Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dreaming about Dad

It's a dream. A strange one.

I'm in the car with Mr. J and we see my mother walking down the roadside. She is hauling a gas can and walking with a man I don't recognize. We turn the car in the direction Mom walks; we are concerned that she is so far from their home and that they've run out of fuel. When we turn, we see my parents' new motor home ahead, being driven somewhat erratically. It is weaving in and out of its lane, as though its driver is drunk.

Traffic comes to a standstill suddenly as the passenger side door open and my father hurls his body out of the moving vehicle.

Then I'm alone, and in a different car. I've pulled over to the side of the road and am watching for my dad's body, hoping he doesn't get run over and flattened in traffic. A man pulls his car up to mine and calls out the window at me. It is the man I saw walking with my mom, and it's my dad's brother. He doesn't know my dad very well, on account of only having met a short time before, and he asks me if my dad is crazy. I answer yes, he is quite crazy.

We pull our cars off to a side street to exchange phone numbers with my father's brother. We are going to try to find my crazy father and the renegade motor home, and we feel like the only sane people in my family so we don't want to become separated without a way to ring one another.

I am digging through my wallet, trying to find a business card to write my number on, and it's suddenly very important that I give my uncle a new card. One that says "manager" on it, something to show that I am not lazy and irresponsible like my dad. Something to show that I am successful, and to give this man that I have never met before confidence that I can take control of this unmanageable situation and fix it.

I can't find a card that's new, or that hasn't been written on already. There are notes on each one, telephone numbers and license plate numbers scrawled on each and every business card I have. I settle for a page from a small pad, but I cannot recall my phone number properly. It takes me five minutes of writing down the incorrect number before I get it right.

I am at my parent's house; they are both there and, unaccountably, so is the motor home. Mom talks about the day's events as though it has been nothing more than a big adventure; Dad is cavalier about everything, as though the motor home is at fault for running out of fuel. He simply showed it who was boss by leaving it.

I was stunned and disgusted by their behaviour, and questioned my dad about the wisdom of jumping out of a moving vehicle. He became sarcastic about my suggestion of next time pulling over. He repeated it as though it were something silly and illogical. "Pulling over," he said with heavy scorn and overly dramatized finger quotes drawn in the air. He said it in the same tone he might use had I suggested he cut his hair and get a job as a banker. It was something only a total sell-out would do; a mere follower pulls over, someone who can't think for himself and does only what society tells him to do. The responsible thing to do (more sarcasm and finger quotes) because you're supposed to.

For a moment I felt like I might be stupid, maybe insane for wanting my father not to endanger his own life and that of others. Then the old resentment flooded me and I hated him for telling me what to think; hated him for making me feel stupid for wanting him to be safe and responsible; hated him for turning something that was inspired by love into something for me to hate and question.

And that's how it is with my dad. The same place that holds my love for him also holds hatred. The love is now cautious. It no longer runs free, but trickles out little bits at a time. The hatred, though, love-turned-to-anger, that is now unlimited. And when the anger is tapped it is hot and immediate. There are no filters on my anger, no valve that will close. When my dad makes me angry that hatred flows fast and deep, and it makes me sad.

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This post is part of a series of posts about my father.

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