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LAUGHING IN THE GOLDEN YEARS

DAD ALWAYS HAD MY BACK

Father’s Day has come and gone, and it is not a worry for me as my father has been dead for over fifty years.  But in July, I think about him all month long because his birthday fell in July, and my mother always used the day as an excuse to have a family reunion.  What I most remember, however, is how my dad always looked after me and made sure that I was okay, no matter how old I was or what my circumstances were at that time.

When I was a few months from age forty, I found myself in the second month of my only successful pregnancy.  Because my husband and I worried about the physical and mental health of the baby, we took our obstetrician’s advice and traveled to Chapel Hill to get an amniocentesis test, which at that time was in its earliest development.  After four tries over a period of five months, the doctors at the university hospital finally got a clear and useful tap.

In my ninth month of the pregnancy, I picked up a letter lying on the desk in the obstetrician’s office while I waited for him to come in to check on my progress. What I read in the letter was “Despite the damage of several cells, we still give the expectant mother one in three chances of having a normal baby.” Right! That meant a two in three chances of not having a normal baby.

The next few weeks were absolute hell, as my husband and I worried about the child coming, and wondered how we would manage our four adopted children, if we had to focus on a baby with extreme disabilities. Finally, we decided to contact Angels of Mercy, a Roman Catholic organization whose nuns accepted and cared for babies with severe birth defects.  A solution of sorts, but still I worried and fretted and could not concentrate and hardly slept.

One afternoon I lay on the couch in the family room with a fire in the fireplace and tried to relax. Conscious of the fact that my four children were in the house in their nearby rooms, I did not completely relax or fall asleep. Suddenly I was aware that my father was sitting on the arm of the couch. He was dressed in one of his usual outfits, a red plaid flannel shirt and a pair of work pants.  He smiled at me and motioned to me to sit up. Because he had been dead for almost three years, I said, “Dad what are you doing here?”

Still smiling at me, he replied, “I know how worried you are about this baby, so I’ve come to tell you that he will be all right.”  Then he lifted his hand in a half wave and was gone.

I could not imagine that my father knew how worried I was, or how he managed to appear at my side.  Then I realized that dad had said, “He will be all right.”  At no point had we asked for the sex of the baby.  We reasoned that it would make it all too real, so we told the doctors not to give us that information.  But my father had said, “He,” and said it clearly.

After that strange encounter, I cannot say that I absolutely stopped worrying, but I was much calmer, and began sleeping at night.  Three weeks later, I gave birth to a ten-pound baby boy perfect in every way.  Then and now, forty-nine years later, I believe that even something as permanent as death, does not get in the way of the love of a parent who somehow knows his child is in distress.  I do not believe that I was dreaming, as some people have suggested, but I do believe with all my heart that my father showed up for me when I most needed him.

So, it is with every July as I ponder on that past experience and remember that July was dad’s birthday month, I hope my father knows that I have reached my eighties, and that I am contented and well off.  I know that would be the only thing he would want for me.

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About the Contributor
Maryann Nunnally
Maryann Nunnally, Contributing Writer
Maryann Nunnally is a retired high school principal and professional comedienne. She writes the regular column Laughing through the Golden Years for Cape Fear Voices.

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