The other night I was at a dinner party at my co-worker’s house, who happens to live on the same street as we do, but we still had to take a cab there, because it’s pretty far. Amidst dishes heaped with pasta and roasted cauliflower and salad with avocados and meatballs and most likely some other delicious California-chic culinary creations I cannot recall at this particular moment, someone at the table asked if we knew what a spirit animal is. We didn’t and so she explained it to us – a spirit animal is a type of animal that you have had a spiritual, magical, or mystical encounter with. She cited the example of a girl with dreadlocks that had an extraordinary experience with some animal I can’t recall in some field maybe and it all sounded too crazy and nonsensical for me to tell the story that was burning on my inside:
It’s a story that started taking shape two days before my father died. My dad and his girlfriend had travelled to Germany, because my father had to undergo surgery there. In the meantime, I was at home in Spain, watching my siblings, who were 5 and 6 years old. A couple who was close friends with my dad and his girlfriend stayed with us and helped me watch the kids. I recently learned this couple separated and that breaks my heart, because they are the only ones that were there when this story unfolded and now they no longer are part of ‘one,’ but they are two separates, and they go their separate ways, and they have new partners to share their houses and beds with, and their kids lost this family, and anyways, this is another story, but one that breaks my heart, but I already said that.
Two days before my father died, this said couple came into my room at 5 am in the morning to wake me up, and their faces were filled with sorrow and worry, and I knew then that it wasn’t good. I had spoken to my father on the phone the night before. The conversation was brief and blurry, and when they asked me how he sounded, I answered, “He sounded like he was in pain.” Now they told me that I should take the kids and go to Germany. To say good-bye, of course, but they didn’t say that then. It was implied.
I got up, I showered, I packed a bag with my things, we woke the kids, we calmed down the kids, we dressed the kids, I calmed down the kids some more, I packed a bag with their things. The kids were tired and small.
I also sat down at my father’s desk to book flights to Germany for me and my siblings. I have no idea how I started his computer, given he most certainly wouldn’t have shared his password with me nor anyone in the world, because that’s the kind of man he was, but maybe I found it somewhere, or someone gave it to me that morning, or I guessed it. Who knows.
I was on the easyjet webpage, and this I recall specifically. The booking wouldn’t go through. I tried once. I tried again. It didn’t work. I started to panic. Time was running up. I got up from the chair, I begged the webpage to work. It didn’t. The husband of the now-no-longer-couple started to panic too. He didn’t know how to calm me down, nor to book a flight online for all I know. That my freaking out freaked him out made me feel embarrassed. So I sat down at the desk again. Shaking. I spoke to myself to calm myself down. I said, “Ok, let us try this again. It has to work. Please work.” I took a deep, shaky breath, I looked outside the window.
My father had placed his desk strategically against the window with views over the entire valley in all its green, mesmerizing lushness, because that’s the kind of man he was too. You could see the ocean from here and it was all too beautiful to be true. There were metal rails in front of the lower part of the window, which wasn’t a window at all now that I think about it, but a floor to ceiling glass door.
And this is when I met my spirit animal. A sparrow sitting on the top rail in front of the lower part of that glass door, looking at me. The thing with this, and this of course you cannot know unless you knew my father, is that sparrows were my father’s favorite type of bird. He told me this often, whenever we would spot a sparrow in the city, and he would say how much he loved them even as a kid, and that it was so sad to see them disappear. And this sparrow looked at me and just sat there and I looked at it too and I just sat there too.
After this, the booking went through and we rushed to the airport and two days later my father died. I was there to hold his hand.
I remember that in the days after he passed away, we were at the house of this couple that now no longer is a couple to console each other. The husband asked me if I had noticed the bird and I nodded and he knew then what I know now – that sparrows are my spirit animals.
It is infinitely silly and sentimental. Whenever I see a sparrow I think of my father, and I think I see my father, and a feeling fills my guts that everything will be ok. In the end that is, anyhow.