I haven’t talked a lot about my dad here, except to mention that he died (and that he died “of cigarettes and food”), that he was a piano player and singer for a living (mostly), and that we were close. I think that’s about all. I haven’t really said a lot more about our relationship, I don’t think.
But close doesn’t really cover it. We were the extreme of close. We “got” each other on a whole other level, something deep-seated and spiritual. So, when he died very suddenly in 2003, obviously I was devastated.
I started dreaming about him only a few weeks later. I don’t mean dreams where he appeared alongside other friends and family, which were “just dreams.” I mean dreams like… no one will ever convince me they weren’t him visiting me.
I wrote all of them down over the years because I never wanted to forget them. In each of them, there were two common elements. One was that we were alone. The other was that we were very physically close at some point in the dream, about to hug or, in fact, hugging tight, or him touch my arm or head or vice versa. I had another one this morning that felt like that. Only me and him, very quiet, very simple. Maybe he was saying hello.
If you don’t want to read these I will totally understand. I’ve always wanted to put them down online somewhere though. Don’t know why, but I do.
- Late April 2003, only a few weeks after he died: Apartment in Texas we lived in when I was a teenager. I walked into the kitchen to see my dad sitting there. He was on the phone with my mom. I knew she was trying to tell him he was dead, but I also knew I needed to be the one to tell him. I grabbed the phone away from him and hung it up. He looked at me with a quizzical expression. I told him, “you’re dead.” He looked at me for a moment and then he sort of nodded and smiled. Then he got up and started cooking dinner. He was leaning against the counter and I walked over to him and said, “But it’s okay! We can still talk like this,” but as I was saying those words, he started to literally fade and disappear before my eyes. He never spoke. Woke up crying.
- May 24, 2003 (my 28th birthday): Saw him standing outside my current apartment. Walked over to him and gave him a big tight hug. I said, “I’m so glad you’re here! I really wanted to see you for my birthday.” Like the first dream, he didn’t speak. I pulled away from the hug and looked up at him and he had a very empty expression on his face, but almost sad. I said, “But you’re not really here, are you?” Then I woke up. Cried.
- September 2003: I was walking through a mall and came upon this store near the end of the building where the entrance led into people going to this dining room area on the right and a dimly lit bar/lounge on the left. I looked in there and saw my dad playing the piano and singing a tune. I entered the room and when I looked around, I saw these two old black guys at the bar, and many people at these little tables, just listening to my dad. Somehow, though it sounds ridiculous, I knew they were all dead musicians. They all were staring at me, but smiling, and they knew I was his daughter. I sat at a table near the piano and my dad finished his set and came over to me. We started talking and he told me that the last few years of his life, he had been in so much physical pain (because of his back and other physical problems) that he sometimes wished he would die. He said he was alright and he told me that all the people in there were like him (confirming what I had assumed) and that God had given him a chance to hang out and play music again and he was having a lot of fun. I don’t remember if he said anything else. A woman came over to the table and asked him to play again and everyone kind of half applauded and whistled and encouraged him to get back to the piano. He went back and sat down to play and he looked at me and started “My Favorite Year.” Because he knew how much I loved that one. Woke up still hearing him singing. I LOVED THIS ONE.
- March 31, 2005 (my mom’s birthday): (This was a very bizarre series of dreams sort of about him and his dead best friend. It culminated in this one.) I sort of half woke up and I was telling myself, no no don’t wake up, I want to keep seeing my dad. Two seconds later I dozed off again and without any preface, my dad and I were falling off a mountaintop SO high I can’t describe it. It was white everywhere, snowtop peaks, snowing everywhere. As we were falling, I was looking up at him and we were just staring at each other and I felt so much love for him and so painfully face to face close that it was almost embarrassing. He looked sad, or at least not smiling (same expression really as the one he had in my birthday dream from 2003), and I started to cry. He wrapped me up in his arms and hugged me. I could feel the material of his shirt against the left side of my face and the warmth of his chest against my tears. and we just kept falling. And then, almost as if someone had asked me out loud what was so great about my dad, I remember closing my eyes and feeling him hugging me and thinking – and saying in my head – “you could ask him anything and he always had an answer.” We hugged for what seemed like a long time before I woke up. Only 15 minutes had passed since the first time I opened my eyes.
- November 17, 2005: My dad and I were driving in what seemed like his old car, the beat up station wagon he used to have in Dallas, but we were driving around a city at night through busy streets and lots of lights and buildings. I don’t have a lot to go on but I really think it was New York City and it felt old, like we were in the 1960’s – HIS New York City. Anyway, I said to him, “do you ever go see mom?” He kind of faltered for a minute, got a sort of melancholy look on his face and said “she’s not really as open to it.” Then I said “how do I know these dreams are real, that you’re really here?” He kind of grinned and said, “well, you can’t record it or tape it or document it in any way, so there’s no proof.” He half turned to me and smiled and said, “but what do you think?” And I smiled, that smile I would get when he was teaching me a lesson or imparting some wisdom where I always felt kind of silly for even asking the question, and I said, “I believe it’s real.” Woke up.
- January 2010: We were on an old ship, almost entirely wooden. I remember being with Steve and walking through many rooms and hallways and floors. Then I opened this one door and walked outside onto a deck. The sun was very bright. I couldn’t really see water, just a vast yellow white light to my left, infinite shining light. Above me was the bottom of a wooden staircase leading to the upper open deck. My dad came over to me and hugged me. And he said in my ear: “You know there’s a higher power out there if you would just pull your head out of your ass about it.”
If you’ve read this far I appreciate it. I still find them very moving and love finally getting to share them. However, if you know me, you know there is also one glaring question here:
- Fact 1: after 10 (well, really 20) years of soul searching, 5 good years reading massive portions of religious texts from the five “big” religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism), and culling amazingly beautiful lessons from them all, I have called myself atheist for at least a few years now. I am not a smug atheist, mind you, can’t stand the type. I leave room for doubts and questions. But still. Atheist.
- Fact 2: I believe these dreams are really my dad visiting me, which means his spirit and his being exist somewhere beyond this life, which means he would already know what is out there waiting for us… wouldn’t he?
- Fact 3: He mentions “god” and “a higher power” in these dreams.
- Fact 2 + Fact 3 = Fact 1 contradicted… right?
I don’t know how to reconcile that. It has occurred to me that maybe they don’t contradict, that words can just be words, that what I DO believe – that we are all part of some greater spiritual ocean and interconnected with one another and the universe – is what he is calling “god.” And early 2010, when he was telling me to pull my head out of my ass, was not that long before I finally got sober. So maybe he was just nudging me.
Interesting to ponder, regardless.