Do you ever have those dreams that seem real? No unicorns, headless bodies or falling fifteen stories, I mean real dreams. Those dreams that you mention to your friends as though the events actually happened and they say, “Uhhh that never happened. Maybe you dreamed it.” I have those types of dreams on occasion. Last night was one of those occasions.
The dream was so real…
I was walking out of my apartment with my dad (keep in mind, my dad has not seen my apartment because I didn’t move out of his house until after he died). I pointed my car out to him in the parking lot (another purchase made after his death).
“Look Dad, there’s my truck. Do you like it?” I asked him. “What kind of truck is it?” He asked. “A Ford Escape. I love it.” I answered. He smiled and, always thinking about finances, said “It’s nice, but you have to pay a lot in gas to fill those up.” “It’s actually really good on gas and the tank isn’t that big.” I said triumphantly. We climbed into his SUV. He in the front and I in the back (which is weird, I know). We sat there talking while waiting for my mom to come out of the apartment and to the car. The inside of his car was really spacious, like a Cube. “Wait a second,” I laughed at his double standard, “Dad, you’re talking to me about my gas, but you have an SUV! What are you going to do with this?” He laughed too then said, “I’m going to give it to your mom.” I knew he was talking about if/when he died because he was always talking about if/when he died. He would tell me what to do, who to call, where to bury him etc. I haaaaated that growing up (now, I’m thankful he did cause for the most part I knew exactly what to do).
My mom had reached the car at this point and opened the door. I flopped back against the backseat irritated that my dad had made yet another reference to his possible death. I opened my mouth to say something to my mom then a realization hit me and I stopped and stared at my dad. “Wait a second…” I said aloud but stopped short of finishing my sentence outside of my head. I sat there blinking. Unable to say what I wanted because I didn’t want the words to make them real.
Both of my parents looked at me expectantly. My dad is dead, I thought to myself. Knowing my propensity to have “real” dreams (as I explained earlier), I turned and glared at my mom. “Am I dreaming?” I said hotly. She hesitated, took a deep breath and then nodded. My eyes widened and I held out my arm to her. “Wake me up.” I demanded. “Pull my arm hard and wake me up.” She stood there for a moment looking at me in pity and then reached out to grab my arm. As soon as she touched my arm, I said “Wait!!!” stopping her from yanking it. Still, I could feel myself beginning to wake up. Knowing full well I was dreaming now, I didn’t want to lose this moment. I hadnt dreamed of my dad in a while and it all felt so real, like I had him back in my life and I wanted to savor this moment. I cautiously reached out my hand to my dad half-expecting his hand to go through mine like in the movies. But he put his hand in mine and I felt it. I immediately reached forward, wrapped my arm around his neck and hugged him cheek-to-cheek. I kissed his cheek and he kissed mine. “I love you.” I said. “Goodbye.” Then I woke up.
It was the first time I’d ever said goodbye to my dad in a dream.
Right after my dad died, I dreamed about him at least three nights a week. Nine months later, I dream about him only every now and then. It’s always a different scenario, but it always seems real. But it’s not real and I know that. He’s gone forever.
And while it’s natural to dream about someone you’ve lost (or so I’ve read), I don’t know what that dream meant. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. It’s not like I didn’t say goodbye to him before — granted, I had NO IDEA it would be the last goodbye we’d ever have.
A few days after my graduation, I went to visit my mom in Atlanta for a week. I said goodbye to my dad and kissed him on the cheek before I left. I was still going to be in Atlanta on Father’s Day and I had bought him two cards (a funny one and a heartfelt one — as was my custom), but I was in a rush so I just told myself I’d give them to him when I got back. I called him the second day I was there to ask him to “puh-leeeeze send me money”. He did without asking about the money he’d just given me the day before I left (that money was gone before I left). I called him again on Father’s Day and we talked on the phone for a minute. A day or two later, I was getting milk out of my mom’s refrigerator and I randomly thought to myself, I should call my dad. Then I said, “I’ll just call him tomorrow.” He died the next morning.
It’s weird that something so devastating would happen to me. I’m not a “victim”. Before losing my dad, the only thing I’d ever lost was my keys, my wallet and a diamond ring my mom had given me on my 10th birthday. The only real heartbreak I’d experienced was being inexplicably obsessed with a guy who was nonchalant toward me. I’ve never even broken a bone. I read about tragedies and books and heard about them on the news and listened to stories from my friends, but in 23 years, I had never experienced anything catastrophic.
And then, out of nowhere at 6:30am on a Wednesday morning, I lost a piece of me. It was the most alarming, hysterical, life-changing phone call I’d ever received. Jolting me from my peaceful sleep, my sister was screaming into the phone that my dad had been shot. I yelled at her to call an ambulance and she was just crying and crying and crying. I kept yelling through the phone that she needed to call the police and an ambulance. Finally my mom realizing that I wasn’t comprehending the situation, whispered: “He’s dead, Alissa.”
I’m fortunate that my dad died while we were on extremely good terms because I don’t have that guilt that some kids have who are estranged from their parents. But it’s also all the more devastating because we were so close and I had just graduated from school and I didn’t even get a chance to live with him full-time again. We had plans for that summer including a trip to Chicago or Las Vegas, celebrating the 4.0 I earned my last quarter of college with banana splits at Dairy Queen, meeting during his lunchtime for lunch at Tuttle Crossing Mall and of course, just being father-daughter…not to mention the entire rest of my life. All of that was snatched away from me ten short days after graduating from college. He was there to see me graduate (which is great), but now my diploma is tucked away, I’m living my life and I will Never. Have. A. Father. Again.
Plenty of people are fatherless (and plenty more have absent dads right there at home). In fact, the title of this blog came from the most famously fatherless man in America: President Barack Obama. But I’m not talking about him or anyone else.
This is about me and my dad. And the fact that the only time I see him now is in my dreams….
I miss him every day.