Four years into driving my dad's car, I recently discovered several of his CDs. It's kind of embarrassing how long it took me to find them. They were in the multi-disc player in the glove compartment. The disc player was almost lodged shut and the button on the radio that enables you to play the CDs would not play anything, so I had always assumed that he had opted out of installing one. One day something led me to nearly break the sucker open. I don't know what it was. I was sure I was going to be left with a piece of plastic in my hand, but I just kept wedging the thing open. I guess I was just curious or bored or something.
Anyway, finally after what felt like several minutes it popped, then slid open, revealing 5 CDs in there. It felt like discovering a treasure map. Or a secret journal. A chance to experience something new about a man I had known all my life, and almost half of his, after almost four years of his physical absence. It felt like a little gift from him to me.
I didn't hit play for a couple weeks. I wasn't being dramatic about it... I just wanted to wait.
Then the Friday before Father's Day, I decided to hit play. The first song was Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Tears of a Clown. I closed my eyes and imagined him singing the song. I can distinctly remember hearing him sing Al Green, I'm so Tired of Being Alone. So I just kind of changed the words. I could imagine what he would sound like--definitely not in tune, airy, higher in pitch than his speaking voice. It always made me laugh; not at him, but at the carefree state he--a generally serious and practical man--was in at the moment.
I listened to Smokey and imagined Dad and just enjoyed the thought of him. It was sunny outside and I had the windows down and the breeze was blowing through the car. I was in traffic downtown, which was awful, but I pictured what it would be like if this were a typical day in the life of Dad. At that very hour I'd probably be driving him from UW to KCTS9. We'd be driving through South Lake Union, the windows would be down, it would be quiet in the car unless I was chatty. It was a nice thought.
It was nice a nice feeling. Even though I felt the familiar burning of grief down in my gut, I didn't feel the darkness that often accompanies grief.
I realized, with gratitude, that I am in that part of grief that allows me to not sit in darkness. I am in that place that allows you to smile at your loved one, feel his presence, and even with tears in your eyes, just enjoy the music.