2010-06-18 / On Second Thought

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation

My father’s ghost
By Mike Cox

My father passed away just before Thanksgiving in 2003. At Christmas that year I visited my mother, who was living with my sister. My parents’ place had been emptied and put up for sale. A deal was forthcoming.

I went over with my brother–in–law to visit the house for the last time. It was familiar but empty, a vacant place with no emotional connection anymore, until I reached his bedroom. When I entered the space that was so vividly his, his aroma overwhelmed me. I was startled enough to glance around, searching for him.

My dad breathed his last in that room. He passed quietly along after a three week coma caused by pancreatic cancer. As the smell, his smell, filled my senses, the room brightened with memories: His framed pictures of great football moments at Alabama, the book collection on the shelf above his writing desk, even the big TV that seemed so out of place in the space. I swear I heard him talking.

There are people who gain comfort by visiting with loved ones at their burial sites. I’ve never been able to do that. I’ve remembered my father at golf courses and football games, thought of him when I heard certain songs or drove through particular places. But since that day in December in his last home, I’ve never felt his presence, never been in the same room as his ghost.

I’ve tried to find Dad’s spirit. I really have. I would like nothing better than to sit in his company and just be there. But he never shows up. I gave up ever having that comfortable feeling he was around.

We are legendary talkers, my father and I. Neither of us ever felt reluctant to share our beliefs, ideas, and stories with those around us. And we could throw some words around when together. But there were times when nothing needed to be said. A comfortable silence. I miss that most of all.

Last fall I heard of a television event coming to HBO about the Pacific theatre during WWII. The nine episode movie was being produced by the same people who did Band of Brothers, the excellent series from a few years back about the 101st Airborne Division in Europe.

My father fought the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II. I remember an old photo of his company in dress khakis. One guy was holding a baby kangaroo. The only mention of his war experiences involved the bravery of a couple of soldiers who served with him. I was named after one of them. He never sat and told war stories, but he fought that war in his nightmares until the day he died.

The Pacific told in brutal detail just how terrible it was for kids over there. Kids like George Cox. War movies today often depict the horror of war in a realistic manner, which makes the actions of the soldiers even more incredible and enhances the heroism of those who were involved.

I also discovered my father’s ghost while watching The Pacific. He was beside me through every episode. It was a comfort to have him around again.

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