Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Daddy Dream

Ate in my parents' sukkah last night - no wonder I had my most vivid Daddy Dream ever. Practically my first ever. I'm not big into dreams, kind of on the cynical side, and I guess the dreams know that so they stay away.

He had just died, only for some reason, I was in charge of everything; I was making all the arrangements. And Ted was there, even the little kids were at the funeral, which was held in the most opulent palatial setting you could imagine. There was lush rich, deep red carpeting everywhere and the seats were tiered - not like a shul at all; probably more like Westminster Abby. Have I been to Westminster Abby? I must have been...

I also remember noticing the high, elaborately wrought-iron gates and fences leading to the building where the service was held. I actually told myself that I must remember them, must remember the green lawn and the setting exactly as I saw it just then. But, of course, it was a dream, and it's late afternoon already, and I don't really remember everything.

When the service ended, though, we had to go up a really narrow stairway to get to the limo. It was a totally plush vehicle, lined with cushiony pink velour seats (a womb? maybe, if I want to get all freudian...). But the stairway was horrible, like the steep back stairs leading to the basement of a restaurant. They were clean, I saw that much, but the flooring was linoleum, in stark contrast to the luxury and comfort of the chapel.

It was some kind of back passage - somewhere that the public isn't supposed to see. Like when my mother worked at Gibson House, a historic home, and the upstairs was properly restored, but then there was a secret modern staircase which led downstairs to the modern kitchen, where all the food preparation takes place for sanitation reasons (running water, and all that).

And then I noticed the coffin lying at the bottom of the stairs. It wasn't a conventionally-shaped coffin; it was more square. That's not all: my father was actually lying, in a fetal position, beside the coffin. Like the fetal-position mummies of poor egyptian families, but actually... now that I think of it, more like a bog man. And then, he got up.

He was pulling himself up the stairs with great difficulty, and when I saw he was limping, I went down to help him up, to help him out to the car. I met him halfway down the stairs, and that's when I noticed he was crying.

I brushed my face against his beard - oh my God, that is a feeling I know so well. And told him, "do you think any of this makes a difference? None of this makes a difference." I was pointing to the coffin, the car waiting at the top of the stairs. "You're still here."

He didn't say a word, but when I got to the top of the stairs again, he was gone.

For what it's worth, the bog man and fetal position make sense for two slightly convoluted reasons:
One, we were probably in England (no good reason, we just were), and that's where I saw the Lindow bog man: on display in the British Museum (in the full 45 minutes we had to run through its multitudinous treasures of civilization through the ages, which included the Mildenhall silver treasure - largest trove of Roman silver ever found in Great Britain, I believe - oh, and the Rosetta stone).
And two, the last picture I have of my father is from Chanukah, and it's a horrible picture. He is wrapped up in a bathrobe, in a fetal position, and his skin is just about the tanned-leather shade of peat-bog bodies (their skin is both tanned and preserved by the acidic conditions of the peat). Also, in the picture, his teeth are exposed, making him look just a little bit more like a skeleton - or a mummy. It was particularly awful because this was our family's Chanukah party. It was just like inviting a corpse to the party. He watched the kids for a while, tried to eat a couple of latkes, and then went to lie down.

I have always been fascinated with mummies, intentional or unintentional (the Lindow man was brutally murdered, possibly as a sacrifice, and chucked into the bog which inadvertently preserved him better than most aristocrats of the era); but haven't thought about the Lindow one in years...

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