(more)… at a club with someone I am familiar with but cannot name. This place is staffed with ex-Disney employees and they’re known for being congenial. Everyone is attractive here – patrons and employees. The person I’m with orders a martini. Classy, I think. I ask for a scotch. (more)
I’m in the press box at District 12 stadium, watching and discussing who will likely win the football game transpiring below. Embarrassingly, I forget who is playing and ask Brian Dunn, who tells me ‘It’s Carolina’ and then goes on to say that he’s been playing for them for years. I don’t question why he’s not currently in the game. A play ensues and the football is advanced nearly the entire length of the field. I realize it’s time for me to join.
I’m the kicker and my performance will decide whether or not we win or lose. It’s not a position I’ve played before or am comfortable with. I take a second to get focused and kick the ball as hard as I can. It’s a good kick and I breathe a personal sigh, knowing it was only by accident that I sent the ball out of bounds at the 3 yard line. Others are happy and patting me on the back. I am quietly comforted by not failing, and care little about the actual game. It’s my team’s turn to play defense.
On the sideline, I see that the defensive line is made up of my dad’s friends. I think to myself, they look so old out there. Now I am confused, wondering if I am actually playing anymore. I hear my dad say that it’s time to switch. I look up, wondering if that is my cue to again join the other players. He’s on the field walking towards where I stand on the sidelines. It’s time Moose, he says.
Something is wrong. I can see it in his eyes as he comes closer. The eyes…it’s the eyes… Something is happening inside him. His eyes are seeing things I can’t see, he’s somewhere else.
Suddenly he falls onto the field, into a large book that’s lying on the grass. I call 911 with a phone I find on the sideline. Someone behind me says ‘He’s dead.’ I turn to him and the book is now closed and facing the opposite direction. I think about the eyes of my father.
Robert Richman approaches me and places a hand on my back. He says ‘He just burned up.’ I know, in some way, that he means my father’s brain fried, quickly, and that he didn’t suffer.
Kim arrives and I begin to cry uncontrollably.
I bolt upright in a torrent of sorrow, waking my wife to tell her my father has just passed. You’re dreaming, she says, and I sit there, unmoving, in the dark for several minutes trying to assemble a path from my dream state to wherever I am now. Eventually I make it to the bathroom and sit on the edge of the tub to write it all down, gasping for air. I believe I may be dying myself and am fighting to capture my final minutes.
Tonight I have been pierced with barbed hauntings that fasten within my flesh and only dig in deeper as I struggle to get free, to pull them out of my skin so I can stop this hurting. It’s not the first time I’ve been preyed upon by my own dread, which usually lies dormant. The lingering anticipation of my father’s death is always within me, incubating. But sometimes it spasms without warning and I struggle to beat it back into its lockbox that resides in the high security archives of my subconscious.
I am forgetting details, writing faster, scribbling notes to myself on the back of a picture Lily drew for me… I recognize that it’s a picture of me when I was a child, yet another sign that everything I’m experiencing is significant. I expect to be awake for the rest of the night.
Before bed I ate several meat sticks from Wisconsin, the same kind my father used to eat when I was a child. In part, I credit them with my current state. When I eat just before sleeping, frantic dreams are imminent. But I can’t escape the suspicion that there is something else to credit as well, something that led me to eat those meat sticks tonight. I haven’t eaten them in years.
The sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle references to my father are undeniable; scotch, football, District 12 Stadium, the reference to Carolina… all meaningful and obvious ingredients. Without question, the importance of my performance in kicking the football is a relative to the path I followed as a child. By applying little effort, I could earn the approval of my dad and appear good at something he was good at. But I never really cared about it. Things seemed good from the outside but I always felt counterfeit beneath my skin.
In my dream, my father died at the same point in my life that I feel he stopped really serving as my father. And he died on the football field. My quitting football was a turning point in our relationship. The bond we had for 20 years was changed forever the day I told him I would no longer strap on cleats and dedicate hours of every day to serving as a younger version of him.
Robert Richman is loitering in my psyche again. This is the second dream where he’s appeared in the act involving my dad’s death. Here is the first. Aside from his own father dying, I don’t know what his connection is to this part of me.