I got a lot of things from my dad. His freckles, his hands, a tendency to blush when drinking red wine. He also helped me realize two of my biggest passions: photography and travel. He’s the one who showed me how to make a photo look good, who bought me my first point-and-shoot and my first DSLR, and who was constantly taking photos of everything around him while I was growing up. Because of this, there aren’t a lot of photos of him–he was always behind the camera. He’s also the one who convinced me to travel abroad for the first time to the Dominican Republic. He was constantly dreaming about new places to go.
Today is the fifth anniversary of his very sudden death. I’ve written a lot about it in the past five years, but mostly keep my thoughts to myself about it all. Last night I dreamed about him for the first time in more than a year, which I find fitting, and which is why I decided to write this post. My words below are from a document I have that includes every dream I’ve had of him in the past five (*updated — eight) years. Some are difficult or disturbing, some are confusing, some are good. The further from his death I get, the less I dream about him and the more I hang on to each and every one. I think it’s pretty nice of him to visit.
April 7, 2010
I had this wonderful dream last night where dad and I were in some foreign place, like India, or something. It was hot and the sun was big and yellow and it turned everything hazy and we were petting all of these pumas and tigers and camels and lions and I loved it. I keep having dreams about dad and I never remember to write them down, but I’m going to try from now on because they are so wonderful and it’s very nice of him to visit.
October 6, 2010
We were in our old house. Erin, Jill, Maura, and I were going to go out to dinner and dad gave us each money for it. Then I told him about how I was sick and he looked at my tonsils to see if they were swollen. It was strange because in my mind, I remember thinking, “I should get to know dad fast before he dies.” As random as it was, it was the nicest dream I’ve had in a long time. He was just the same as I remember him.
November 5, 2010
I had a dream about dad two nights ago, but I forgot what it was about. But I know it was good. I had a dream about him again last night, but it was more like a nightmare. He was drunk and I hated it.
December 30, 2010
Erin, dad, and I were adventuring in some strange land and had to crawl through a giant plastic blue tunnel. There were sharks below it and I remember being scared but thinking that everything would be fine because I was with dad and that he would protect me. We climbed through and made it out of the tunnel to watch the sun set on a beautiful lake.
February 1, 2011
I dreamed he was talking to all of my new college friends in a room and I saw him, but I knew he was dead, and I didn’t want to talk to him.
July 5, 2011
Last night I dreamed about dad for the first time in a very long time. I was telling him about my life and he didn’t really care much… it was strange, but still nice to dream about him again. I was beginning to worry that the dreams were done. I wonder if there’s ever a point in time where you do stop dreaming about dead people… I hope not.
August 5, 2011
I was setting up an old, old camera that looked like it was from 1920s or something. We were on the edge of a giant cliff and I was setting the camera up to take a picture of a man, who was dad, me, and a little girl. I think the little girl was me as a kid; she had a bowl-cut and everything. I remember posing for the picture and looking at the camera for what seemed like forever. We were standing on the edge of the cliff and it was cloudy and windy and I was so worried we were going to fall off. When the camera finally finished taking the picture, we looked at it and we were all unhappy with how we looked—and it was too close up, so we decided to take it further away. And that was it.
September 25, 2011
I was in Ireland, but it looked like America. I was waiting for a bus to pick me up for a trip with my new friends. Before getting on the bus, I realized I forgot something and decided to go back to my house. I walked in and saw a bunch of people at some sort of party, and dad was there. And it was 90s dad. He had washed out jeans on. In my mind I knew he was dead, so I just hugged him and kept saying, “This isn’t real, this isn’t real.” Then it really wasn’t real. He turned into Uncle Tom. He said, “No, no it’s Uncle Tom, it’s not your dad.” And he felt really awful because he could see how sad I was.
December 12, 2011
This one was long and dark and strange. He was picking me up from somewhere and it was raining a lot. I didn’t trust him for some reason. He almost crashed into a car and I was screaming and he got mad at me because he thought I was overreacting and didn’t trust him and it made him sad. There was a tornado that we were watching through the windshield. It was on a cliff far away and was spinning, spinning, spinning. I asked him if we should run away and he said yes. Then we were suddenly in our old house at the kitchen table. Dad was paranoid and everyone was scared for some reason. He started yelling about carbon monoxide and made us all cover our faces with our shirts. I said that the carbon monoxide detector would take care of things, but he said you can’t always count on that and I said, “So are we just supposed to always worry about this and not live our normal lives?” We talked about how scared I used to be of carbon monoxide… which is true in real life. In the end, mom, Erin, Gavin, and I were in Ireland. There was a very cute black puppy that I kept taking photos of. And we were eating sausages and crackers and cheese and Erin was complaining that she wouldn’t get to see the Dingle Peninsula. Then I woke up in my little room in Limerick.
February 11, 2012
I had another dream. He was taking care of a newborn baby as a doctor. And the whole time I knew that he was really dead, and I kept thinking, “I hope he realizes what he’s missing out on.”
April 29, 2012
Erin, Gavin and I were in a strange forest with a strange man pretending to be dad. We went on all of these adventures and then at one point when we were running away from something terrifying, poser dad became actual dad. He held my hand the whole way through a black tunnel. And that was all.
November 28, 2012
We were in a rowboat on a beautiful, calm, foggy lake, but it was a little treacherous if you went far into the middle. Everything was tinted blue. It was gloomy. I remember swimming a bit between some rowboats with Erin and Gavin. Then, toward the end, I was in a rowboat by myself with dad. It was quiet and calm. We were silent. And that was it.
January 3, 2014
I haven’t dreamed about dad in nearly a year, but last night I had the nicest dream that all of us–mom, Erin, Gavin, and me–went to Colorado to ski like we always used to. We were on a bus going to the slopes and I talked to him about skiing on the blue runs and a couple black ones, and he was in. It was so good.
December 21, 2014
We were at some giant amphitheater that extended over the ocean. I was with a bunch of my co-workers and other random people. I was talking to a girl with long brown hair and a man walked up to me. It was dad, and he looked exactly how I would imagine him to look now. A little older, scruffy, with a graying beard, wearing a red sweater. He started talking to me and told me I should be careful of the icy waters below the amphitheater, that 10% of the time the waters can be fun but 90% of the time they’re dangerous. He always was so worried about us swimming in the ocean. I started to get upset because I couldn’t decide if he was alive or not. I thought that maybe he had been alive the entire time and had been hiding out in the amphitheater we were at. He told me and the brown haired girl to follow him inside, and all the sudden we were in a dark, cave-like place on a bridge. I was upset and confused about what was happening. I wanted him to be real, but I had a feeling he wasn’t. He tried to comfort me. We walked to opposite sides of the bridge, he told me to go be with my friends again, the bridge disappeared, and then he did, too.
December 4, 2015
I dreamed about dad last night. I keep thinking I’m never going to dream about him again, and then, around this time of year, he comes back. We were at my cousin Pat’s wedding, and I was running late. I had just ridden my bike on this strange trail next to a giant ocean waves for miles. The wedding was at 1 and I showed up at 1:15. Gran was waiting for me in the front row and was so mad at me for being late. Somehow, I knew dad was there, and mom and I were angry at him, because it was like he hadn’t really died. We thought he had, and now he was back, and we were upset that he put us through all of the pain we went through when he wasn’t even dead. I saw him when I was coming out of a bathroom stall outside of the chapel. He just stood there and watched me put on lipstick in the mirror. I ignored him. Gavin came in and asked me if he could have some of my drink. I said yes, and dad scolded me for telling Gavin he could drink when he wasn’t old enough. I got upset and told him he couldn’t tell me how to treat Gavin. That we were grown up and older and he had missed it all. And then I woke up. That one was a little too real.
October 7, 2016
This one was strange and fleeting. I was in the middle of a different dream, and all of the sudden I was outside of a house in the winter. Dad was lying on the curb next the street and was hurt. I distinctly remember thinking that he was like a wounded animal — like road kill. I started screaming for help, yelling that he was dying and needed an ambulance. I ran into the house to find someone who could help, and that was it.
December 3, 2017
I was with two old friends from high school. We were at our old house on Corby Street. For whatever reason, we were sneaking into the house on our hands and knees. Somehow, I knew that dad was in there and thought he was asleep. We crawled into the kitchen and I saw him standing there with his back turned to us. I quickly stood up and pretended everything was normal and just said, “hey, dad.” He waved back, but didn’t turn around. He had a full head of hair, which was weird. Gavin walked in. He looked like his current 17-year-old self, but was the size of a nine year old. I said hi to him and turned around to find dad getting ready to cook dinner. He seemed like he had no life in him, like he had no feelings or thoughts. I tried to hug him and he brushed me off. I ignored it, asked him if he remembered my friends from high school, and when he didn’t answer, I woke up in Australia.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading.