On Grieving, Part 6 and a 1/2: On Dreaming
This one’s a little different.
Two nights ago I dreamt of my Dad. This happens from time to time. It used to be more frequent, almost nightly. Night after night I would dream that he was still alive, that we’d found a cure or that he’d just stopped being dead (because that’s possible) and morning after morning I would wake up and lose him all over again when I remembered that wishing and wanting is simply not enough. Seriously, my subconscious really sucks sometimes.
It’s been a little a while since I’ve had one of these dreams. Dad pops up occasionally, but as a blurry background character now and his rich, engaging voice is just a tinny echo of my own.
Two nights ago, I dreamt that I was in my parents house in Manotick. In the reality of the dream, it was present-day and I knew, as did everyone else, that Dad was dead. I was busying myself in the living room and then I heard a sound I’ve heard thousands of times in my life, coming from the kitchen:
Called in a great, big voice. A voice that could fill the whole house, yelling the pet name for me that only that voice was allowed to use. It was my Dad.
I must have been very distracted by what I was doing because I didn’t think this was strange at all. Absent-mindedly I yelled back, as I had a hundred thousand times before:
And the voice did what it often did, something I was quite used to from childhood, which was to begin asking me a question and trail off in the middle as soon as my Dad became distracted by the newspaper or something on the radio.
“Caitie, do you…?”
“…Do I what?” I replied impatiently, as I had a hundred thousand times before, just as I remembered with my blood turning to ice in my veins that Dad was dead and gone.
Time passed disjointedly, as it does in dreams and a moment or a day later I looked up towards the dining room. We were having a party, and drifting among the guests was a large translucent shape. As I watched it focused itself, gaining edges, becoming solid. And then, there was my father, standing among the crowd, smiling at me.
Stunned, I raised my hand and said quite simply:
I said it quietly, but everyone stopped and gaped at me. Before I knew it, Dad had disappeared and I was surrounded by people asking me if I was alright, telling me that Dad was dead and gone, and didn’t I remember? I told them I was fine, that it was nothing, to forget about it.
Later, Mark, Mum and I were in the sitting room, when Mark cried out and pointed to the centre of the room. There was the shape again, growing sharper and more defined, transforming into my Dad, real and solid.
As soon as he appeared, I ran towards him and threw my arms around him, and as I did I called out,
I have not called him Daddy since I was in kindergarten.
Mum and Mark joined me, and put their arms around him too. Erica was in the other room, and desperately we called for her. She came running at topspeed, and there is no way I can describe with words the look on her face when she saw Dad. We all wrapped ourselves around him and I knew that we had to hold onto him as tightly as we could and not let go, for as long as we held onto him he would not disappear again.
I told Mum about this dream, and she told me that she doesn’t dream about him anymore, that she wants to but that she hasn’t for a long time. There have only been a couple of dreams I’ve had where I felt like it really was Dad visiting me and not just some dream-construct made up by my brain. This dream felt like Dad. And I wondered, why did he visit me and not Mum? I wonder if it’s because I share his blood, that I am, in part, made of him. Maybe it’s easier to visit that way.
Last night I was in Manotick and was sitting in my Mum’s office. I have a complicated relationship wth that room. It used to be my childhood bedroom. It was later converted into my Dad’s sickroom, as it was the only bedroom that had room enough for a wheelchair, and it was the room where he spent his last days. For two years, it echoed with all the sadness held inside it but it has recently been transformed through my mother’s efforts, into a room of bright colours and beauty, the ‘Room of Infinite Possibility’ as my Mum calls it, and now after two years I feel comfortable spending time in it again. My Mum has moved Dad’s old antique desk there, and now I can sit at it and see the old familiar view from the window that I remember so well, and watch the river and write.
There are several photos on the wall. One of them always draws my eye. It’s a picture of my Dad walking through a beautiful green landscape, hills to his left, a great blue sky above him and the sea just out of sight. The picture was taken in Newfoundland, the summer of 2009. Dad was in the early stages of ALS then, but we didn’t know it yet. He knew something was wrong though. He’d always been a walker, and could spend hours and hours on his feet exploring new cities or hiking through new terrain. Yet, he couldn’t seem to do it as he used to. He was getting tired too quickly, tripping more and more, his legs betraying him as they never had before. In that picture he is a dying man and he doesn’t know it yet, but though his back is to the camera you can see the determination in his steps, his resolve to lead the way and make it to the shore. His head is held high, his posture is straight, he’s going to make it there.
The first time I saw that picture was about two months ago, and when I saw it I cried. Because when I try to picture him, when I wonder where he is now, that’s how I imagine him. I see him in a beautiful landscape, walking away.
As I stared at that picture last night, this poem poured out of my pen. And now I think I know why Dad visited me the night before. He needed me to get this message to Mum. I know I held the pen and paper and it’s written in my chickenscratch handwriting, but I’m convinced that these words are his. He even told me the title. Here it is:
Come walk with me, my love,
Our journey’s not yet done.
There’s miles more to travel
‘Fore the setting of the sun.
And you’ve been so patient with me,
I know I’m slowing down.
Where once I tread so lightly,
I find uneven ground.
Yet the sky is high and clear
And there is strength left in me yet
And with you beside me
I can think of no regret.
So walk with me, my love,
‘Til the setting of the sun,
We have miles left to travel
And our journey’s not yet done.
[Contributed by Caitlin Corbett, and her father]