Among my father’s favorite memories were the times he played baseball as a kid in his East Dallas neighborhood. Growing up in those environs more than six decades, with scores of other Hispanic families, ago gave him a sense of community and freedom. He had plenty of others, he once told me: holding me for the first time; buying this suburban Dallas home; working in the yard; and playing with our dogs.
“I keep reliving those moments over and over,” he said, following another late night talk. “If I could go through them again, I would.”
Most of my own best memories occurred in the 1990s – the best decade of my life so far. And one of the greatest was my 1991 trip to Ixtapa, México – a small hamlet on the nation’s Pacific Coast, northwest of Acapulco and far from the touristy ruckus of Cancun and Cozumel. That was the furthest away I’d ever been from home at the time and only the third time I’d been outside of the U.S. My first two international trips also were to México; college spring break jaunts that were hazy and less relaxing.
Ixtapa was incredibly soothing and quiet. It was the first time I’d ever seen the Pacific Ocean, or any ocean for that matter. The closest I’d come to an ocean was the Gulf of México. On my first night, the pounding of the waves along the shoreline echoed deep into my mind and lulled me to sleep. While I savored the beach and the warm weather, my parents feared for my life; that I’d be kidnapped by local hoodlums. That had crossed my mind, too, but I was enjoying the simple sights too much to worry.
The Ixtapa excursion allowed me to live out a few of my dreams: lounging along the waterline for hours; roaming through a quiet Mexican town, wallowing in the community without boisterous intruders or Americanized visages; stuffing myself with as much food in the all-you-can-eat buffets; and, of course, consuming plenty of alcohol.
Sitting in the sand, wearing a skimpy Speedo, and letting sea water roll around me remains one of the best therapies I’ve ever had. I thought, if some giant tsunami accosted the beach and sucked me into the Pacific depths, I probably wouldn’t mind. Another fantasy didn’t develop until the moment I stepped onto the beach, beneath a cloudy sky. I didn’t get to experience it, which is probably a good thing. It might have killed me.
A tall islet laden with tropical vegetation languished innocuously offshore – perhaps a mile at the most. I thought it beckoned me, and after a couple of days, I dared to attempt a brief excursion to its narrow shores. I tried swimming out to it, but quickly realized the allure was strictly my own cogitation. And I wisely returned to shore.
I returned home looking like I’d been attacked by some animal rights activists, which startled family, friends and coworkers. I couldn’t praise Ixtapa highly enough. I loved it then and I love it now. I hope I can visit again. If not now, then maybe in another life – if there is such a thing.
I’m not thinking of reincarnation, but rather, a life beyond this one. The post-Earth kind of life. Out there. Wherever it is.
I’ve never been so arrogant as to say I know exactly what will happen to me after I die. I’m certainly not a self-righteous evangelical Christian or “72 virgins at the end of the hallway” maniac. But, for the bulk of my life, I’ve wondered what happens to us when we cross over to that “Other Side.” What do people do? How do they navigate time and space? Why do they not visit us back here more often, especially when we call out their names in prayer?
I don’t know. But I’ve begun to ponder a simple possibility – why would they come back here? For any reason. As much as they love us. Why return to Earth? They’ve served their time in this life. So, what awaits them – all of us – on that “Other Side”?
All of those happy moments they experienced. The people who have gone before us are, perhaps, reliving the best times of their lives. They’re once again experiencing those events that gave them the most pleasure and made them feel the happiest. I don’t suppose this would include the times they might have hurt other people for pleasure – whether it was accidental or deliberate. Certainly not deliberate! I imagine others who shared those grand moments slide in and out of the reoccurrences. A sort of crossing time and space.
Therefore, my father is reliving the days he played baseball in his youth; when he first met my mother; holding me shortly after I’d been born; caressing my dog, Wolfgang, just a few years ago. He absolutely loved that little four-legged monster! Petting him was one of the simplest – yet best – pleasures my father had.
All of those things made him feel good. Why in the hell would he come back here to help me with Earthly troubles? Why would anyone want to give up reliving those special times to deal with plumbing problems and credit card debt? They’ve already dealt with that shit!
I can’t imagine my father trading in the joy of having his own lawn for a day of listening to me moan about lower back pain! Who in their right mind would want to make that kind of trade off?!
That’s why we don’t see our dearly departed that much. And it’s why tampering with séances and Ouija boards is dangerous. Disturbing the dead may be the subject of many bad jokes. But I think it’s wrong. It’s also kind of pointless. Imagine you’re undergoing a full body massage and a relative interrupts to tell you they got into a road rage incident. Wouldn’t you be pissed and want to startle the crap out of them, as they got ready for bed?
What’s it really like on that “Other Side”? How is it living out there? Again, I don’t know. And I’m really not eager to find out anytime soon! I have more stories I want to publish. I want to adopt another dog. So, I’ll continue paying my Earth-bound dues. And one day I hope to lounge in that Ixtapa surf for hours – not concerned with anything.