“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
“No, no, no,” I told him. “It’s a good cry. These are happy tears.”
It was the morning of Christmas Eve, and my husband, nephew and I had just finished breakfast at the restaurant my dad used to go to every morning. He always sat with a group of friends he’s known forever, and whenever we were in town, we’d usually join them for breakfast.
“We still miss your dad,” the owner of the restaurant told me as we finished our meal and prepared to leave. Then she added, “Did Phil tell you his dream?”
In all the years we’ve been going to that restaurant, I can’t remember a single day when Phil wasn’t there working. But on this particular morning, he had been in the kitchen most of the time, and we hadn’t had a chance to chat. So he came over now and told me about the dream he had last January, shortly before the anniversary of the day my dad died.
“It was 4 o’clock in the morning,” he said, “and the phone was ringing. I picked it up, and it was your dad.”
“Hi Phil,” my dad told him in the dream. “It’s me, George.”
The phone in Phil’s dream was a video phone, so he saw my dad’s face when he answered it.
“George?! Where are you—Where have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you.”
“I’m in heaven,” Dad told him. “I’m here with my partner.”
“Your partner?” Phil said. “Who’s your partner?”
That’s when I started to get misty-eyed. I asked Phil if he had known that Theresa was my mom’s name.
“No,” he said. “When everyone was in the next day, I asked them what George’s wife’s name was. They told me it was Theresa.”
It’s been 45 years since my mom died, and my dad never remarried. He had lots of friends and a very active life, but he continued to live alone once my sisters and I grew up and left the nest. I think that’s one of the reasons he enjoyed going to the restaurant so much, and having breakfast with the same group of friends. It was like a second family. A second home.
Phil told me a few other things from the dream, details about my dad that he wouldn’t have known, but that I knew to be accurate. And he kept saying he was sorry for making me cry.
“Phil,” I finally told him, “please stop apologizing. You’ve just given me the best Christmas gift I could possibly receive.”
Some people might roll their eyes at this story, or shake their heads in disbelief, assuming that at some point over the years my mom’s name must have come up in conversation, and registered in a part of Phil’s memory that he wasn’t even aware of. That’s possible, but I prefer a different explanation, one that brings me more peace and comfort than I can adequately express. And that, indeed, is the best Christmas gift I could have ever received.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on January 5, 2017.
©Betty Liedtke, 2017
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