My dog Curly was the most beautiful golden retriever to ever exist. He had to be put to sleep six years ago, and it broke my heart in a way I thought it could never be broken again. I still miss him quite a bit, but it comforts me when he appears in my dreams. Right after he passed away I had dreams about how we somehow found a cure for his cancer, a way to remove the tumor from his spine without causing any damage, and he would be tearing through the house with that goofy grin on his face as per usual. As time has gone by, though, these dreams are more about Curly just being near me. I can smother him with an embarrassing amount of affection, run around with him outside, just take him for a walk. In my dreams he is the same silly yet mischievous Curly, and I am very happy to see him.
It is no surprise that my dad has been appearing in my dreams almost every night, but his appearances are very different from Curly’s. He is not yet an angelic figure watching over me or giving me wise advice whilst I slumber, and neither of us are happy in the dreams. Most of the time I dream about the disease. In one dream it is I who has cancer, and it manifests itself as weird growths–like boils or warts–on my arms, and that saves him. In another there is a machine that I have found, and if I push certain buttons I can turn back time and fix him. (In fact, I can cure everyone.) In another he is in a lecture hall setting, giving a speech; in a rare moment of sincerity and honesty, he tells us how much he loves us and will miss us, and how much he appreciates everything we’ve done for him while he’s been sick. In another I am away from home–at school, perhaps–while he is in the hospital, and my mom calls to tell me the news. In yet another, I keep seeing his face, or rather his head, when I’m at a party; it pops up everywhere and I scream and scream “DAD! DAD!” but no sound comes out and I cannot reach him. In none of these dreams does he look like the man with the unknown form of cancer, he just looks like my dad.
My dreams have never been very clear. I’m good at remembering the feelings and themes of my dreams, but never the exact sequence of events or a detailed picture of the events. In all of these dreams about my dad I remember screaming, crying, experiencing the rawest forms of the emotions constantly pulsating through my body, mind, soul, heart. When I wake up I see the smudgy black stains on my pillow and know I have been crying, and usually my mom asks what I was dreaming about because I was shouting in my sleep.
I used to have similar dreams about my mom. Sometimes she died from the brain cancer, sometimes from something else entirely. I experienced the same raw emotions, but paired with a fear I wouldn’t let myself feel when I was awake. I always woke up knowing it was just a dream, though; I woke up knowing she was either down the hall or three hours away. Now, when I wake up I have to remind myself that the exact opposite of my dreams is true: He is gone, and it hurts like hell. Then I wish I were still dreaming, in the place where I can see his face and hear his voice.