I've been thinking about my father-in-law a lot today, as have many people who loved him. Today would have been his 63rd birthday, but he died in 2009 after a pretty terrible illness. In the fall of that year I got pregnant with Henry, his first grandson. It bothered both me and my husband Ben that Wayne would never meet his grandson-he would have been crazy about both of his grandchildren.
And they would have been crazy about him. He was a kind, funny, approachable, caring guy. He had his flaws and his demons, as we all do, but he was a loving father, a caring husband for over thirty years, and a highly amusing father-in-law. The first time I met him, he told an incredibly inappropriate dick joke, and I knew I was going to fit in just fine.
Some strange things have happened since his death, and I'm going to write about them now. I carry a healthy skepticism about this sort of thing, but neither I nor Ben can deny that they happened. In the end they give me peace. You may read this and decide I'm insane, delusional, or both, and should not be trusted. All I can say to that is join the motherfucking club, line forms to the left. I know this all sounds farfetched, but until you experience something like this personally, you can't really understand the impact.
Right after our son was born and we brought him home from the hospital, strange little things started happening. We'd put him to bed with no blanket over him (he was born in June) and when we went back to check on him, he'd be completely tucked in. Like, from shoulders to feet, looking like a little burrito. As he grew, we started noticing more strange things. He had a habit of throwing his pacifier out of his crib, or his stuffed animals, because he knew we'd come in and get them. One day I just decided, "Screw it. If he's going to throw stuff out of his crib, it's just going to be gone." He threw his pacifier out of his crib, cried for a bit, and then was quiet. I went in, and the pacifier was in his mouth and he was asleep. I heard it hit the floor. Ben was in the basement and heard it hit the floor above him. But there it was.
One night when he was maybe 6 months old he figured out how to flip himself over the railing of the crib. Our bed was still in that room at the time, and there was just a narrow walkway between his crib and the bed. I know before I went to sleep I cleared it, because I was always worried about tripping while carrying him in the dark. Somehow, when he fell, he landed on a pillow that took up that entire walkway, and he was perfectly fine. We dropped the crib down that day to prevent any more jailbreaks. But I have no idea how that pillow got there.
One day I went in to check on him after I'd gotten home late from class. He was really cute, all cuddled up with his blanket and his stuffed sheep, Stanley. I took a quick picture, went to the living room and showed it to Ben. He said "Hey, where did you find his sheep? I was looking everywhere for that!" I said "It was in there when I went in there." Ben gave me a strange look and said "Are you fucking with me? I turned that bedroom upside down looking for that damn thing. You had to have put it in there." I responded that I really hadn't. Hmmmmm.
The best story occurred when I was home on maternity leave, and Henry was maybe 4 weeks old. Ben had been working all day, and when he came home, I asked him to take the baby for a while so I could have a break. He said sure, if I could just let him grab something to eat first. I went into our office to sit on the chair in here because it rocks. I was facing away from the door, and I closed my eyes as Henry snuggled against my chest and fell asleep.
I felt what I assumed to be Ben walking towards the chair. He stopped, put his hand on the back of the chair, and stood there, looking down on us. I was thinking "He's going to think we're asleep and sneak out of here without taking his turn with the baby." I played asleep for a minute, until I heard him walking back out of the room. I turned around quickly to bust him, but no one was there. I got up and walked to the living room, and Ben was eating on the couch. I asked him if he'd just been in the office, and he gave me a look and said no. I am positive there was someone standing there, with their hand on the back of that chair. I went back in and sat down again, and realized I smelled cigarette smoke. Neither of us smoke-but Wayne did.
Little things kept occurring for the next month or two-finding toys in the crib we hadn't put in there, Henry being tucked in several more times, footsteps. One day I was home alone with Henry and I heard footsteps. Henry was in his exersaucer, and he looked up and started waving and laughing. It really looked like he was looking at and interacting with an adult. I heard an adult laugh, and I smelled cigarette smoke.
I said "Wayne, we miss you, you can come visit Henry any time, just please don't scare him." Then I heard a man's cough, seemingly right next to me.
These might seem silly to nonbelievers but they gave me a great deal of comfort. I know Wayne is gone, but I like to think he swings back by to check on his grandson, and now his beautiful granddaughter, and to let us know we'll see him again. Don't know where, don't know when. But we'll meet again. Some sunny day.