I'm glad he's dead...

It sounds cold when you read it -- but those were the words I actually spoke in my mind's mouth, when I kept flashing back to today's date.

February 20th.

My dad's birthday.

Yes, I don't need to call him, nor drive to "The Chi" to visit him like I did one year ago today for his 90th birthday, and sneak away to Pastor Smokie Norful's church service and sob while my sister cooked a fabulous chicken and rice dinner for us all by the time I returned.

My Daddy, the photographer, gun at feet
I'm glad he's dead.

I caught myself in a nanosecond when an automatic reflex said, "Call your dad."

Just like I had to stop myself from picking up the phone and calling my mom's number after she died -- that 773-995-5543 phone number that was my parents' land line for years, back before cell phones, obtained after we gave up our "Waterfall 8" (WA8-8417 was it?) number, where I'm old enough to remember the 928-8417 number we had to release in order to get that newfangled "call waiting" option back in the day.

Back before Chicago even had a 773 area code, and everything was still 312.

But I'm glad he's dead.
Me on the left, holding Daddy's hand

Because that means he seriously is in a better place, not just the cliché.

I believe in a real heaven and a literal hell.

And since my dad gave his life to Jesus for real around 1981 and I watched the Lord change him from an alcoholic workaholic to an eventually sober man who stayed home a lot more after retiring from the post office -- one who took his wild daughter to church and prayed for her -- I know he's in a better place than I am right now writing this.

Saint Paula, Saint Daddy, Saint Sister, by the blood of Jesus
Whether it's the Revelation 21:1-8 heaven, I really don't know. But since it's not the hell described therein, I am deeply glad and satisfied in my soul that Daddy's not falling around as an old man stumbling on this earth hurting himself, with me worrying about him or trying to race to him.

I know everyone that grieves a lost loved one doesn't feel this same way, and I want to be sensitive to that. There are folks who didn't get the 90 years on this earth that my dad got.

Then again there are people -- like my maternal grandfather -- whom I don't feel as comfortable about in their afterlife. Back in 1993, I went in the bathroom where he died and looked at his dead body on the floor and said goodbye.

Afterward, when my "get down on my prayer bones" grandmother told me about his denial or not-so-sure belief in Christ as Savior, I had a nightmare during which I could hear his voice in the "TV snow" -- à la the Poltergeist movie -- trying to hug me, saying, "Welcome to hell."

But Daddy, no.
Drinking and smiling and praying away the pain. Sup with me, Jesus.

He's one of those people who've died whom I feel kind of jealous of, imagining them dancing around with no pain, no tears, enjoying the mansions and colors we've never seen and streets paved in gold and such, never again craving a substance to anesthetize the pain that can sometimes accompany living in these earthly bodies, with earthly reasoning.

"God never gave up on me...'
And while I don't believe people turn into angels, as is the cute common saying that some folks repeat when they hear others say it, I do believe that we are indeed created a little lower than the angels, and I am really praying that my Daddy is giving me even more pull in heaven along with that beautiful intercession Christ and the Holy Spirit already does for us.

I think of his multiple talents and how smart he was -- of his bravery in World War II.

I think of the way he introduced me to pay-per-click marketing years ago, when I was railing on him about not falling for online schemes, and urging him to spend his money to fix up his house.

I think of the way he called my nickname like a song, "Paaauuulie..."

Mommy and Daddy, gettin' it in...
I think of how God changed him and stood by him all his life, making him my dad at the ripe old-daddy baby-having "gettin' it in" age of 48 when I was born.

I think of how he grew so proud of my writing and online endeavors -- and the way I sneak in ways to sell strollers by giving myself some backlink love in a post about him, a man whose work ethic I really admire, workaholic days notwithstanding.

I think of the "Cat's in the Cradle" worm-turning way he sort of selfishly wanted me near him at the end of his older years -- straddling two cities -- but also wanted me to take care of my family and not neglect them for him.

So I know Daddy would be just fine with me ending this piece now to go have dinner with my hubby, and perhaps raise a glass heavenward in his honor.

I love you, Daddy. Thank God for giving him to me. Happy Birthday, and see you and Mommy in that unspeakably gorgeous place in a little while...