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The Nightmares of a Child

It is the summer of 1980, and I had just woken up from a nightmare - my third one so far that week. It was always the same dream. Just after supper, Dad would take me across the street to the big hill at the park - it was perfect for sledding. Indeed I had my new, red crazy carpet, and I was all set to attack the hill. In my dream, as we got to the top of the hill, Dad stopped me from going down. He wanted to talk.

He told me that he loved me, but that he had to go, and that I couldn't go with him. That I had to stay back and take care of Mom. He told me that I should slide down the East side of the hill, that he was going to drive the car down the West side, and that I wouldn't see him again. I was sobbing and crying, and begging him to take me with him. He just said no, and that it was time for him to go. He was crying too. He got in the silver Chevy Citation that the family had recently purchased - the one with the new-car smell, the soft wine-coloured seats, and the hatchback. He told me again to go. I didn't want to go, but I always did what I was told.

As I started sledding down the hill, there was an enormous explosion on the other side. I ran back and looked down to see the car in a ball of orange flames, back-lit against the brilliant pink sunset. I saw, but didn't feel the soft snowflakes hit my cheeks as my hot tears melted them. What I did feel was this gut-wrenching anguish, an unbearable sense of loss, confusion and anger over why this had happened, and this blaming sense that if I'd just refused to slide down the hill, he'd still be alive. It was to this sight and with these feelings that I awoke every time.

The dreams continued for several years, and then they eventually stopped. I didn't think of them again for a long time.

Sometime in 2002, after we found out my dad had cancer, but before he'd had any surgery or treatment, I asked him, out of the blue, if he'd ever tried to kill himself. Something had reminded me of those dreams.

He told me that he had tried to kill himself - once. I must have been about 4-5 years old at the time, he'd said. It was just before he'd quit drinking, and things had gotten to the point where the pain of being drunk was just as great as the pain of being sober. He had gotten into the car, and had driven down by the bridge - the one my great-uncle (or was it my great-great-uncle?) had helped build. As he had neared the curve just before the bridge, he had decided to take his hands off the wheel, and to just let go.

A million things were flashing through my mind as I asked him what had happened. He told me, that amazingly, the curve had been banked such that the car rode the bank. It had carried him around the corner, and had lined him up perfectly to send him over the bridge without a bump or a scratch. He had then put his hands back on the wheel because he had become very afraid. It was after that point that he really started trying to live. When I asked him, he mentioned he thought he had been driving the silver Citation.

Dad fought to live until November of 2007. That was the point where he seemed to give up. The cancer seemed to be taking from him everything that he had enjoyed, and this final thing seemed to be the last straw - his enjoyment of food. Eating was also the only thing that he could still control. It became the only way in which he could exert his power, and he did so as much as he could. He began to refuse to eat. He would insist that he should only be given four spoonfuls of yogurt, and would refuse to eat if he thought there was more. I always told him there was only four, but I would give him eight. I was not going to do what I’d been told.

From November of 2007 until he died in September of 2008, I watched my father starve to death. In those months, the dreams returned, only to stop the day he died.

The feelings that I had, when I got the call that he had passed away, were less intense than the feelings I had waking up from those dreams. Maybe this was because my dreams were the intense feelings of a five-year old who lacked coping skills. Or maybe this was because by that time, I had finally accepted his inevitable death. It took 28 years.

I have written this entry for the Home Game of therealljidol for topic #14 - Season 6. The prompt: Precognition. This week was an intersection week, and I was honoured to pair up with alycewilson. Her accompanying entry can be found here. Home Game entries are here and current contestant entries are here for those who wish to read more. A big thank you to joeymichaels.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 15th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
I completely agree. Even traumatic deaths on tv are nothing compared to the real thing. They don't all "go gentle into that good night."

Thank you <3
Feb. 15th, 2010 06:51 am (UTC)
This memory is so powerful, and you write about it beautifully.
Feb. 15th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and thank you so much for your excellent feedback! I think it really helped me to get the piece to the point I was hoping.
Feb. 15th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
This is really rather sad. And what horrible dreams to have to live with so young, too. :(
Feb. 15th, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading!

I have to say that it probably seems more sad put together the way that it is. The dreams, at the time that I was having them, were just dreams and they had no meaning - not until much later. At the time I was prone to "bad dreams" and I'm not even positive I even articulated the specifics of these to my mother, who had to try to calm me down when I woke up. It didn't occur to me until much later that this was a really inappropriate dream for a young kid to have. Clearly I'd been watching too much tv, since that would have been my only exposure to that sort of thing.

My father realizing that he wanted to quit drinking was actually quite a blessing, despite the potential for disaster. Usually people have to fall before they rise again. He lived for 28 years completely sober, and we had the most amazing relationship with him as a result.

Dad being diagnosed with cancer, and eventually dying the way in which he did - truly tragic.
Feb. 15th, 2010 11:17 pm (UTC)
Ahh, but since you read my entry last week, you would know I don't think there's any such thing as too much TV ;) I do think it is possible to have dreams like that without exposure to it in reality or TV or whatever. The mind will create even without prior knowledge.

That's true, and he did an amazing job with that. I'm sure it would've had a positive effect on your childhood/teen years, too, to have him sober.

Well, yes, that is the truly sad part; particularly that he was starving himself for so long.
Feb. 16th, 2010 06:37 am (UTC)
Heh, I know, I was thinking about that when I made the comment (should have made a little :P)

Feb. 15th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
I used to have bad dreams too as a kid, so I can totally relate. Mine were about fires and vampires a lot of the time.
Lost my dad in 1996. It's still a bummer. There is nothing anyone can say to make it all go away or even better, but I do understand. Hugs. P.
Feb. 16th, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
Oooh I never had any vampire dreams... interesting!

Thank you so much for reading!
Feb. 16th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah...Nasty vampires...Not the cool, sparkley teenage kinds of vampires.! P.
Feb. 16th, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)
Wow, that's all I really know to say. As a mom, I think I would be terrified if my child told me she was dreaming that, not once but multiple times. Hugs.

I'm glad you had an amazing relationship with your dad before he died. That will always provide wonderful memories.
Feb. 16th, 2010 06:40 am (UTC)
Yes, see this is exactly why I am thinking that I probably never really articulated to my mother, what the dreams were specifically about, because I cannot imagine her being ok with the subject matter. This is a highly inappropriate dream for a 5 year old to have, as far as I'm concerned.

Thank you so much for reading and for the comment/support!
Feb. 16th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)
As you know, I think this is fabulous. I really hope you consider competing next season!
Feb. 17th, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, and thank you for the encouragement! We'll have to see how it goes... I'm rather famous for over-committing myself. I'd rather err on the side of "oh I probably could have done it" rather than find that I really didn't have time.
Feb. 17th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry. Cancer took all four of my grandparents. The form my grandfather (Gran's husband) had was a slow one, so he also starved to death.
Feb. 17th, 2010 11:50 pm (UTC)
It's just such a hard way to go. Thank you so much for coming by and reading!
Feb. 18th, 2010 11:50 pm (UTC)
Wow. How amazing to have put together a secret from the past as an adult, based on dreams from years before. I am sorry you lost your father in such a difficult way.
Feb. 19th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, and thank you for coming by to read!
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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