The first time I dreamed of my father, none of us spoke to him.
My mother, my sister and I were in our kitchen – in our old house, our first house. The yellow one where most of my happiest memories were made, where I found a dying butterfly in the snapdragons and we’d get our stuffed animals caught on the power lines; the house that was knocked down and made into a parking lot after we sold it to a car dealership.
It was that house, and dad kept trying to talk to us, but we ignored him.
My mom and sister wanted to respond, but I stopped them every time. ‘You can’t, mom,’ I’d say. ‘Don’t, Katie. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know he’s dead, and if you talk to him, he’ll go away.’
He got so pissed when none of us spoke to him, because it was so obvious we could hear him. My dad was yelling at me in my dream, and I ignored him then just like I did in real life. I wasn’t sad in the dream, but I woke up crying.
The second time I dreamed of my father, we were eating dinner.
The four of us, again. This time, we were in our second house, before it caught on fire. Dad had made us dinner and was serving it to us while we sat, which made me immediately aware that it was a dream, because that simply never happened. I think it was fish. I hate fish, but I don’t remember being disappointed.
My dad was being so uncharacteristically nice, offering to clean up some of the dishes before we’d even eaten. ‘No,’ we all said. ‘Don’t be silly. Sit, eat with us.’
And he did, and we actually had a normal conversation. Also strange, because in reality, my dad ate like a vacuum and would be finished before my mom had even gotten her tea and joined us at the table. This time he ate slowly, and we had a family dinner.
But we all knew he was dead.
There was this sort of unspoken acknowledgement that as long as we didn’t bring it up, as long as we didn’t say it, he wouldn’t go away. I was crying in my dream while we talked, forcing a smile like it was all okay, and crying when I woke up.
The third time I dreamed of my father, it was just me. We were in the family room sitting on the couch, and he was yelling at me for something I hadn’t done yet. A far more typical interaction.
‘Don’t name him that,’ he kept saying. ‘Give him a normal name, for God’s sake.’
‘Dad,’ I snapped, ‘I’m not naming anyone anything. I’m not pregnant.’
‘Not yet, but you will be. Don’t give my grandson a stupid name.’
I yelled at him for assuming I would have a child – a son, to be precise – and he yelled at me for a name I hadn’t even chosen yet, because clearly whatever I would decide on would be dumb. I told him it didn’t matter, it wasn’t happening, and he couldn’t send me passive-aggressive texts about babies, anymore. He said ‘Watch me’, which was as funny as it was horrifying.
I woke up panicked, checking my phone with my heart in my throat. There were no new texts, but I took a screen shot of the last conversation that we had like that because it suddenly seemed important that I always have it. Then I cried.
You have to understand, too, that I’m not much of a crier. I didn’t cry at the visitation, I didn’t cry at the funeral. I had one good cry on the night he died, by myself, holding the comb we used to fix his hair. I’ve been pretty statuesque since then. The fact that I sometimes wake up crying is fucked up and I hate it, and I’m not sure if I want to keep having these dreams or not.
Either way, I continue to have them pretty frequently. We sometimes fight, but more often than not, we just talk. I usually don’t remember what about, but it’s all so bizarre, because I have now officially talked more to my father in dreams than I did when he was alive. I suppose one could argue that I’m really just talking to myself, technically, but I like to think it might be something more than that. Maybe.
There’s no resolution to this rambling bit of writing. Sorry.
Happy birthday, Dad.