As a little girl, I always enjoyed the evenings, because my dad and I had a goodnight ritual. Every night after brushing my teeth, my dad would come to my room to tuck me in. I’d climb into my captain’s loft-style bed, and my dad would tuck the sheets under me tightly, wrapping me up like a burrito. Most of the time I’d giggle and squirm in attempts to wiggle myself loose, and my dad, of course, would have to repeat the tucking. He’d always feign annoyance, but I always knew that he, too, was grateful for these few extra seconds of time together.
But the most memorable part of our goodnight ritual was when he’d lift my head, and fan my long hair out upon my pillow. The coolness of the pillow against the warmth of my skin was always such comforting surprise. It was my dad’s trademark touch, like icing on a cake or the cherry on top.
Shortly thereafter, he’d kiss me on the forehead, and turn off the light. From my bedroom, he’d make his way to the den, a room adjacent to mine. Most of the time, the light from the den would shine into the hallway, and the shadows and noise would keep me entertained on the evenings when I wasn’t quite ready to fall asleep. I found much comfort in hearing the low strumming of my dad’s guitar or the sounds of Johnny Carson emanating from the t.v.
This evening ritual stopped sometime before middle school, I’m sure. By that time I’m certain I was a self-obsessed teenager who, like most kids, was trying to shed herself of her parents. These years were spent gabbing on the phone with friends, and the distance between my parents and I widened. Wasn’t that true for most teenagers? On most nights quick hugs and obligatory kisses were given before retiring for the night.
But still. No matter how old I got, I always enjoyed listening to my dad’s music spilling into my room at night. His music was like an evening serenade, smooth and comforting. Years passed. College life, dorm life, and finally married life. And still yet. Still when the evenings rolled around, I found myself yearning for my dad’s evening serenade. And oftentimes I longed for our old evening ritual.
One week ago I watched as my dad slipped away. I held his hand while he passed, and for one last time, we relived our evening ritual. In his last moments, I tucked the pillow softly under his head, smoothed his hair down, and kissed him on the forehead before he fell into his final slumber.