The dreams I have about my dad have taken on a new theme: recovery. In two very recent, very vivid dreams, my dad appears to me as if he has somehow started to beat his mysterious cancer. In these dreams he looks markedly improved, he can walk easily and speak clearly. He has even started to gain weight—evident in his big old belly—and color in his cheeks; even his light brown hair looks thicker and healthier. He never smiles, though.
In the most recent of these dreams, which occured just two nights ago, I am on some kind of train or plane, being lectured on running for president (where the heck did that come from?). All of a sudden, to my left and behind me a hand reaches out to me. I turn and grab it, and it is my dad’s hand. It’s kind of like he just awakened from something, possibly a coma, and tells me he finally feels better. He is wearing a bright indigo button-down shirt and old-man jeans, he is still a little skinnier than usual, but he is my dad. Next to me. Holding my hand. Talking. Alive.
These types of dreams remind me of this eensy weensy glimmer of hope I felt during the two weeks my dad was in the hospital. About a week after he was admitted, he started to improve and the doctors were telling us fairly positive news. I decided to believe them (silly me) and started feeling hopeful, even made some plans that took me outside of the hospital, and then he took the ultimate turn for the worse. The pain was too much, he said over and over again, he needed more medication. The medication, which my mom and I were vehemently opposed to, made him basically unable to communicate. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember the last words we exchanged.
What really kills me is what happens in these dreams could have happened in real life. (Not the running for president part, though.) The chemo and radiation could have done what they were supposed to do. He could have started to feel better, started to feel less pain. He could have even felt strong enough to go home from the hospital. It would have been a long, overwhelming, seemingly impossible road to recovery, but he could have done it. We could have done it together. When I awaken from these dreams of what could have been, I am left with a feeling of emptiness and dread. But also comfort.
Comfort, you ask? Yes, comfort. These dreams are the only form of communication I have with him now. I don’t have any old voicemails saved, I only have one old email from him, and my most recent pictures of him are from Christmas. Sometimes I ask him, right before I go to sleep, to please, please come visit me in my dreams. Please, Dad, I just need to see you. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, I get to hear his voice and hug him—the voice that used to drive me bonkers with endless questions and lectures, the hugs I used to roll my eyes at. I get to see my dad.