My father is invisible. Some of us aspiring immortals don’t like to use the “D” word when referring to people we love. Of course, he wasn’t always invisible. The worst part about his invisibility is that I rarely hear from him since he disappeared. Fortunately, once in a while, say every five or ten years I do hear from him. On these occasions I’m relieved to see that he is still alive.
The first time I heard from Dad was at Clyde’s restaurant ten years after he disappeared. My children and I were having dinner with my mother in the ground floor dining room with its elevated red leather booths that encircled a big round bar. We liked the slick paintings of cars on the walls but, except for my cigarette-happy mom, we didn’t like the air quality. The food was tasty though and mom could easily make the two-mile drive to meet us there. On the evening I want to tell you about I was going to ask her to come to live with us so I could watch over her better.
After I popped the question, to my great surprise, I heard Dad in my heart tell me real clearly how happy he was. It shocked me to hear him and to learn that he was right there, at Clyde’s, at that moment! I gave him a quick non-verbal hug and kiss then went back to hear what mom thought about the idea.
There were a few other times that my invisible father let me know that he was still alive, but not enough for me. Dad became invisible before he could do one thing that he wanted to do for about ten years before he disappeared. He wanted to go to Panama, the country. It’s not that he couldn’t go now; it’s just that he really wanted to be seen, so he sent me.
I remember once before I was honored to represent an invisible aspiring immortal. My cousin Nicky, who was eleven and a year younger than me fell from a balcony right before my very eyes. I ran to tell his mother that he fell. I didn’t know that he had left his body right then and there, on the sidewalk below, in front of all the playing cousins. Almost thirty years later, I stood at his mother’s hospital bedside with her two remaining children at the moment she left her body. I didn’t know I was going to represent Nicky when I went to visit his mom on August 13th.
August 13th must be my day for representing people since that was the day Dad wanted me to represent him at his friend’s 60th birthday party in Panama.
In Panama, I met a big happy family who knew my father when he was visible, and who still to this day, twenty years later ask God to keep him happy. I suppose Dad’s friend’s 60th birthday was special because that was his age when he celebrated his very last year of healthiness so now that his friend was sixty it was like they could be the same age finally! In Panama, the family talked to me about Dad as if they just ran into him at the barber shop; like time stopped. It was most interesting.
For the most part representing my father was fun since I saw places and people that I would have never experienced without him. I saw mountains in clouds and an eyeful pale blue sky hovering over a broad light-filled blue ocean. The two looked like they had been married forever. I saw yellow beaked toucans flying through the air and sloths sleeping in trees and an iridescent blue butterfly. I ate oranges and limes minutes away from being plucked. The best part was that I met lots of sisters whose hearts were as big as that ocean: Lelly and Ida, Marty, Ada, Carmen, Alicia, Angela and Cholita and their two brothers Ottavio and Tommy. All of the sisters had this in common. They had lost the men they once loved deeply, and like their brothers, they lost their mother only two years ago. The next generations of sons and daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren filled the holes in their hearts so well that I wished that all communities and all countries could behave as this big family by talking to each other and caring for each other almost every day. They even prayed together on Thursday evenings. I suppose I have to wait for the new planet to see that kind of love world-wide. This family absorbed me into them like air greets aroma, like I really was my father.
But there was also a disconcerting aspect to representing my father that I would not, in a million years have expected to experience so vividly.
By coincidence this mission fell during the last week of the two-week feast that commemorates the time when the Virgin Mary fell asleep and then left this old earth body and all. I have grown to love Jesus’ mother since she first introduced herself to me personally many years ago. The first time she spoke to me she was acting like a regular mother telling me that I expected too much too fast and I should stop being a brat. I took it pretty well. Well enough to ask her later to help me take care of my own mother Mary who was going to be very hard to live with. I have to tell you that I didn’t really expect an answer from her. It came through slowly but surely. I think it was she who turned my mother into a spoon of honey and gave me some of her own patience. It was a miracle I’ll never forget.
To honor the Virgin Mary I left my Dad’s favorite family to visit a church in Panama City full of Greeks who loved Jesus’ mother too. Every square inch of this church’s walls were covered with paintings of aspiring immortals and scenes of Jesus’ special earthly moments. At the church I met many friendly visible aspiring immortals who chatted away in Greek like a pod of Greekness floating in a Latin pond.
I think my dad went to church with me the second time I went because it was there during the big celebration liturgy on August 15th that for a few unusual moments I could feel my father’s love for my mother and his burden from her long and unusual illness that twisted him up.
Since Dad became invisible, he talked to me about mom only once. It was in March 2001 when I was driving down a highway towards San Francisco. I was in the car alone saying my prayers out loud when out of the clear blue sky my dad told me that he forgave my mother for being so difficult in her sickness because he could see how she was like honey deep inside. He told me that it would be good to bury mom next to him when she didn’t need her body anymore. I was incredibly surprised to hear him say that, actually to hear him at all. I didn’t even obey his request for reasons we can both talk about when we see each other again, if anyone still cares. Maybe that will be at my trial; yikes!
So on August 15, 2008 when my father let me feel his old earthly burden for a moment I cried in public. I think Dad and I both thought that God was being His same brilliant self by orchestrating the Mary day with the Panama trip. Frankly, Dad’s heart was a little too much for me to handle so I was glad that I didn’t have to represent him much longer. I just wanted to honor him and his friends and my mother and of course Jesus’ mother all at the same time. I supposed that if God could invent multi-various calculus then why shouldn’t I be able to honor a few different kinds of people simultaneously?
I learned on this trip to Panama that when being visible matters, it is always helpful to have an aspiring immortal around who can hear the holy invisibles and will help out when they need a favor. I just hope that when I become invisible I will know someone who can hear me too.