After my dad died, I had this recurring dream for almost two years.
I’m in my old apartment, and there comes a knock at the door. I open it up, and my father is standing there, alive and grinning. And I’m overcome with this sense of relief, like some monumental worry has been lifted from my shoulders. I’m outrageously happy.
“What are you doing here?” I say to him, crying tears of joy. He’s so happy, so at ease. He’s the life of the party, the way I remember him being when I was much younger.
“Don’t you know?” he asks me. “It’s a special occasion.”
“No. Sort of the opposite.”
I’m suddenly aware of the wrapped gift in my hands. “Oh, I got you this,” I tell him, offering him the package. He takes it from me and begins opening it.
The apartment vanishes, and we’re standing on my grandmother’s back porch. Dad is still opening his present. And I realize that the package contains my grandmother’s loaded revolver.
I try to take it away from him, but he won’t let me have it. He just keeps on unwrapping it, and I’m crying because I know something horrible is going to happen once he gets it open.
I always woke up right about then.
I don’t have to be fucking Kreskin to figure that one out. My dad called and left me a message several days before he killed himself, and I never bothered to call him back. And even now, after years of therapy, I still occasionally wonder if things would have turned out differently if only I’d returned his call.
But at least the dream has gone away.
I still have the occasional dream about Dad, usually around Easter (when he died) and Father’s Day. They’re not the heart-rending ordeals that the other dream was. They’re more wistful and melancholy.
I’ve had dreams where my dad shows up in unexpectedly good health at a party, or where he’s on stage performing but I can’t seem to find a way into the auditorium.
Last night, I dreamed that I was in a car with my mom and sister, and Dad was driving in a car ahead of us, by himself. And I kept thinking, if I had known he was going to be by himself, I would have ridden with him. I woke up crying.
These dreams are about grief, not guilt. I no longer blame myself for Dad’s death. Really.
But I still sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d called him back.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.