Clara searched around for the flashlight.
“I know that thing is here somewhere! I just used it the other day!!”
Clara was getting frustrated AND scared. The lights had been flickering during the storm for about 30 minutes and had finally gone out. The weather forecast had been grim and tornados were being spotted all across the county but Clara had turned off the TV feeling anxious and bored. Her mom had gone on her first date since her dad has passed away a year ago. She loved her mom and wanted her to be happy but she just didn’t feel right about the guy she was going out with. “He’s not like dad”, Clara had said to her mom as she watched her put on her make-up earlier that evening.
“He’s not supposed to be like your father, Clara. Your father was a very special man and I loved . . . love him dearly . . . still. I will never stop loving him but I want some companionship. This is the first date I’ve gone on since your father died. I think your father would want me to go on with my life, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. I suppose.” Clara said reluctantly. “But there’s just something about him. I guess he’s OK. I just want you to be happy, mom.”
Clara’s mom walked across the room and leaned over to Clara. “Oh, honey. I am happy. I miss your father every day and there will be NO ONE that will ever take his place, OK.”
She kissed Clara on the forehead and walked back over to the mirror to check her sweater and take a last glance at herself. She was in her late thirties and still looked pretty good after having three children. She gave herself a last look and then turned to Clara. “How do I look?”
“Great, Mom. You look great!”
“Thanks honey. Now, make sure you get Tommy and Alisa in bed by ten. There is leftover pizza in the frig for you guys. I shouldn’t be late. Have a good time and watch the weather. I think there are some storms rolling in tonight.”
“I will, mom. Have a good time and don’t worry. We’ll be fine.” Clara said.
Clara focused back on finding the flashlight. Her brother and sister were already in bed and had probably been asleep for an hour. They had no clue about the storms brewing outside; which was probably a good thing. Even at sixteen, Clara didn’t want to have to deal with Alisa’s crying and worrying about the thunder and lightening. As she rummaged around in the drawer her fingers touched a smooth round surface.
“Finally!” Clara picked up the flashlight and turned it on.
Everything was pitch-black. It was about a quarter past eleven and the wind was blowing hard outside. She walked over to the backdoor and peered outside. Trees limbs were blowing sideways and she could see that the patio furniture had already blown out into the yard.
I wonder how mom’s doing, she thought to herself. This isn’t a very good night to be out on a date.
She turned around and suddenly jumped, dropping her flashlight to the floor. She stood there trying to focus her eyes. In front of her stood, what looked like, her father. He was just standing there looking at her. It couldn’t be, though. Her father was dead. He had died a year ago in a car wreck. It had been a terrible tragedy for the family. He had been hit head-on by a truck driver that had swerved into his lane. The truck driver had been killed, too. Clara’s dad had lived long enough for them to see and talk with him, though. He had been rushed to the hospital with severe head trauma and had gone into a coma for two weeks. When he finally came out of the coma, Clara and her mom and brother and sister had been right by his side. They were so happy to see him open his eyes and recognize them. But then disaster stuck that night when a blood clot worked its way up to his brain causing him to hemmorhage and he died instantly. Clara and the rest of the family had left earlier that evening and planned to return in the morning. Shortly, after going to bed, Clara’s mom had received the devastating call from the hospital. It was such a shock to everyone. They all had felt such hopes that he would recover and be coming home soon. Those dreams and been crushed in an instant. All because a trucker had weaved over too much into her father’s path and lost control.
Clara rubbed her eyes. “Daddy? Is that you?” Clara strained to see better in the darkness. She tried to reach down and pick up the flashlight but it had rolled under the bakers rack next to her.
“Yes, baby, its daddy. Don’t be afraid.”
“But how can that be? Am I dreaming?” Clara asked.
“No, honey. I’m real.” Her dad answered. “I know you’ve been hurting for a while and I just wanted to come back and assure you that everything is going to be alright. I’ve been watching you and your mother and brother and sister. I miss you all terribly but it is so beautiful up here. You don’t need to worry any longer. I am fine and you all are going to have a wonderful life. And I will see you again someday.”
Clara couldn’t believe her eyes or ears. She was standing there looking at her father and listening to him talk to her. She had dreamed about this so many nights. Most nights she had cried herself to sleep. She missed her father so much. Her brother and sister did, too, but they were still young. Tommy was just 7 and Alisa had just turned 4. They remembered their dad but were still so young that it hadn’t affected them like it had Clara. She remembered so many good times with her father.
“But why did you have to die, daddy? I miss you so much. I just want you back with us so bad.” A tear rolled down her cheek. She wiped it away with the back of her hand and looked up at her father.
“I know, honey. But just remember all the good times we had and know that I’m watching out for you all the time and all you have to do is look into your heart and remember me and I’ll be right there beside you. I’ll never leave you or your mother or brother and sister. I love you all.”
Clara nodded and looked out the window at the rain beating against the windowpane.
“Clara, there’s one more thing. Your mother needs to find someone to spend her life with; someone to love. It won’t be the guy she’s out with tonight but it will be someone else. And he’ll be a wonderful man and good to you kids. I’ve seen him. Don’t worry about him trying to take my place. He’ll understand and just try to be a caring and loving person to your mother and the rest of the family. He will be a good provider and a good listener. And you’ll end up loving him… not in place of me but for the person he is. Okay, honey.”
Clara looked up. He was gone. Her dad had faded away. She wiped the tears away that had started streaming down her face and walked to the window. It had stopped raining and a rainbow was showing through the clouds overlooking her backyard. It was probably the most beautiful rainbow she had seen in a long time.
Dad’s right, Clara thought to herself. Things are going to be alright.
Clara walked away heading back to her bedroom and felt a wonderful warm feeling; a good comforting feeling she had been longing for.
A couple of hours later, Clara heard the front door open. She closed her book and raced downstairs. “Hey, mom! How was the date?” Clara asked excitedly.
“Oh, it was alright.” Her mom replied. “He’s not like your father and I probably won’t see him again. But that’s ok.”
“Yeah, that’s OK, mom. I know you’ll find someone and he’ll be the perfect one for you.” Then Clara gave her mom a big squeeze and smiled to herself.