Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Time Traveler

The dates on their headstones
reveal that even in their graves
they grow older year by year
just as we do. They are all still with us.
We are all going in the same direction.

from the poem "Memorial Day"
by Ernest Sandeen

Willard M. Carriker, 1970s

A year ago, in observance of my father's birthday (18 July 1923), I wrote a post concerning Tennessee Williams' poem "The Summer Belvedere," including a footnote explaining that on "the day he died (Saturday, 27 June, 1987) we all watched Cat On A Hot Tin Roof that evening on TV. This was before the days of movie rentals, so it's not as if we planned or chose it; it's just what happened to be on. Although my dad's personality was nothing like the character of Big Daddy, we were all kind of mesmerized by the appropriateness of it." (See also my previous posts from "Father's Day" 2010 & "My Father's Birthday" 2010).

Even though I've never been one to put much stock in dreams or remember mine or analyze them or anything like that, a few years ago, I had an unforgettable dream in which my dad comes to a school picnic, wearing a white linen suit and Panama hat -- not like anything I ever saw him wear in real life -- with a camera around his neck -- again, nothing I ever saw my dad do. He looks like a tourist, which I guess is the point, as if he has traveled back from the afterlife.

In the dream, the school kids are all playing and the parents are sitting at picnic tables. When I see my dad come into the park, I say to one of the other parents, "Look, there's my dad." She says, "He can sit with us!" I say, as if it's just a minor setback, "Well, I have to tell you, he's no longer living." And she says, "Oh, that's okay. Tell him to come on over anyway," as if it doesn't matter in the least -- living or dead, all are welcome!

I've often felt sad that my father died before my boys were born; so what I want to do next in the dream is show him which of the children are Ben and Sam so that he can meet them, but when I look across the park, I see that he already has them standing side by side and is taking their photograph! That's when I realize, in the dream, that he already knows who they are! At that point, I woke up and, in real life, felt the same certainty.

I've shared this story with a few friends, one of whom pointed out that perhaps my father's uncharacteristic outfit was his way of saying, "Kitti would never pull this outfit out of her imagination for me, so I'll wear this. Just to let her know." I loved that interpretation, for truly, what I experienced that night did not feel like a dream from within so much as a visitation from without, a surprising, comforting visit from a time traveler.

I've had this same sensation only a couple of other times in my life; but I'll save those stories for another post. For now, Happy 89th Birthday, Dad!


  1. Thanks for sharing this. We all still miss him so terribly but, like you, I know he's with us every day.

  2. And this from Ray Bradbury's _The Halloween Tree_: "It's both happy and sad. It's all firecrackers and skeleton toys down here in the plaza and up in that graveyard now are all the Mexican dead folks with the families visiting and flowers and candles and singing and candy. I mean it's almost like Thanksgiving, huh? And everyone set down to dinner, but only half the people able to eat, but that's no mind, they're THERE. It's like holding hands at a séance with your friends, but some of the friends gone."
    (118 - 19)

  3. We are all now older than Dad was in the picture above.