My father’s dreams

“I went to highschool with him. We both had Jaguars. His wasn’t quite as nice. It was grey.”
“And you haven’t seen him since then, and you recognize him?”
“Doubt he recognizes me. We’ve changed.”
The other man is what. Seventy three or four. Humpbacked. Thick glasses. As skinny as my dad. Snoozing in his recliner at the dialysis clinic. The airconditioning is on high, so it’s freezing inside the room. I have a splitting headache.
My father pats my leg. He recognized the guy right away. “It’s his second time here.”
When the guy wakes up the Ukranian nurse goes over and asks him if he remembers my father. He waves but seems a little disoriented.
I go out to my rental car and drink some water and try to eat an energy bar that is basically melted inside its mylar wrapper. The bottled water inside the car is the temperature of fresh tea. The Russian guy with no legs is wheeled out of the clinic in his wheelchair by his wife and son. There are lots of Russian immigrants around town now.
Most people doze for a while during their dialysis treatment. It’s exhausting and boring and takes hours so what else should they do.
They are dreaming about what, exactly? My father remarks several times during my visit that his fellow patients occasionally get tired of the treatment, move into a hospice and are dead within a week. The Japanese lady who lived next door to us when I was growing up did that a couple months ago.
My father dozes in his recliner. As does the man in the next chair. They all doze.
“I’m surrounded by Republicans,” my father tells me.
The noise level is rather high in the room, and it includes voices from televisions and several conversations, so it is very hard for my father to understand what I say, and for me to understand what he says. As I do every time, I had come here hoping to have a big father-son talk, but give up.
I never get to ask my father whatever I would ask him, no idea really what that would be. Why did you never amount to much, in material terms? Why did you never do anything, really? What stopped you? Does it bother you that I never amounted to anything either? What kind of hopes did you have for me?
I have his memory for faces. When I lived in Tokyo, I used to remember faces of other commuters I had seen once before through a train window.
My daughter’s friend is traveling with us and I feel sorry for her at the beginning because all the relatives we meet at the start are in their mid-seventies or older and the only one in good shape is my mother. There is the forgetful uncle and his crippled wife, and so on.
They are all slipping away. On my way into the office today Laurie Anderson sang something about Oh death, that creep that crooked jerk.
During my trip, I finally realized: I am the father now. It had to get really obvious for me to figure that out. I had to be 46 years old to see that. My brother, my sister, me, we’re the parents. This is it. Here we go.
“You’ll sell an article or a story one of these days,” my father says to me, out of the blue. We hadn’t been talking about writing. We had just been sitting there, not saying anything.
A guy I was paying $100 an hour told me once, “we think our parents will be hurt if we surpass them but they won’t, that’s what they want for us.” I suppose he was right.
Take this, take my melancholy, my sense of humor, my laugh, my memory for faces, my sentimentality. Take my short legs and my intelligence, my perceptiveness and my love for trees and words and do more with them than I did, and don’t look back.
It’s what I would tell my kids too.

5 responses to “My father’s dreams

  1. I recently asked my mother what she wants me to be, mostly because I’m on the path to being a spinster and I know she would love to have grandchildren. She told me she wants me to be happy. Life is short and doing what you have to do or are expected to do doesn’t leave enough time for what you want to do. This, in itself, makes me happy because I believe I’ve already exceeded her dreams.

  2. j-a

    i know my parents never wanted anything more of me than EVERYTHING…

  3. Every time I visited my dad in the year prior to his death, I would plan to finally have that “real” conversation I had been meaning to have. I was never certain what the actual topic(s) might be, but I was quite certain of the need for the conversation. Yet each time I’d see him we’d speak of nothing in particular and I’d never get to the supposedly crucial stuff I had on my mind. Finally, after he died, I started to realize that it wasn’t a specific thing that I needed to say, more that I wanted to feel a connection with him, and that in those visits I had.

    Thanks Mig.

  4. anne

    you’ve got the “fear of surpassing” on the one hand and the “fear of not living up to” on the other. asking someone to take all the wonders of you and do more with them than you can might not be a fair challenge.

    and don’t go insulting your legs in the midst of otherwise perfectly lovely and honest self-assessment. your legs go all the way to the ground, you know.