If my dad were alive, he would have turned 74 today. I know it is kind of ludicrous to say something like this. James Madison was also born today, in 1751. No one is saying, “If James Madison were alive today, he would be 261 years old.” Of course not. No one lives to be 261 years old. Yet, people live to 74. Every year, I will probably think about how old he should be, at least for a few more years. Don’t get me wrong, I am not maudlin that he has passed on. Dying is a part of living, and for whatever reason, he was not meant to see 74.
The way I miss my father is very different from the way I miss my mother. The last time I saw and spoke with my mother was in March of 2006. My father passed away three weeks to the day after my mother. Yet, I feel like I have seen and talked to him since. For whatever reason, periodically, he appears in my dreams.
“So what?” you think. “We all dream about the ones we love.”
I agree. However, these dreams are not about recalling a memory, nor are they dreams of deep-seeded emotion that I have not quite allowed myself to feel or express. These dreams are like memories to me. You see, in these dreams I know he is dead, yet we are together.
I am at the house I grew up living in. I am walking through the front door, which is odd because we did not use the front door. The front door was the way visitors and guests entered the house. But here I am entering the door. The house looks exactly the same. Directly ahead is the hallway that leads to the kitchen. To the left is the livingroom. It looks the same as it did in 1975. The carpeting is gold, the coffee tables are ornate, and the furniture is saffron and teal green. I feel an urge to walk upstairs and see my old bedroom, but I am contained by the sight of my father. He is walking toward me down the hall.
“Dad.” I run into his arms. We hug– hard, and he kind of rubs my back with his knuckles. He smells like Old Spice and cigarette smoke. “You’re here. I look at him and he is smiling. “I miss you!” I know he is dead. I know we shouldn’t be hugging. I know I should not be able to smell him, but I do.
“I miss you, too, Peachy Poo. I miss you, too.”
I awake. This is usually all that it is. A hug. A smile. A moment. Always, in that house.
Frankly, I do not know what it means. Maybe it is just my imagination inventing an elaborate scenario so I can be with my father. However, if that is the case, why do I know he is dead? Wouldn’t I want it to be a memory of our life together, not an acknowledgement of my life without him? Why do I only dream about my father in this manner? I have never woken after dreaming about my mother thinking that I knew she was dead in the dream.
These dreams make me feel. I feel serene. I feel secure. I feel steady. I feel like my dad is watching over me, protecting me because I am his child. I cannot say if these dreams are anything more than unconscious, involuntary images. Nonetheless, I love when it happens. I feel like these instances are a gift: to see him, to hug him, to be reminded so vividly of his smile, his smell, his voice.
I haven’t had one of these dreams in a while. Maybe, I never will again. However, like any good memory, I relish in the remembrance. We were together.