November 27, 2008

Last night I had the kind of dream that makes you think about what you ate at dinner. I wished I could have stayed in the dream right up until the rational part of my mind began to alter it. I dreamed that my father came back to life. I haven’t dreamed about that in a long time. I was standing in the middle of a long bridge that spanned a channel between an inlet and the sea. It was a bridge in Florida that I had driven over the previous day. The air was warm and the sun was high in the sky. The sea stretched, glittering, to the horizon. I looked down one side of the bridge but the glare of the sun off the water was so bright I had to squint. I could make out a figure of a lone man walking towards me. His gait seemed familiar yet I couldn’t quite tell who he was.

I looked in the other direction and the bridge fell away to a sandy coastline. All I could see was beach and water for miles, no life, no condos or sign of any civilization at all, accept for the bridge I was on. I turned back to see if the man had reached me and as he came closer, I realised he was my father. He was younger than he was when he died, the way I remember him when I was a child. He smiled at me. I wasn’t puzzled by his presence, but was filled with questions and a thousand things that I wanted to tell him. I felt the happy the way I remember being when I was with him. It was a wonderful moment set in the natural beauty of Florida.

But then we were in my new house and my entire family was there for dinner. They were happy and noisy and nobody was surprised to see my father. They were about to sit down to dinner, but there were two tables, one downstairs where my father and my in-laws sat and one upstairs where my mother, her new man and my siblings were seated. I was worried because I thought my mother was in a bit of a spot. Yet my father sat at his table, not caring about anything. As dreams do, mine took another weird turn. I stood on stairs, halfway between the two dinner tables and listened. I wanted to hear what my father was talking about, to see how he and my husband were getting along.

But as I listened, I suddenly realised that this wasn’t really my father. The man speaking was bland; his words lacked passion. He was docile. My father, on the other hand, had passion running through his veins. He always had a point to make and loved intelligent conversation. He didn’t care much for trivialities. But in my dream, the man I’d taken to be my father was commenting on the weather and saying things like “Isn’t that nice” and “What a lovely day it is.” At this point I knew I was dreaming, but I didn’t want reality taking over. I wanted the father who was there with me on the bridge, not the hollow version of him sitting at the table.

I looked up the stairs and my mother stood at the top, a knowing look on her face. I was just about to tell her he wasn’t real, although I think she already knew, when I woke with a start. My husband was getting out of bed. I looked around the room, unsure of where I was, then remembered that we were on vacation at our condo in Florida. The clock read five after eight. I closed my eyes and thought about my dream. As soon as I’d tried to bring my memory into my current life it had collapsed.

I was thinking about how my rational mind interfered in my dream, how it took my father away the moment I focused on my current world. Suddenly a familiar voice brushed past my ear and whispered “Sarah.” I sat bolt upright but nobody was in the room. I looked back at the clock, seven minutes past eight. My husband walked out of the bathroom. I couldn’t place the voice — maybe my father’s… I looked out the window. A thick fog filled the tennis courts and the palm trees stood still like guardians watching over things. Silence replaced the usual morning sound of tennis balls bouncing in the courts.

It’s been two and a half years since my father died. He died at eight in the morning on a warm sunny day in September. The dreams I used to have of him were more like nightmares. Each would start with a struggle. He’d be in the distance and I’d have to run hard or climb a steep mountain to reach him. I’d get to him excited and wanting to tell him so many things. I’d have thousands of questions to ask him but when he turned to me his eyes would be empty. He’d be an empty shell with no mind inside him. But this dream seemed so different. This time he came to me, I wasn’t scrambling to reach him. His eyes held the life I remember in them and for a very brief moment I found happiness as we stood on the bridge looking out over the sea.

I wonder if Florida triggered the bad twist in my dream? I never feel truly comfortable here. It’s as if the land below my feet is temporary. There’s an emptiness to the place, in the strip malls, fast food joints and trailer parks. The majestic beauty of the ocean pulls me back to Florida every year but the human element seems to lack a soul. It reminds me of Niagara Falls. The beauty of the water has a way of magnifying the man-made emptiness that surrounds it. I’m not sure why I’m trying to find meaning in this dream, it was probably brought on by the lobster I had at dinner last night.


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