It’s no secret people have thought of dreams as a way to your subconscious and a gateway for things outside this physical world to pay visit to ones left behind. Even in the Bible itself there are plenty of examples of how saints and prophets had some divine intervention through their very own dreamland. Native Americans have thought of dreams as a way to connect to mother earth and use them and analyze them as a way for guidance towards life altering decisions and actions. As for myself, I have had some dreams about my dad; one of which was within the week leading up to this past patriarchal day. Having dreamt about my dad before this recent dream I found it peculiar that it wasn’t surrounded around my dad visiting me in my dreams. He was more like a commercial break if you will. Nevertheless I do remember distinctly my dad in the dream. Please understand as I’ve gotten older, I dream less. Yet since my dad’s passing I have had a few clear and distinct dreams about him; some of which were haunting and gruesome and two that have been very peaceful and sweet that leave me simmering in his presence.
While fast asleep some nights ago I found myself in a dream that involved my younger brother and another friend – who will remain nameless. Now I couldn’t tell you specifics of the dream, why my brother was there or why my friend was in the dream, or how the three of us interacted in the dream, BUT I do distinctly remember my dad briefly in the dream, and before the dream continued, again not remembering specifics of the rest of the dream; just that my brother was there and my friend was there. In that brief moment of clarity, I was walking into my brother’s bedroom, when out of my peripheral I noticed someone sitting. Upon glancing to see who it was, I yelled “DAD” in shock as my eyes fell on my father: healthy, peaceful, content and happy. I instantly fall to my father’s knees, bury my face in his lap and wrap my hands and arms around his sitting waist as he laid his hands on my back in comfort. What he spoke was simple and short (as most of the time it is); truly a man of few words.
“Live your life.”
And with that I got up, the clarity of that moment passed, and the hazy dream went on. The last specific thing I remember was after getting up and walking towards my brother (as I originally intended to do in the dream), I looked back to get another look of my dad, but he had gone; and on I went.
Now normally, since having dreams about my dad, I’ll wake up and instantly remember I had dreamed about him, and the bittersweet emotions typically follow. But this time, he wasn’t my first thought after opening my eyes to morning sunbeams. It wasn’t until I set my coffee maker that his memory in the dream caught up to me, as did the tears. What got me the most about this particular dream was a couple of things. One: he wasn’t the main focus of the dream; he wasn’t the majority of the dream; he was simply part of the dream – like that quick commercial break if you will. Two: the fact that even though most of the time in the dream wasn’t him, he was the only moment of clarity. Sure, I can name two other people in the dream, but specifics – nope! Three: and most obviously his line to me, “live your life.” It’s a line I’ve both been striving and struggling to do.
In one sense, I continue to work towards a goal of going back to school beyond my bachelor’s degree. In fact, I have an entry exam morning set in less than a month’s time. In another sense I’ve continued with interests and hobbies like salsa dancing, running, writing, and beading to name just a few. Professionally, I’ve invested myself more in my work place, and taken on several roles at the school I teach at. Personally, I’ve made some summer travel plans to return to Philadelphia for a week in August and take advantage of some quality time with some quality friends out there; and more so I look towards some international travel plans in the near future. More personally, I’ve widened my circle of friends up to new people and others I simply looked at as acquaintances I can now call friends; heck I’ve even dated a bit since my dad passed. So by every appearance, I am indeed living my life. Then that feeling is contrasted with the unpredictable emotions of sheer grief. And when those moments come, despite every effort of mine to suppress them, I cannot.
It gets the better of me when I have a couple of close friends over at my place, and in friendly conversation I have to get up to do the dishes (anything to move and stay busy) before slamming things as the tears follow. Or when I’m feeling particularly sensitive and needy and it comes out through heightened tensions with a friend, and the conversation ends with fingers pointed, tears and frustrations. This whole grieving process has an annoying way of making me A LOT more sensitive to anything and everything, and A LOT more needy. Surly, I gotta give it up to some key players – i.e. close friends – who are pulling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty with me.
It gets the better of me when on a socially packed Memorial Day Weekend – as I was invited to a graduation party, a dual birthday party, and an anniversary party three nights in a row – I decide to bow out by 10 in the evening each time, because I can’t get my energy level even half way to the level of everyone else’s.
It gets the better of me most times I go home and spend time with my mother and as we talk about my dad, emotions are evoked.
And it gets the better of me when I don’t have my father on Father’s Day – certainly it got the better of me then!
I suppose the fact that Father’s Day was yesterday has some prompting to this reflection, and perhaps more so to the content of this post. Like all the “first” holidays and birthdays following my dad’s death on September 3rd they are emotionally taxing. Yet for some reason, I told myself it would be different for Father’s Day. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of the heavy emotions associated with my dad’s absence, and perhaps I envy those around me who actually feel happy on special occasions and holidays, and maybe I miss that part of myself. Whatever the case, I thought to myself, “mind over matter Barb, you can do this; you can get through another holiday and not cry because you miss your dad. Just focus on the beautiful California almost summer weather, just distract yourself with family, AND distract yourself by telling stories, AND distract yourself by catching up with family, AND wine, don’t forget that wine, AND put up that façade of hair, makeup and choice of attire. You got this Barb.” Well my alter ego while ready to take on the day, proved to be no match to the reality and significance of the day, and this first Father’s Day without just that – a Father.
So even though I still have my moments when grief grabs and grips me, the simple line of my dad in this recent dream resonates with me: “live your life.” In this encounter with my dad there is twofold. There is gratitude for one thing; the fact that my dad came to pay me a visit is comforting. But more importantly there is that permission I suppose I’ve been seeking to indeed live my life without the guilt that sometimes follows that I’m enjoying myself while I “should” be more solemn because my dad isn’t around to enjoy life with me. This dream, that encounter, has given me some clarity that I’m not without my dad, but that my dad is in fact with me in a different kind of presence. Thanks Dad! =)