An Extraordinary Thing

I do not believe the dead can communicate with the living, and I do not believe dreams can be prescient. But an  uncanny experience made me wonder.

While searching through my old journals several months ago, looking for a specific bit of information about my past, I came across the transcript of a significant dream. Digging down into a plastic tub I keep in my basement, I found a spiral notebook from 1990.  I read a few random entries in this notebook, and then flipped to the back where I found some loose-leaf pages, folded in half. The first sentence on these pages is, “I dreamed I found my father!” 

This got my attention since the search for my father, a man whose name I didn’t know, had obsessively absorbed more than a decade of my life. I learned my father’s identity in 2014, but back in 1990 he was still a mystery.

I unfolded those loose-leaf pages, and what I read astonished me. I don’t remember having this dream, but it is strangely accurate about my father, and occurred the year he died. 

In 1990 I assumed my father had been an Air Force Officer. I imagined him as an upstanding, conventional, family man; probably living in a nice ranch-style house somewhere out West. I also imagined him as tall, like me. But those assumptions were wrong.

My father turned out to be a cook who aspired to be an actor, went from job to job, and married six times. He was handsome, charming, and funny, but definitely not what you’d call a family man, and average in height. He once played a character on a children’s TV show in Las Vegas – the closest he got to fame as an actor.

A DNA test led to my father’s identity, and connected me with my two half-sisters. They welcomed me into their lives and generously gave me photos, letters, and old family movies which revealed my father’s goofy sense of humor, and his dark eyes just like mine. 

The dream I had in 1990 began with two women sitting at the end of a row of chairs at a funeral home. “I realize I have been related to them all these years and didn’t know it,” I wrote. “Everyone has kept this big secret from me and I feel like a fool for not knowing.” 

In the dream I have come to a funeral home (which is also a talk show set) to meet my father. When he arrives I describe him as “… a short guy. A funny guy.  A guy who is entertaining and clever. He sits down next to me. I am overcome with emotion. They are playing a song from a play or TV show he was in. It’s from a famous show he was in. My father is an actor, an entertainer.”

Reading this gave me goosebumps.

“I am so excited to actually know him, but angry, too!  Why didn’t anybody tell me!  Why did they keep it a secret?  I ask my father some questions, and he begins to show me a scrapbook of the shows he was in and his life   … I look into his eyes and they are exactly like mine!  … I am looking deep into his eyes and he is looking deep into mine. But it is too much. Too emotional.  I wake up.”

The intensity of this dream must have compelled me write it down, five pages of large, messy longhand, probably written as soon as I woke up. I’m sure it seemed odd to me then that I’d conjured my father as a funny guy, an entertainer, but that perfectly describes him.

The accuracy of this dream is striking, but I can’t believe my dreaming mind somehow had knowledge of my father. I consider it an amazing coincidence: my actor father a character of my creation, perhaps a symbol of my own theatrical inclinations.

Significant fodder for psychoanalysis, but certainly not a paranormal event.

Nevertheless. I took those loose-leaf sheets out of that old notebook and have read them several times since. I now cherish this scribbled down dream, and I’m so glad I saved it. In an odd way now it feels like I actually spent time with my father. It seems as if I have a memory of him. Which illuminates how easy it can be, even for a skeptic, to ascribe magical belief to extraordinary things.

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