My sister-in-law Shannon put together a Snap Fish photo album of my father shortly after he passed away. It took me a while to actually order a copy. When I did finally get a copy I quickly flipped through the pages, smiling at the images of my dad during various phases of his life. There were pictures of him with every person in our family including every one of his grandchildren at the time of his death. I then stashed the book under the coffee table somewhere and forgot about it.
When the the first anniversary of my dad's death came around last year I was a little preoccupied with the pending arrival of our newest baby. Part of me was hoping that the new baby would be born on the anniversary of Dad's passing, to kind of make January 2nd a happy day (I also thought the same thing a few weeks earlier on the anniversary of Lauren's father's death but she would have had to go into labor early for that). I figured if my kid was born on the 1st year anniversary of his grandfather's death it would be a sign, of some kind, that everything is okay. When 1/2/09 came and went with no baby, I pulled out one of my dad's funeral mass cards, read the prayer on the back and chalked it up to "not meant to be" type of thing.
Four days later Lauren gave birth to our new baby boy. While in the hospital I was looking for signs. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it was because I remember my dad sitting in the waiting room when Maxfield was born in the same hospital 5 years earlier. Maybe it is because I remember sitting in a waiting room in another wing of the same hospital as my dad slowly drifted away from life. I think that births and deaths make people look for signs. I looked at every name tag of every person that entered the birthing suite looking for a sign from dad. I noted every room number and significant digit. A nurse was named Violet, wait a minute, my dad used to sell products to nurse-eries that grew Violets. The serial number on this contraction/heart rate monitor thing-a-ma-bob is 4E077W5237, wait a minute 4077 is the army hospital in the show M*A*S*H and my dad loved that show, and my dad knew someone named Bob.
I know, stretches.
Sometimes those signs are figments of an overactive imagination. Sometimes those signs are just coincidence. And sometimes there are just no signs.
Lauren and I were very protective of the baby's name. Everyone knew it would most likely be inspired by an artist but no one knew the inspiration would be Jackson Pollock. We brought Jackson home a couple of days later and went about our busy lives of raising, now, three kids. At one point during those first couple of weeks of having a newborn in the house, and maybe due to a lack of sleep or some strange melancholy, I said something to Lauren about Jackson never meeting either of his grandfathers. We discussed it briefly, talking about looking for signs and chalked it up to "not meant to be" and moved on.
A day or two after that conversation I was dusting the living room (I am sexy that way) and I pulled out a bunch of books and magazines from under the coffee table. I saw the photo album of my dad and still feeling a bit melancholy decided to look through it. I smiled at the images of my dad. I closed the album on my lap and noticed there was a collage of pictures on the back cover. I never saw them before. My eyes immediately zeroed in on this photo of my dad in the army.
I took it as a sign. A literal sign.