birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Visiting Dad

Two years after my dad died, we had a visit. I don’t know if I experienced an out-of-body phenomenon, or if I had fallen asleep and it was a dream. But I know with a primal certainty that I visited Dad in heaven, and that for him heaven was a small, rural hometown.

It was during my first ocean crossing; an all-woman’s training course sailing from Hawaii to San Juan Island in Washington State. I had just finished a night watch with my team of crewmates and was climbing into my berth for a few hours of sleep before our next turn at the wheel. At the moment I put my head on the pillow, I was standing at the outskirts of a small town. It appeared to be circa 1940s with sturdy old brick buildings from the late 19th century, a few dirt roads, a few old trucks, and grass growing wild in a vacant lot. It was late afternoon; I remember the town smelled warm, as if the ground, buildings, and trees had absorbed a summer’s worth of sun and could no longer contain the heat. 

I wandered through town until I heard voices and decided to follow the sound. As I got closer, I saw my Dad sitting with a gang of cronies on old folding chairs in someone’s backyard. Men in boots, jeans, and flannel shirts, some skinny, some like my Dad with bellies ballooning out between suspenders, a drink in one hand and a cigar in the other. They were telling stories and laughing. 

When my Dad saw me, his face lit up; he jumped out of his chair, hugged me and said, “I’m so glad you’ve come.” He introduced to me to his friends as he had in life, “This is my star.” After a round of enthusiastic greetings, Dad said, “I’ll show you around.” We walked through town, and he pointed out his favorite diner and the shop where one of his “lady friends” worked. I smiled to see him so happy, so much in his element. And at the very moment I realized I was in my Dad’s heaven, I was back in my berth in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I opened my eyes and was bathed in a rush of warmth that smelled like late summer sunshine.

Keeping the Faythe

Heluva Good Guy