I don’t remember my father. The last time I saw him, I was so young that any memories of him have long disappeared. I spent half of my adult life trying to find him, but before I did, he died.
When he passed away in 2006, it hit me hard. Mostly because a lot of the questions that I had for my father would never be answered. I guess that ultimately what I really wanted was an opportunity to look into his eyes and see where I came from.
This isn’t going to be a longwinded, sappy-rant about my dad and not having him in my life. I always managed to get by. This is about something I experienced this past Friday, something that I’m really not going to do any justice by trying to put it into words. This is something else.
I work nights, so I arrived home at about 4:30 Friday morning. I did some odds and ends around the house and went to bed by 7:00. By noon, I was scratching my head and wiping away sweat- wondering why the dream I just awoke from seemed more real than any I’d ever had.
I was in a boat, about 20yds offshore at Algonkian Park. Algonkian is a local park that I’ve frequented since I was a teenager. That wasn’t the strange part. The strange part was who was in the boat with me. My dad and I were seated, facing each other in a small paddle boat. I asked him every question that I ever wanted to ask him. He answered each one. I won’t go into what we discussed, that part, at least for this story, is irrelevant.
As we spoke, I stopped him several times, proclaiming that “this can’t be real, this is a dream.” Yet, I could taste the air. It was fresh and crisp, and it was familiar. It smelled like Algonkian, it looked like Algonkian and it simply was Algonkian. I dipped my hand in the water and it rippled like the Potomac. I shook my dad’s hand and squeezed it like I was trying to break every metacarpal. We laughed, we cried, we shouted. Everything felt real.
Naturally, my dad looked just as he does in the only picture that I have of him…
He was young and strong- A different man than the one who passed way too soon at 49. He died December 19, 2005. I never knew much else about him, but it seemed as if I was getting to know him now. I asked him what seemed to be 50 questions. As he was speaking after my last query, I woke up.
While taken aback by the dream, I proceeded about my day as usual. I showered, shaved and drank a cup of coffee. I wrote a few lines down in my poetry tablet. I watched a little Sportscenter. I washed a couple loads of laundry. All the while thinking to myself that I was somehow at Algonkian Park this morning. Everything felt real. Everything looked real. I’ve been to that same spot at that park so many times that I know every nook and cranny there. Everything was in place.
After spending most of the day working on some of my projects, I decided to take a break at about 7:30. I ate a sandwich and flipped on the news. I sat down on my living room couch, telling myself, “I’ll just sit here for a minute.” Next thing I know, I opened my eyes and it was suddenly 9:45pm. Once again, I was in the same boat, on the same river. Again, it was just as real as the morning dream.
This time it ended differently. We spoke some more, then he stood up in the boat and told me that he had to go. I said nothing. He turned and dove into the river. I stood up and looked into the water, which suddenly turned into a sheet of ice right before my eyes. I reached down, brushed off the frost and could see my dad through the ice. His face slowly sank into the darkness.
The frost felt real. The ice stung my bare hand as it rested on the cold surface.
When I awoke from the dream, my hands were cold, damp and red. I don’t expect any of you to believe that. I was alone, I had no one here to validate this- but one thing is for certain, I have no reason to lie. This time I was a little less prepared with how to proceed with the rest of my night. I was a little spooked by both dreams. The second of which felt more genuine than the first.
I tried to proceed with some short stories that I was working on, but I was simply in no frame of mind to create. My head was at Algonkian Park in a paddle boat with a young version of my father.
Already sitting with my computer I started doing random google searches. My father didn’t have any web imprints anywhere. He was basically “off-the-grid” his entire life other than jail visits. None of those records were on-line either.
The only thing that I eventually found was his obituary in his hometown newspaper, the Altoona Mirror.
I never remember reading it, and never thought to look for an obituary later. As I read it, goose bumps immediately puckered up my arms and shot down my spine. He was born May 24, 1957.
Friday was May 24. I knew how hold my dad was, but I never needed to know his date of birth. I wasn’t part of his life. Suddenly, I felt more involved 7 years after his death than I ever did while he was alive.
My dreams have been back to normal since Friday. For the most part they’ve been non descript and unmemorable. I wasn’t under the influence of anything on Friday, just for the record. How you interpret all of this is, well, that’s up to you. All I can tell you is that I have no reason to fabricate any of this.
Call all of this just a pair of vivid dreams on a coincidental date if you choose- but to me, it was something else.