Talking to Ghosts

Usually, my dreams mean nothing.

I wish that I had exciting dreams, or meaningful dreams, but I don’t. I often don’t remember them, or if I do, and I think about them, they are nonsense. There are no profound messages coming through, no prophecies. I used to get anxiety dreams, usually based around school. I would get borderline frustrated when I had a dream that either I hadn’t studied enough, or that I wasn’t prepared for some assignment. I woke up annoyed one day because the start of grad school was still a month away, and I had had one of those dreams. “At least wait until classes start,” I must have said to myself. I used to take long naps, and they yielded some strange dreams. Sometimes, I’d dream that I was falling, and one time, I dreamed that I was drowning. In the latter dream, I couldn’t get out of my car in time, as I opened the sun roof to make my escape. I think I got stuck. Realizing that my efforts were futile, I surrendered to the imaginary water, and then I woke up. It was intense, but I don’t think that it means anything. Maybe I’m supposed to surrender to the flow of life, or maybe the meaning will come to me when the moment is right. I won’t hold my breath.

I woke up this morning in the early hours, somewhere around six. I had been dreaming about dad, or maybe I should say that I had a dream, and he happened to be there. He doesn’t often make an appearance, and when he does, it’s often strange or unrelated to current events in my life. In this particular dream, we were in a parking lot of some sort, and he was mentioning something about surgery and the recovery. It meant nothing, he never had surgery that I’m aware of, and yet, it was good to see him. I think he was standing. I wish that I had written down more when I woke up, but I wake up pretty close to my start time for work. The time that’s available allows for me say a quick prayer, get up, get dressed, and grab a coffee. I suppose I could have taken a few minutes to grab a piece of paper and a pen, jot down my thoughts, feelings, and emotions, but the dream itself wasn’t worth holding onto. It’s what happened after that was significant

I lay there in the winter morning darkness, and for the first time in a while, I chatted with him. He didn’t talk back, but I also wasn’t looking for a response. I updated him on life, on the family, what was going on, and for the first time in such a long time, he didn’t feel so far away. There was a good and warm feeling within me, and I embraced the moment, even though it didn’t last long. I mentioned all the things that I thought were worth bringing up, and then I went back to sleep for a bit. It was a wonderfully spontaneous and organic moment. I hadn’t been thinking about him recently, and so it was the most welcome surprise I can think of, even if the dream is never all that satisfying. I didn’t get to say what I wanted to during the dream, but I sure did afterwards.

It’s been over 10 years since dad passed, and for the most part, I’ve healed. It’s not complete, the healing, and it likely never will be, but I’m okay with that. I’m coming to this place of acceptance in my life, where I’m doing my best to let it all in, both the positives and the negatives, everything. I’d been worried for some years that I’d just be this damaged human being, that this was who I am, and who I would continue to be. Now, it feels like the pain has transformed, that it has given way to loving memories of the man that was the foundation of my life for over two decades. I asked a friend if it was weird how much I still talk about him, and their response was something like, “It would be weird if you didn’t talk about him.” I appreciated that response, as I appreciate all the wonderful people in my life, in my support network, that have made getting through the last decade a bit easier.

Things are better now, I’ve processed a lot, and yet, I hadn’t figured out how to have a relationship with someone that was no longer here. Maybe it’s strange, to communicate with someone who’s no longer on this plane of existence, but it didn’t feel strange that morning, it felt amazing and natural. For the first time in a long time, dad was not reduced to some collection of memories or an abstract concept. It was a refreshing change, and I have a feeling this’ll open me up to future conversations. It’s nice to feel like I’m still communicating in some way, that dad hasn’t left our thoughts. Of course, there’s no way that he ever could, but it’s nice to feel like this is something that’s available to me. There’s a part of me that didn’t know how to approach it, and so I guess I just let it slide. I want more, though. I’m okay with more moments in my life being dedicated to my father. He’s still the lock screen on my phone, just me and him standing there, looking out at the lake. I love that my sister took this picture without our knowing. It allowed us to be completely wrapped up in our conversation. There were tough conversations happening at that time, too, but they weren’t all of that nature. Dad and I could never stay serious for too long. I’m grateful for that.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it does mean to move on, after losing someone that you love so much. I remember feeling exposed to the world, like dad was my protector. Your parent or parents act like a buffer, keeping you from having to grow up too quickly. I know that 18 technically makes you an adult, but when dad passed at 24, I was a kid without a clue. Maybe that’s what college does, extends your adolescence. A part of me needed that, given what I’d been through at such a young age, and feeling like my youth had been at least partially stolen. When dad passed, I didn’t know what to do. He was always calming, and offered up advice when the occasion called for it. I remember when he told me that I could handle going to a giant state school, when all my friends were opting for much smaller schools, and it put my mind at ease. Dad was a fountain of seemingly infinite wisdom, and more than anything, his presence in my life made me feel comfortable and confident. I know this because those two things, feeling comfortable and confident, they were conspicuously absent from my life after his passing.

Little by little, after it was over, I put myself back together, even after meaning had vacated. The process wasn’t linear, but rather, I had many starts and stops, and at least one major breakdown. And yet, I’m still here, and the progress that has been so hard fought, it’s made me into a better person than I otherwise would have been. I love people so much, despite their flaws, because I am also wonderfully flawed. I root hard for the underdog, the people trying to recover, the comeback stories, all of it. I love seeing people work through something, get their life together, but I can also sit with someone when everything is a chaotic mess. I owe so much of these wonderful things to one of the most challenging times of my life, and to the person that raised me. I’d like my conversations with dad to become a regular thing, and I hope to channel his warmth, kindness, and how relatable he was to others. I hope to see him again in my dreams, but if not, I’ll settle for a good conversation. Thanks for reading.


One thought on “Talking to Ghosts

  1. I need to pull myself together after reading this post. Your Dad was your rudder all your life and you are an honor and tribute to his memory. I hope he visits a often and brings you peace. Love you, Ugly. 🍒

    Liked by 2 people

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