Goodbye to Patrick

Journal Entry
January 29, 2013

Several years ago, I noticed my seven year old daughter assembling what she described as a leprechaun trap and what I might describe as a medieval torture chamber. I was immediately haunted by images from late night documentaries with grainy images of serial killers who did similar cruel things as children to unsuspecting pets. (Dads are prone to over-reacting about their daughters.) I’m happy to report that any trace of antisocial behavior has since vanished over the subsequent years. Currently, she is a studious, snarky and compassionate tween showing no signs of leprechaun trafficking. The following journal entry tells the story of this single event that shaped nearly every day of the next two years. 

Emerging from the basement not knowing
what you were up to.

“I’m bored,” you said.

Part salesman, part wizard, I presented two (stained) cardboard boxes for your childcraft.
(Stains never seem to both you.)

You became—
a tornado of duct tape and marker magic.
The blonde chaos upon your head possessed
with the desire to capture a leprechaun.

“A leprechaun trap is pretty easy to make, Dad!” you said with salty seven-year-old nonchalance that was difficult not to laugh at.

Moss and twig placed precisely amid a Crayola forest.

Fists of grass pulled fresh from the yard spread over the trap door
where the creature would fall
and sit imprisoned in your cell until you learned its Secrets.

What father wisdom shall I call upon
when such familiar desire to possess has possessed my child?
(Revulsion in my gut to look at my daughter, my mirror)

Waiting and watching were never this difficult
until these words came through me:

“I wonder….

if the leprechaun wants to be captured?”

Your eyes lock mine.

You pivot and erupt with intent action.
I have a front row seat to the show.
Watching the Alchemy. The Magic. The Grace. The Enlightenment. Whatever.

Right here, on the same golden hardwood floor beneath me right now
is where you made and unmade your leprechaun trap.

Your desire released in an instant; no trap could hold you.
You, consumed in love and wonder and bright eyes.

For two years,
you wrote him each day polite letters in your curliest cursive.

Galloping downstairs every morning as if Christmas.
Devouring his words.
Apologizing when a sleepover interrupted your correspondence.

He spoke of ‘breath practice’ and ‘present moment awareness’.
He wished you Happy Mondays and sent postcards from Rome and South Bend.
He advised you when your parents became irritable.

You advised him when his fellow leprechauns were mean.
Together you prayed for the cold and lonely ones.

A proud father watched this astonishing Life emerging in his daughter.
Never knowing
how it would all end

“Daddy, the bully on the school bus
thinks that you are pretending to be the leprechaun.”
(you said matter-of-factly, jamming pretzels in your mouth).

My pulsing sack of stomach confirming
that an ending was near.

You said,
“Patrick is real, I know it.
I know you would always tell me the truth, Daddy.”

More silence.

Sophia, here is the truth…

We talked for a time.
I don’t remember what I said.
I hope it went something like this:

Life cannot be trapped.
What is born must live and pass.
You already have what you seek.
There is more, but it cannot be said.
Follow each breath and you will know what is real.
This may not make sense for a long time…

You took the news more gracefully than I.
A father’s grip resisting the truth he shares.

You wrote your farewell note with cheerful gratitude for a true friend.
After all, you agreed you would not make any more traps.

I read over her shoulder observing the cursive, still curly but more confident than before.

I hold my face in my hands and feel hot tears flowing upon welcoming wrists.

This is what I know to be real:

A daughter grows quickly without her father’s notice.
Until he notices.

Goodbye Patrick.

We invite you to learn more from Brandon at his Copper Beech Institute weekend retreat, Walking the Path Together: Mindfulness Weekend for Couples, May 6-7, 2016. He will co-lead the retreat with his wife, Susan. For details and to register click here.

Brandon Nappi is a spiritual teacher, speaker, and writer who passionately believes in the capacity of the human spirit to awaken. He is founding director of Copper Beech Institute, a retreat center for mindfulness and contemplative practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. Copper Beech Institute offers more than 40 retreats and programs to foster peace and resilience in everyday life.

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