The blue skies that day had not a billowy cloud, nor a wisp of one. In fact, it was the kind of day in winter that I most disliked, when cloudless skies meant nothing was holding in the heat. The high that day was 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the low was a biting 17 degrees. I walked to school every day, and in that kind of Chicago weather, that meant a heavy coat, a knit hat pulled down to my eyebrows, and a long wool scarf wrapped around my nose, chin, and neck. My grey rabbit fur gloves and black zip-up boots completed my ensemble.
I was in high school. It was Friday, and school was back in session for the fourth day after Christmas vacation. There was a new class schedule, a new class or two with new teachers to get used to, and the year-long classes resumed with the same teachers.
That day was like most of my high school days: looking forward to lunching with my girlfriends, passing notes with them through the vents in our lockers, getting as much homework done during study hall, and b-o-r-i-n-g gym class. I only liked gym class when we had sports I liked: fencing, tennis, cross country skiing, dance, softball, and the like.
The beginning of that semester found me in trampoline class, around noon. I disliked it immensely, with all that bouncing up, down, around, falling, bouncing up, down— I didn’t see the point.
I was wearing a silver charm bracelet my uncle gave me. It had whale, dog, cat, horse, and bird charms. Sometime during that bouncing up, down, around, falling, I lost the whale charm. I couldn’t find it anywhere in the gym. I was sad about it and hoped someone would find it.
The rest of the school day was nothing special, and before I knew it, I was plodding my way back home in the biting cold, worried about the lost whale charm.
That night, while I was in bed, something caused me to wake up. My bed was directly across the closet. I saw someone – a man, and not my dad – standing there, in dark trousers and a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. It looked like my uncle. It was my uncle. I smiled, then laid down with the blanket over my head.
The next morning, my parents were already up and in the kitchen. I went down the stairs, and I heard my brother telling our mom that during the night our uncle was in my brothers’ bedroom by their closet, in dark trousers and in his white shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows, just like he usually wore his dress shirts.
I didn’t imagine it!
I told my mom the same story as my brother. She told us to say a prayer.
You see, the day before when I was in trampoline class and lost the whale charm off the silver bracelet my uncle gave me, I lost it at exactly the time he passed away. I learned that he passed away when I came home from school, and Mom told me.
Today, it’s 45 years since my uncle passed away. He was 51. And he stopped by the night of the day he passed away to say, “So long.”
©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.