A common theme for my dreams is lost things. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who spends her nights searching for lost items and sometimes lost people. Last night was one of those nights, when I was searching and searching for something (I can’t remember what, now), and suddenly my dad was there. He drove up in a pristine classic car (wish I could tell you what kind it was, I want to say Impala, but I’ve had a day to reflect and so I see him in his old El Camino). He pulled up beside me and said, “come on,” which was not, as you might think, an invitation to get in the car with him, but an invitation to follow. And so I did. On foot. I raced after him and he led me into a parking garage under a shopping mall, and then sped off, leaving me standing there, panting, yelling “Dad?” in a real “WTF?” tone. It was only after he was out of sight that I remembered he is dead.
And then I woke up.
And the dad-feeling I had in that dream spirited away like a birthday balloon in a Santa Ana wind.
You go ahead and analyze the dream for me because I’m done trying.
But I will say that the dream has come back to me in strange moments today and as much as I yearn for restful sleep, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have glimpsed my dad again–even if it was in the bleary-eyed recesses of my brain.
I can explain this, maybe. I’m listening to Gilead by Marilynne Robinson as I drive to and from work these days. It is the story of an older father who is dying who writes a letter to his 7 year old son. It is the story of three generations of ministers and it is quite beautiful. I’ll listen to the end of the book tomorrow, but as the government shutdown has lingered on, it has been a real comfort to be able to settle into this story of hard times and strong faith and …. love. Love of family, love of community, but mostly love of God. Yes, it has been strange comfort. In fact, tonight I heard a line that made me stop the CD and just roll it over in my brain for a while. The narrator was talking about his father and grandfather who had a history of difference, anger, and distance, but he describes them sitting on the porch shelling black walnuts (that his mother said tasted like furniture) and remarks that they enjoyed each other’s company best of all–when they were silent. I’m not doing it justice. It’s a beautiful line that paints a picture of love beyond reason, of the familiarity that is usually strained, of the need to sometimes just be with people, shelling walnuts. It sketched silence as a gentle buffer that actually envelopes and connects.
The dream of my dad came back to me in that moment. My dad liked to talk about ideas and theory and sometimes his thoughts weren’t in league with mine. But there were times when he would be watching tennis or football and I’d go in the room regardless of my interest in the sport. I’d go in the room just to sit. I’d read the paper or a book or pretend to watch the television. In listening to Gilead tonight, it became clear to me what my motive actually was. Just to be with my dad, to be in his presence, especially when we weren’t talking to each other.
That last makes it seem like my dad and I were at odds. We weren’t. But sometimes you need to have that person in your life who will sit quietly with you and not ask your motives, your desires, or even if you want a snack. Someone who provides that buffer of silent comfort.
Tonight, as I lay me down to sleep, I’ll pray my father comes again. And maybe he’ll have a basket of black walnuts and take a seat on the porch instead of speeding off in his El Camino.
And then maybe I’ll sleep deeply and well, as he watches.