Sunday, October 29, 2006

Coffee Confusion

"God of the Wild, you are different from what I expected. I cannot predict you. You are too free to be captured for the sake of my understanding. I can't find you in the sentimentalism of religion. You are everywhere I least expect to find you. You are not the force that saves me from the pain of living; you are the force that brings me life even in the midst of pain." ~Adolfo Quezada

Irony is sometimes cruel.

On the day of my father's death, I was attending a homeschooling conference in Arlington Heights. It's an annual conference and we've attended every one for the past seven years. Consider us junkies. It's a family affair; workshops for adults, workshops for kids, a massive vendor hall, and a hotel teeming with homeschoolers. It's a yearly getaway for us as a family, a yearly pep talk for me.

My father and I were planning to take a trip together. We'd talked of it for years and had looked at everything from a hike through Nepal to a stay on an Idaho ranch; from a rigorous backpacking experience to a cushy inn-to-inn hop while others tote our belongings. Dad urged me to decide, to pick a date. I thought I had all the time in the world. I mean, I was busy! I'd get to it soon enough.

During this year's conference I registered for three workshops that were conducted by parents and their children. Now that Brady is a teen, I thought it would be wonderful to hear from some homeschoolers on the tail end of the journey. The workshop I attended that morning was about road trips...

The road trip workshop was given by a father and his teenage son. They take an annual road trip that spans as much as a month. Each year they select a different destination and painstakingly plan their itinerary, each choosing their "must see" attractions and also allowing for down time and off-the-path wanderings. Their enthusiasm for their yearly ritual was intoxicating... they finished each other's sentences, laughed deeply as they recalled stories of mishaps and unexpected adventures, and had the entire audience smiling and vowing to start such a tradition for ourselves and our children. Or for me, with my father.

After the workshop I spoke with the man and his son to tell them I, too, was planning a long overdue road trip with MY dad. I bought their $3 booklet on frugal travel tips. I told them I was inspired by their talk, and left with a renewed commitment to my dad and our own travel plans. Dad would be so happy....

On the way to the next workshop I grabbed a french vanilla latte. I love coffee; coffee does not love me. Coffee can sometimes set my stomach in snarls, but I can usually get away with an occasional splurge and this was such an occasion.

I was quite eager to attend the next workshop, given by the keynote speaker, Pat Farenga. But when I got there I felt unsettled. My stomach was doing loops. I'd only consumed perhaps a sip or two of the coffee, so I was quite surprised it would affect me that quickly. I fidgeted in my seat; I tossed and turned. I kept muttering, "This damn coffee," and finally, feeling more uneasy than is reasonable, I got up and marched down the hallway to throw out the cup and pace for a few moments to calm myself down. I had no idea why I was feeling so suddenly distraught. I returned to the workshop and my friend Kristin, sitting next to me, frowned in that concerned "what's up?" sort of way.

I managed to wait out the rest of the workshop and next was lunch. I had plans to meet up with some women I'd met online (to chat about unschooling of course) but first I needed to check in with the family, make sure Rob and the kids found each other. The elevator area was a zoo, so I took off down a hallway to find a staircase. I finally found one, in an obscure faraway location. I opened the door to the stairwell and there was Rob - white as a ghost. He'd taken the phone call from my brother that there'd been an accident.

The rest resides in my memory in fits and starts. Dad. Snowmobile. Airlifted to a trauma center. Internal bleeding. Don't know how bad. Can't be good. We should go.

Time of the accident.... 10:30. Where I was at the time of the accident.... fidgeting in Pat Farenga's workshop, blaming coffee.

Grieving for not taking a trip with Dad... well, it's just another of those things. I saw my dad often; our lives were intertwined. I am one of the fortunate who can say there wasn't lost time. And I'm so thankful for that.

But I can't get over the amazing power of connection that allowed me to sense something was amiss. I believe we all carry within us greater powers of intuition and clairvoyance than we know; they're simply dormant from lack of use. And the sting of irony... well, such is the way of things sometimes.



Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,

Your connectiveness with your Dad has been so intense. That is probably your greatest blessing--and the greatest aspect of your grief. Life and love can be such a double edged sword. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing.



Anonymous said...

"Look not at what could have been, but what was." It brings peace.