Chapter Six: Guardian Angels and Other Supernatural Beings
My Gramma Cynthia (as I’ve called her since I was able to spell incorrectly) has always been a presence in my life. As my ‘adopted’ grandmother, she took care of me during the first few years of my life; first a stranger, then a neighbor, then a part of the family. She and Father Les – more on him later – became more my grandparents than my actual grandparents were to me. My mom’s side lives on one side of the state, and my father’s on the other, so contact with them was always a novelty. Gramma and Father babysat me twice a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays when dad was out creating his career and mom was working her part-time teaching job in Rockford. These were the days they brought me to Mr. Burger for brunch. It never failed.
We went so often that the employees learned my name. I wouldn’t be surprised if they learned my order too: potato soup and nothing else. Yep, that’s it. On the rare occasion that they were all out, my day was incomplete and I felt as though there was a hole in my life. I had to order something normal, God forbid. How appalling that I had to order eggs, bacon, and toast like the rest of the population. It could simply be due to the fact that I was incredibly pretentious as a child (just ask my mom, she’ll have a field day telling you) and didn’t want anything I could get at home. Scrambled eggs? Too basic. Sunny-side up? Too runny. Don’t even mention poached, oh no.
These were the weekdays we spent together. Some Sundays, however, we would attend service at the church across the street. It wasn’t until we attended Father’s church in Newaygo that I realized he was called ‘Father’ because he was a pastor. The first three years of my life were spent thinking I had two dads. That was not the case.
I remember these services as extremely positive experiences – the camaraderie between and aura of those attending was so uplifting and inspiring. Once our family moved, we ceased to attend these get-togethers, and I gradually lost the love for congregated worship. For most, it must feel cathartic and powerful to experience one’s faith among like-minded individuals, but for me, it began to feel intrusive and, dare I say, cult-like. I’ve learned I prefer a personal relationship with a higher power, rather than worshipping a deity whose grace we receive but apparently “do not deserve”. BUT this is not intended to be a religiously charged portion of the memoir. Therefore, I digress.
December of 2010, Father was diagnosed with cancer. Just three months before, he had celebrated his ninetieth birthday with a swarm of individuals who appreciated his presence in their families and lives in the basement of the church I was so fond of. Churchgoers attended. Family attended. We attended. Now there were going to be people attending to him.
Some time after his diagnosis, we all gathered at a restaurant to catch up on our lives. I don’t recall all that much, but I do remember that we barely spoke about Father. We talked to him, treated him like he was always going to be there. I’d like to believe he appreciated that.
If I’m completely honest, I had to be reminded to tell them goodbye before they left. I’m glad I did. Something inside me propelled me to tell Father that God blessed him, and I felt as though if those were the last words I would speak to him, I’d be content.
It turns out that they were.
His funeral was held on Valentine’s Day, three days after he passed. All I could think about was how Valentine’s Day would always have this negative connotation from then on, because as a twelve-year-old, I didn’t really comprehend the permanence of death quite yet; especially when I had become so used to seeing him every three months – and that’s if we were lucky. I couldn’t comprehend the fact that breakfasts at Mr. Burger would always include only Gramma and me from then on, that the ‘Father Les scent’ would eventually begin to dissipate as it was diluted by fresh air circulating inside their house. I cried, of course, but I never really fully comprehended that he was gone. I still don’t.
Maybe that’s a testament to his all-encompassing presence. He filled every room he walked into with light. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was the voice of reason inside my head that tells me all the good things I should be seeing in life. The little things. The big picture.
I may identify as a lay Buddhist in this current stage in my universe-discovering journey, but I pray to God every night because I was taught that he was loving and forgiving – a father. If you, dear reader, don’t believe in a higher power, more power to ya, but please at least make a habit of listening to the voice inside your head that isn’t yours; the one that surprises you with goodness and grace. It might just be the voice of your little guardian angel, your guardian enigma if you will, giving you the experience they gained while they walked the Earth, helping you continue their journey.