I sit in a Chipotle alone on a Tuesday night. It is a rare night when I'm headed somewhere alone, and I was hungry so I came inside to eat. I watch the people come in and out. The ones I notice are the ones who are alone too. The other ones are mostly older men, one in his workout clothes with a newspaper to read, another who holds the door open for me and kindly waves me ahead in line. I am in a business district near the airport so I imagine them to be business travelers, some on their own at a hotel nearby after a long day of work in a city away from home.
My father was a business traveler and in the years after my parents divorced I would always look around when I was out at a restaurant at night, wondering if I would accidentally run into him. Airports were especially terrifying for this very real possibility. It was hope mixed with terror I suppose. I always wondered what it would be like to see him again in the flesh.
He's been dead six and a half years and I still look for him. He was a good traveler. He had routines. He worked out in hotel gyms and found good places to eat. He was friendly but he liked to be alone a while at the end of the day. Like me. This is how I remember him.
I wish I'd had more burritos with my dad, more memories with him. I always thought I'd have him when I was a young parent. When he left I thought there would still be time for things to be made right.
I didn't know. One day it was just over. And yet I still catch myself looking for him, before I remember that he is dead and I will never see him again.
I plant my hopes sometimes on my own husband and daughter. I hope they have burritos together always and she never feels the sting of the loss, of the wondering if he will be somewhere when he is nowhere. He is gone.
I believe in heaven. But it doesn't always solve the problem of the pain of loss in this life. It is hard to be a Christian sometimes and come to the realization that it doesn't help much right now to know that this isn't all there is. It still hurts. I do not know if my dad made it to heaven. I hope that he did and I have begged God many times that it could be so. He messed up, but I loved him. I want to see him again.
And that is why I look up when the door opens at Chipotle. It is why I scan the crowds at the airport. My heart can't believe what my head knows. It doesn't want to.