It’s easy to pick up the phone and call my mother. Although I wish she could live closer (she’s currently living in Chicago), we talk all the time – and she reads this blog…Hi, Mom! So when I conjured up this Amsterdam plan, and as I have gone through the challenging process of figuring out how to make it work, I have felt her support all along the way. And when I learned I had been accepted to UvA, it was easy to call her to share the good news and hear her reaction. It’s a blessing to receive that level of support from parents, no matter how old you are.
The harder parent to communicate with is my father. He died in September 2004. No more phone calls, no more funny stories, no more advice, and no more celebrating good news. At least not in the traditional ways. Now I see him and interact with him only in my dreams, forcing me to rely on questionable memories of what has transpired during my sleep. Not ideal – but I’ll take it.
On Monday night, the same day I found out about UvA, I had a dream I was already in Amsterdam. It was still new to me, as I felt a mixture of excitement and nerves. From what I remember, I was walking around the city alone, until I was suddenly sitting in a room – perhaps a hotel room or poorly decorated apartment. I must have been sitting on a couch. And there was my father, stretched out on a bed, super relaxed and happy. He was eating some type of snack – my guess is peanuts.
Sometimes in my dreams about my father he’s really sick and frail, conjuring up the real life memories of his battle with cancer. But most other times, he’s healthy and happy, and we laugh. This time we were laughing in Amsterdam. I don’t remember the exact content of the conversation. Maybe it was something about how far we’ve both come since we last saw each other. Or maybe we were talking about something that happened in life – one of my memories with him. I’m not sure. I just remember thinking how much I wanted to take a picture of him. I wasn’t so much aware that he was dead in my dream (sometimes I’m very aware in my dreams that it’s a visit from the other side). But I knew I hadn’t seen him in too long, feeling a painful urge to capture the happy moment and not forget. The funny thing is I spent so much time focusing on remembering the sight of him that I forgot to pay attention to what we were saying.
But the content of the conversation may not have been the most important thing. It felt more like a visit to say congratulations, and he approves. He not only approves, but just like he came with me to Oakland, and then to Brooklyn, he’ll be along for the ride to Amsterdam…eating peanuts and laughing as we go (he eats the peanuts – I personally don’t like them).
I was smiling when I woke up. The visit felt substantial and satisfying – as if we actually spent some time together. I never doubted for a moment that this journey I’m on would have been something that pleased him and made him proud. But it was quite a delight to actually see the happiness on his face. If only I could have gotten that damn picture!