Finally he put his hands to his belly and repeated the signal.
Not once was I confused about what he meant. I knew he was telling me that all the terrible things the doctors warned of was never going to happen. Emma would be perfect.
When I woke up, I thought my grief and fear may have caused a mental break, and that I had just imagined it all. But I hadn’t. Every test, Every. Single. Test. came back negative. Spinal tap for brain infection? Her cerebral fluid was clear as water. Bleeding in the brain? The MRI showed a perfect specimen, with hundreds of tiny folds to absorb all her future learning. Heart surgery? Nope. The valve closed all on it’s own. Damaged lungs from being on the life-sustaining vent for two weeks? Nope. Those were perfect too. Necrotized gut? No way. Emma had too much eating to do.
And with each test that came back, I my confidence grew that my father had, indeed, come to me. As he reassured me in life that “Everything was ‘gon be alright” with that country twang, he did in death. And as usual, he was always there when I needed him most.
I love you Theodore Russell. I’ll make sure Emma always knows how much her grand-dad loved her and her mommy.