When I was a little girl, my dad took me snorkeling in the South Pacific. This was the kind of childhood I had. And I loved it. A life less ordinary. Anyways, dad took me snorkeling on one of the world’s most beautiful reefs and it was amazing and it was terrifying. I was so overwhelmed that I just froze in the water, afraid to move amidst all the teeming, colourful life under water. Dad, sensing my fear, held out his finger to me, and I grabbed onto it. And I was safe. To me, to hold my dad’s finger was a lifeline, a touchstone, a safe place. I will never forget that feeling.
Twenty years later, Dad and I found ourselves bored after Christmas, during one of these school breaks where you end up with lots of time after the important days. Everyone else had gone back to work, but we were still off and itching for something to do. So we spontaneously went to the Bahamas for a few days, just the two of us. And we went snorkeling. And as a joke, Dad held out his finger to me, and I grabbed onto it. And I was safe and happy and nine years old again. We laughed about it, but it also still meant something to me, even as a grownup, to have my dad as my lifeline, touchstone, safe place.
So, over the years, it’s kind of been our thing. When I am clearly overwhelmed or panicky, my dad holds out his finger. For instance, when the bees are crazy and I freeze, and I don’t know what to do, my dad holds up his finger and I pause, breathe, and continue working in the hive as the bees buzz all around me.
The other day, after spending some time canceling his credit cards and dealing with other banking questions while sitting with Dad on his bed, I said my usual goodbye. You take your goodbyes very seriously when someone you love is dying. We should always take our goodbyes seriously, I guess, but nowadays they hold extra meaning for us. So I hugged and kissed my dad, told him I loved him and headed for his bedroom door. I turned to say goodbye one more time and he put his finger up. And I paused and savoured the moment. I got a little teary-eyed, thinking about my wonderful Dad and the memories we had made together. I wanted to hold this image in my mind, because no one else was ever going to do that for me and Dad wasn’t going to do it much longer. I am losing my lifeline, my touchstone, my safe place. I smiled, thanked him for the gesture, and he did it again, with more urgency, looking me straight in the eye and pointing that finger heavenward. Again, I sighed and smiled and took it all in. And then I realized it. This wasn’t the meaningful moment I thought it was. He just wanted me to turn off the overhead light. Sheesh!
I told him that story the next day and we laughed so hard the bed shook. Now he keeps holding up his finger just to mock me. And sometimes he lets me hold his finger while he snoozes and I read on the bed beside him. I shared the story with my dear friend Tanya, and she both cried and laughed with me about it. And she told me that she had dropped off a fingerprint kit at my Mom’s so that, if we wanted, we could take a mold of his fingerprint. Our artist friend Heather, at Sway Silver, creates jewelry with fingerprints of loved ones and Tanya thought I might like a necklace with my dad’s fingerprint. So wonderful. So, soon enough, I will have my pendant with my dad’s fingerprint so that I will still have some sort of lifeline, touchstone, safe place in those moments when life is overwhelming. I am so grateful for such a lovely, thoughtful gift.
For now, I still have my dad to hang on to, even as he slowly fades away. This journey is hard, but also beautiful. We’re doing okay.