Three weeks ago my dad and I got in an argument about nothing. He said something in jest, and I failed to see the humor. He bristled when I told him to be quiet, and I bristled when he refused to admit his jokes weren’t at all funny. We bristled back and forth until we crowded the room with our discontent. When there wasn’t any room left, he walked out with barely a goodbye. Good riddance, I thought to myself.
I ignored the silent looks from both my mom and The Mister. Had they scolded me, I might have come unglued and created another argument. Instead, an hour later I called my dad to apologize for being disrespectful. (Even though I thought his joke was stupid.)
He accepted my apology grudgingly, reminding me this wasn’t the first time I tried to rule with an iron fist. I promised out loud, and in my heart, to stop parenting my parents, which is a travesty, really, because I know the world would be a better place if everyone just listened to the oldest child.
I woke up early Saturday morning, already reflecting on the dream that was almost a nightmare.
In my dream my dad had been dead for some time. I knew this because I felt more resolved than destroyed and walked with the posture of someone shouldering the weight of acceptance. I walked and walked until I found myself in a room where water slid down the walls in sheets. The floors must have been perforated, because while the water never stopped flowing, the floors didn’t seem to collect water. I paused and looked at the floor, wondering if someone dreaming about walls made of water should be taking the time to figure out their subconscious’s drainage system. Even my dreams have an air of pragmatism.
And suddenly, he was there.
I don’t know if I saw him or felt him, but the room full of water was also full of my dad. His voice, his personality, his smell…it was everywhere.
I called out, and he replied as if we always met in watery rooms. Since I was dreaming, maybe we did.
He asked about my mom, and how she was doing.
I said she was fine, but that she missed him…that we all missed him.
He said that he understood, but that things weren’t really all that bad where he was. The best part was that now he really was in twelve places all at once, which was as convenient as he always imagined. The only thing he really didn’t like was that he couldn’t give me a hug.
I agreed that it wasn’t very fair.
But, it was okay, he said, because he had devised a plan, which is why he lead me to the room full of water. All I had to do was pick up the electrical cord in the corner. If I felt the pulse of an electrical current, that was him giving me a hug.
So I picked up the cord and he gave me a hug.
I woke up with the feeling of electricity still in my palm. Mikey had an early morning soccer game, so we were on the field by 7:45am. At such an early hour, I didn’t expect to see him, but there he was, standing in his favorite spot on the opposite side of the field. I didn’t speak with him much during the game, but told him briefly about the dream. He scoffed and pretended he didn’t see my wipe at my eyes. I spent the rest of the game chatting with my mother in-law.
We weren’t planning on going to breakfast, but made a last minute decision to visit a hole in the wall. My mom met us there, much to my delight. After my dream, it was nice to have both parents near me. I told my mom about “dad as electrical current” and she also scoffed, proclaiming she would definitely be the one to go first.
It turns out both of my parents have a warped idea about what is funny.
Not to pat myself on the back (much), but I didn’t bristle. I may have blinked, and perhaps rolled my eyes, but I didn’t bristle.
Everyone had a great time, especially the boys, who picked up my relaxed mood on their Allowable Behavior Radars. They rolled around on the booth seats much longer than I would have normally let them.
When it was time to leave, The Mister asked my dad if he would let him pay, just this once. (It’s been 12 years, but he keeps asking.) My dad laughed and shook his head. The Mister asked if he would ever let him pay.
“You’ll have to wait until I’m dead,” he said, still very much alive.
Then he thought about it and added, “But even then, I’ll probably visit in the form of an electrical current and short out the register.”
It was a joke, and I thought it was funny.