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. ❤