I had a dream about Dad the other night.
He had this basement installed in the house, which — whatever — and he wanted to show me all of the antiques he had started collecting. It was a bizarre collection of ugly statues and souvenirs from places he’d never been. Some he bragged about scoring off eBay. Some still had tags from garage sales.
My father, as far as I know, never stepped foot in an actual garage sale.
The objects were all disturbing. There were weird mechanical creatures that moved when you turned a crank, or were designed to hold cigarettes or toothpicks. He kept them in cages because he was worried about people stealing his things. He wanted to show me his prized possession, something he was keeping way in the back.
Next to a small Frosty the Snowman in a glass box (something we actually have that appears every Christmas with the decorations), he had this weird Al Jolson statue. I am pretty sure it was the most racist thing I’ve ever seen. “Ain’t that something?” he asked me.
Dad was standing next to me and I could see him and smell him and when his feet moved on the cement I could hear the shuffle of his slippers, that sound of Dad walking around the house, the sound of Dad home late at night or on a Sunday morning. He was there and he was next to me and he was talking to me and sure I didn’t want to look at what he was showing me but I didn’t care because he was right there.
And then I woke up.
There is nothing more horrible than the moment. Because it seems so simple. Close your eyes and he exists. He’s alive and happy, with collectibles and worn slippers and a cup of coffee in his hand. Open your eyes and he’s gone. You have to remember, have to force yourself to remember that he is always going to be gone.
Close your eyes again. Try to push back to that. Try to fall into the dream again. But you can’t. Because you remembered. And if you try to go back to that dream, it’ll be different. You’ll know it’s all fake, fabricated as a pacifier. Not the real thing.
A blink of an eye. That’s all it takes. Your brain won’t let you fool yourself for very long. He’s gone. All you can do is cry about it, and wish for more dreams.