Now, I know what you’re thinking. This sounds like the beginning to a poorly executed horror film, like maybe I’ve been sipping on whatever M. Night Shyamalan drinks before heading to work.
And I can see why you’d think that. Eastman uses the oldest trick in the Internet book: a click bait title! I get it. Sounds like it. And hey, if you came here hoping for the scary-feels, I suggest hitting up Creepy Catalog.
Because this? This won’t be fiction. Not fun midnight movie screenings at sleepover parties, complete with blankets and pillows to hide faces in when things get too freaky. I wish it was. I wish so much of my life had been fake, a morbid plot that I could turn the TV off from and realize none of it was real.
Instead, it’s just a painful reminder. A glitch or weird error.
The night my dead father called my mom.
* * *
It never stops surprising me how it can seem to hit out of nowhere. There I am, half-heartedly talking to men on Tinder, texting my best friend, thinking about French Bulldogs or how much I like eating falafel — you know, totally normal stuff.
And then it’s there: the suffocating feeling of grand loss. It’s in my hair, my pores, my liver. I can’t shake it.
The moments I miss my dad like that, I’m not sure what I should do. Sometimes, crying doesn’t even come out. It’s an empty kind of feeling, but with a dull ache, like walking around with a wound that never healed. But you know it’s there. You can still feel the left-over trauma.
And that’s when we got the call.
My mother was in the living room folding laundry when her cell phone rang. I was across the hall and could faintly hear it, but it didn’t faze me. It was just a phone ringing, background noise at this point.
But it kept ringing.
“Mom, your phone!” I shouted, trying to hide the melancholy in my tone.
At first, I didn’t even notice she had walked into my room. She stood there, holding the phone with suddenly colorless cheeks.
The moment when maybe I do turn off the TV and everything the past 7 years has been a lie. He’s still here, giving us a call to say he’s almost home from work. Maybe he’s going to stop by and pick-up food. He’s wondering what we want to eat.
Right? That’s what happens now, right?
“What do you mean it’s Dad??”
My mother handed me the phone and I saw “Missed Call” from his phone number. We’ve had his phone deactivated for years. And I guess it’s not that weird to think phone numbers get recycled.
But why did this number call my mother? Assuming it now belonged to someone else, they wouldn’t have my mother’s contact information.
None of it made sense. I felt sick and weirdly comforted at once. It wasn’t a ghost story, not some weird Paranormal Activity 8 (or whatever, however many they’ve made now). It felt like my dad was just calling.
I forgot about the feeling of walking down the aisle without him.
I forgot about the fear that I won’t remember his laugh in a few years.
I forgot about the pain of my children never knowing their grandpa.
For a glistening, beautiful moment, I forgot. And it was just Dad calling.
I tried to call the number back, but it just diverted straight to voicemail. A friend offered to do a (maybe illegal?) background search on the number, but I declined. I didn’t want to know how or why this happened.
I just wanted to have the moment my dad called to say hi, even if his urn is still sitting in my room.