Dreaming of Dad

I had a dream about my father last week. It’s my first since he died. You know when I was a kid, I would dread dreaming about my dad. See, just after my parents split up when I was about 9, I moved with my mom and brother to a small apartment across town. I had a nightmare one night and watched someone rip my father’s head from his body. A few nights later, I dreamt that my father had a heart attack and I ran from his house to our apartment to get help–we’re talking probably 7 miles on a little chubby girl’s legs. So after that second dream, I just knew that if I had another dream about my father dying, he really would. Kids have weird minds, don’t they? I didn’t sleep well for weeks until exhaustion finally made me sleep. Fortunately, it was a few years before I had any more dreams about my father dying, and I was even luckier because I got to keep Pop in my life for another 37 years after those initial dreams.

But the dream I had last week was not a death dream. I saw Dad die in real life and I sometimes re-live it, but never when I’m sleeping. Instead, this dream was some kind of wonderful. Odd, but still wonderful.

Dad and I and my son were driving to the dump. My boy was in the back seat, spending too much time on his phone, and I sat in the front while Dad drove. It was like one of the cars from my childhood that Dad would drive–a big car, big hood, bench seats. For whatever reason, we were picking up someone else’s trash and taking it to the dump. A nice gesture, I suppose. But the person’s trash was really a bunch of recycling all packed into a huge cereal box. Ok. At least it’s neat, not messy…until I tipped the box and old macaroni and cheese came out and dry cereal. So I’m stuffing everything back in and complaining to Dad, “What the heck is this? Why did they do this?” And as I kept stuffing I realized that there was a nice neat little square tucked into the garbage that was actually a trash bag. WTF?!?

So I sigh loudly, mutter a little while unfolding the bag and trying to put everything into it, when very quietly Dad says, “Hey. Look at that.” I look up and through the windshield on the opposite side of the road but coming towards us, was this huge tortoise. I glance at my dad and he has his arm out the window in that relaxed way he always did for the entire summer, with his right hand on the steering wheel. He had a smile on his face and was just as fascinated as I was. I alerted my son and told him to look out the window. And as the tortoise got closer, we could see that there was some kind of plastic doll tied around the tortoise’s neck so it looked like it was riding him. I whispered, “Wwweeeirrddd.” Dad chuckled and I woke up.

I don’t think there’s anything to analyze here, but I love that my father came to visit me in my dreams. I’ve struggled a bit this past week–my emotions and moods have swung wildly, feeling more stressed at work, not loving the pain after physical therapy. Yet the more I think about that dream, the more I feel ok. Dad was a great sounding board for me. He let me vent about whatever I needed to, but always, ALWAYS put a positive bend on things. My mom does that, too. They both could be negative about their own lives, but tried to show us that things will get better or they’re really not as bad as we think.

So today I focused on how much more I can move my arm. I made a plan for the next few weeks at work so I won’t feel so stressed and have tried to keep calm when I start getting irrationally angry or sad about anything. “One day at a time, Hol,” Dad used to say. “One day at a time.” That was Dad’s mantra from the time he stopped drinking in 1987 until the day he died. I’ve always tried to be patient and follow his advice, but I’ve never been that great at it. I rush through life sometimes and want the next week to end or the next month or the season. But what if something amazing is waiting for me today?

So I keep trying. I will try and live my life by taking the pleasures and difficulties one day at a time. Savor the good stuff, get through the bad stuff.

I think I’ve finally got it, Dad. I can picture you now, throwing your head back and laughing while sitting in your chair. “Figures!” you’d say. “Now you understand and I’m not there to see it! Oh well. That’s life, right? At least you finally get it, kid, and that’s all that matters. Now get over here and give me a hug.”

I wish I could, Pop. I wish I could. ❤

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Dream Envy

Last night as we got ready for bed, my son came into my room to snuggle with me for a bit. My husband is still away for business, so we’ve had some wonderful conversations and laughs this week about a variety of things. But last night, as my boy tried to snuggle without touching my right arm, he told me about the dream he had the other night about his uncle.

“So, Mom, I was in this bathroom (our main bathroom for everyone) and I burst out of the door and into the living room, asking where Uncle was. But you said he was in your bathroom (the master bath). I heard the toilet flush, then I woke up. I never got to see him!!”

He told me how disappointed he was when he woke up, but a little happy, too. That at least my brother was there somewhere, even if he couldn’t see him. So I told my boy about the dream I had of my brother two months ago.

It was the first week after my husband left for a month of training in New Jersey. I think I was a little nervous with him gone, worrying about things going wrong in the house or with the car (or breaking my arm which I did while he was away!). In my dream I was in my kitchen, attempting to fix my kitchen table leg, or maybe a chair. That part is fuzzy. But as I’m working on the thing, my brother calls out from my living room, “Hey, you need some help?” And out he walks with a smile and an outstretched hand. I said, “Yes, please!” Then I woke up.

Phil’s partner just gave this to me. It was in my brother’s things. It’s the two of us in 1974.

I was so happy when I awoke. I got to see my brother and he was smiling and offering to lend me a helping hand as always. After I described the dream my son said, “Oh man, I’m so envious! I really wish I had just seen him, you know?”

I do, son. I do.

I told him he’ll see Uncle in his dreams again. I know it. I’ve only dreamt of my brother a couple of times since his death, and that last dream was most certainly the best. I know my brain and heart needed to see him. I understand that many of you believe in a spiritual after life that I don’t. And I envy you. I know that some of you believe dreams are a way for folks in that after life to speak to us, and I envy you, too. I will never put your beliefs down or ridicule you for them, and I hope you’ll give me the same courtesy. But there are certainly times that wish I had your faith just for my peace of mind.

But since I don’t have that faith, I’m just going to go to sleep tonight and hope I’ll get another visit from my favorite brother. ❤ Good night, friends.

What to say to my little boy….

Typically when I have a day off, I do not listen to the radio or watch television.  After seeing a few cryptic Facebook posts about the Boston Marathon, I decided to make an exception.  I first went to CNN’s website to find out exactly what happened, then turned on the television.

I told my son that I wanted to watch the news for a few minutes before I helped him get ready for his evening shower.  Together, we watched the sports segment on our local news. It showed many of the runners at the beginning of the race.  “So many runners!” my son exclaimed.  “Are you in that race, Mom?”  I said no and explained that the race happened today in Boston.  (We went to Boston last fall so he has some kind of familiarity with it, although not a lot.)

When the national news came on, I asked my son to sit on my good leg—I just wanted to keep him close.  We watched for a few minutes, heard the basic facts, saw so many horrific images in just those 180 seconds we watched.  My son repeated nearly everything he heard….”there were three bombs….two went off….dozens of people hurt…body parts everywhere…”   The only question he asked was why.  Neither my husband nor I had an answer.  We just said we didn’t know.

In those three minutes of television, I squeezed my son and tried, unsuccessfully, not to cry.  He told me I shouldn’t watch anymore.  I agreed and we headed to the bathroom to get him get cleaned up and ready for bed.  On the way, my nearly 6-year-old little boy takes his right arm out of his sleeve and says, “I was in a race and lost my arm.”  I didn’t know what to say, so I just let him ramble and pretend play while he slowly got undressed.

Once Bri was in the shower, I  stayed in the bathroom while he talked to me. “Is the news still on, Mom?”  I told him it would be over by the time he got out of the shower.  “I never want to watch the news again!” he shouted.

For the last hour before bedtime, we didn’t talk about the race or the bombing or the news. Instead we focused on reading books, sounding out new words, and Briar wondered if he would catch a glimpse of the tooth fairy tonight as she placed something beneath his pillow.  I can only hope that my boy will have no recollection tomorrow of a race with bombs and bleeding people, but tonight will have sweet dreams of  fairies or flying cupcakes or walking on the moon.

Let him have these dreams for a little longer.

As a parent, I often feel completely inadequate and continue to make mistakes every single day. Perhaps letting him watch the news tonight was one of them.  I just hope I am fortunate enough to have many more years with my son to try and get it right.