Members of my family dream about dead people. No, really, we do. We dream about our loved ones, and in almost all cases, we dream about the fathers who have passed. They used to come to us when there was a pending death in the family; we think they came to escort those on their way out. The first time I became aware of this phenomena was ten years ago, when my grandfather was dying; in the days before he slipped away, he told my aunt that her husband had come to help him "change shirts" and to teach him how to go to the beyond. As my uncle's death, which had occurred only weeks before my grandfather's, had been kept a secret, my aunt was understandably freaked out (later she confessed to feeling comforted, knowing that her husband and her father were both in safe keeping). And on the day my grandfather died, he whispered that my uncle and "the angels" had come for him.
Years later, as his sister was dying, my grandfather appeared in dreams to my mother and two of her sisters on the same night. They all described him as indescribably, ethereally beautiful and filled with joy to see them. His sister died a few weeks later. I am certain that when my father's time came, his mothers and fathers came for him.
Recently, my father has been visiting my sisters and my mother in their dreams. We don't have anyone departing on deck. It's just as if he's decided to be sociable. In all their dreams, he is young, as when we knew him, beautiful, vibrant and happy, thrilled to see them as they are to see him.
I wonder why he does not come to see me.
An acquaintance of mine is a therapist and grief counselor. After last year's twelve week roller coaster of death, I found myself talking to him frequently.
"If you had three wishes, what would they be?" he asked me one day. I told him I had only one.
"I want one more day with my dad so we can eat together as a family, so he can talk to my mom."
By the time my mother flew back from Vietnam to be with him in his final days, he could no longer speak. Their last moments together were spent in the bittersweetness of his tube-enforced silence. But eloquent: the eyes say oh so much and never more so than when they are filled with love.
"What would you eat?" he asked.
The possibilities are endless. There is so much food I associate with my dad. Cream of mushroom soup is my first food memory of him; in 1977 as he was getting ready to go to work at the grocery store, I came into the dining room and found him eating a bowl of soup I had never before seen; and he let me try it and the cream, stock and fungi literally exploded in my mouth, so much so that 34 years later, that taste memory now causes my salivary glands to go into overdrive in remembered deliciousness. My mother had made the soup from scratch and that recipe used to be a staple in my food repertoire.
Dad was a complete and utter carnivore. Steak and lamb were integral parts of a red meat-infused childhood. And then there were endless baguettes, and mephitic cheeses out the wazoo.
But who are we kidding? It would be fried chicken.
His adoptive mother, Edna Bone, introduced him to the joy of Southern cooking and particularly to her buttermilk fried chicken when he was at Ft. Benning in the late 50's and he never got over it. He passed this love to us, so much so that my brother's license plate reads FRD CHKN, and we siblings nearly forgot to follow vegetarian dictates during our seven week mourning every time we walked into a Publix grocery store and smelled their fried chicken.
Sister, reflecting after Dad's funeral: "If I'd known his time was so limited, I would have let him eat fried chicken every day."
Me to Mom: "[Sister] said she would have let him eat fried chicken every day."
Mom: "Me too."
Me to Mom: "Yeah, but if we had, he might have died earlier from another heart attack."
Snorts all around.
I think my father does not come to see me because he loves me. And he knows I am not ready for him. He knows that a visit is not enough; that what I want is to hold him and not let go. I think Dad wants his visits to be happy occurrences; that they should presage a joyful waking such as those experienced by my sisters and my mother.
And because I am not strong enough yet to let go, I could only wake up in tears yearning for what will never again exist in this mortal coil.
But on the off chance that I find my oneiric cajones, I will make Grandma Bone's Buttermilk Fried Chicken for him if he does come to see me.