It was a cold, rainy Sunday. I had just dropped Girlfriend off at a birthday party and was across the parking lot now, entering the Barnes and Noble for a couple of quiet hours. I had my laptop so that I could do some “work reading.” I had “Favorite’d” some pages about teaching writing workshop in first grade and I figured that now was a great time to read them, absorb them, and gain all of the answers that I did not have but would surely find in under two hours. Mmm-hmmm.
What I should have done is left the darn laptop at home where it belonged and enjoyed a couple of quiet hours without Girlfriend or Monkey (or even Husband) talking to me, yelling, running, jumping, pulling, asking, whining, etc etc etc.
But I had two hours. Surely I could get something productive done. Like reading about writing workshop in first grade. In early July. On a Sunday.
Well, I won’t lie. I did read a few good articles and I devoured first grade writing samples that look crazy different from the second grade writing samples I’m accustomed to. But I didn’t walk away suddenly an expert first grade writing workshop teacher and that kind of was my goal. Anxious mind.
With about 20 minutes left before having to head back across the parking lot to pick Girlfriend up, I decided to look in the parenting book section for Queen Bees and Wannabees. Which I found. Which I bought. Which I’ve read 3/4 of the way through. And which I do not recommend to others.
But I also found, to my excitement, Raising Cain, which I’d been wanting to read after going through its positive reviews on Amazon. Plus, I’d perused a few of the free chapters and thought it was good.
I paid for my books and exited through the large double doors into the vestibule where there are many more books to look through and which can be purchased for a drastically reduced price. I never look at them.
However, a book caught my eye. When God Winks at You: How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence, by SQuire Rushnell.
This. This has always been something that intrigued me. Always. Ever since I was little. I have never been a believer that when a person dies, that that’s it, they’re just … gone. They may be gone from our earthly lives, of course, but they are still there. And they let us know it.
I grabbed it off the shelf and went back into pay for it.
I’ve been reading it bit by bit. Some stories are phenomenal. Some are just okay, they’re a bit of a stretch. But for the most part, this is exactly the book I’ve been searching for without knowing where to look or what to look for.
I have received many Godwinks over the years. Most have to do with my beloved grandparents, Margaret and Charlie.
My beloved Grandmother passed away August 1, 2001. It wasn’t a tragic, untimely death, but it wasn’t something any of us were ready for either. She had been very ill. After her funeral, a day or so later, I was visiting my grandfather and one of my aunts who was staying with him. I missed her so much. I quietly removed myself from the den to go into the living room, which led to a linen closet. I’d come to this closet countless times over the years to get sheets to make up a bed for our many sleep-overs. I opened it and drew in a deep breath to catch the scent of those sheets. This scent, in this moment, just filled my soul.
Suddenly, my grandfather banged into the room and told me to get the hell out of the closet and leave things alone. I was 25, not 5! I said okay, though, and left. My aunt walked me out to my car, where she gave me a hug and asked me if I was doing alright. I told her what happened. She felt bad. There wasn’t much to say about it. Pepere was sad. He’d just lost his partner of 5+ decades. So I got into my car and slid the key into the ignition. It was time for me to go home to my own place.
On perfect cue, Carole King’s song, Now and Forever, began to play on a random radio station. I’d never heard this song before now. But as I listened to the words, I knew … I KNEW … it was my grandmother speaking to me, telling me it was all going to be just fine. I just knew it. I was filled with a loving presence, like a hug, that just stayed and stayed and stayed with me. To this day, I hear that song and it brings me right back.
I moved into my grandparents’ house a couple of months after my grandfather had passed. I was very close to them both and their home was my second home. I loved it there. I was thrilled when my mom and her sisters invited Husband and I to live there till we had enough saved up for our own house.
My grandmother always wore Oil of Olay. The pink kind. One evening, standing in the bathroom, looking at myself or preparing to brush my teeth or wash my face, I was hit full-force with the scent of Oil of Olay. There was no denying it. I didn’t wear it, there was none in the bathroom. Grammy was there.
On the night after Husband and I were married, I was upstairs, in one of the rooms I often slept in when I was a child, packing for our trip to Aruba. I was suddenly overpowered with a feeling of … them. In that room. I sat down on the edge of the bed. I just sat. I wasn’t sure how to put into words this feeling so that I could talk about it. I have never felt a feeling so strong before then, and never since. I know they were both there with me.
I have dreamed of my grandparents often. At one time, I dreamed of my grandmother constantly. The most revealing dream occurred sometime in the early morning hours of the day of my “big” ultrasound with Girlfriend (which also happened to be my birthday). The one where we would find out if she was growing as expected, meeting the milestones, and if she was a he or she. I was extremely nervous through my entire pregnancy with her for reasons I just can’t explain, constantly in a panic that something was going to go wrong and the pregnancy would come to an end and we would not meet this baby.
The dream took place on Main Street in the town where my grandparents lived, outside of a well-known deli by the name of King Cutlet. It’s not there anymore and hasn’t been for some time now. In the dream, my grandfather was inside, while my grandmother and I stood outside. She hugged me, and said, “It’s going to be fine.” And it was. Girlfriend was perfect.
I experienced the heartbreak of a tragically unexpected death on December 10, 2013.
On December 13, hundreds of people joined together to remember and say goodbye to Cam. Many people spoke publicly about him: his father, sister, best friends, teammates, coaches. And me. His 2nd grade teacher. It was not planned. But his father wanted anyone who had something to say about Cam to get up there and say it. And as much as public speaking is not my thing, a voice in my head was saying, “Do this for Cam.” I spoke from the heart. And I finished with, “These little ones have a way of getting into our hearts and staying there. Cam has left his fingerprints on mine. He will always be my Little, he will always be in my heart. I will never forget him.”
Sadly, on February 7, 2014, another former student of mine passed away. He was older, and I had not known him as well as I’d known Cam, but I certainly remembered him fondly and my heart hurt terribly for his family and friends. It’s just not right to lose someone so young when they’ve got their entire life ahead of them. It is not right for any parent to lose their child.
Two days later, exactly two months after the day Cam died, February 9, 2014, Girlfriend and I returned from a shopping trip out to purchase a birthday gift for a friend’s party the following weekend. Although it was Sunday, I went to check the mail as I had not thought to the day before. As I rounded the corner of the car, I stopped dead in my tracks and called frantically for Girlfriend to come quick, come quick, get Daddy, get the camera!!
This was at my feet, in my driveway, clear as day:
Call it what you want. A coincidence. A blob of snow. A crazy lady shouting to get a camera. Fine. But make no mistake. That there was, is, and will always be, a heart with two fingerprints. Because when you’re a teacher, your students leave their fingerprints on your heart. Like I said on December 13.
I’ve received other winks from Cam but those are stories more closely linked to Monkey so I’ll save those stories for later.
The reality is, Godwinks are everywhere. And I am so grateful to now have a way to refer to these very special moments.
I believe in them, because they are real.