Do you ever have dreams in which you are suddenly woken up and the remnants are still clear in your mind? They have not had time to fade, possibly, and the valid points of reference are still there in sharp relief. Somewhat painfully so.
That happened this morning when Charlie’s coughing abruptly woke me up. I have trained myself to wake up when he’s having these coughing bouts in case he needs medication.
Apparently I was in the midst of a dream that both clarified things in my mind and troubled me at the same time.
It was about my first husband, who was 13 years my senior. I met him when he was my psychology teacher in college. At that time my daughter was 2 years old.
Her biological father had let me down in the worst of ways, had walked away when I needed him most. And I felt that I brought a child into the world that would suffer the lack of a father as I did. And I just couldn’t let that happen.
I told myself I loved him, and possibly I did. But I was also on a mission to find an educated man (I had known too many ignorant men) who would dote on her.
It just so happened he had been married before, and during that time they had adopted a little boy just about my daughter’s age. He was blond and blue-eyed, just like her.
Then out of the blue a biological father stepped forward and said he did not sign off on the adoption and wanted his rights reinstated. And poof, the boy was snatched from them. It traumatized both of them and eventually broke up the marriage.
So I suppose seeing my daughter awoke those painful memories, and he immediately took to doting on her. This of course sealed the deal for me. I’d found her a proper father.
And the icing on the cake was that his mother had no grandchildren and doted on her too.
We married and about a year later had a second daughter.
I quickly found that I didn’t really want him in the way a woman should want a husband.
In the dream, somehow I too was his daughter, oddly so. And I looked like my daughter. It was as though I was living in her skin. Right through her.
I had acted out and done him wrong a number of times, testing him. To see if he would leave of course, which a father is not supposed to do. And eventually he did. He wanted a wife, not another child. And I guess that was what I’d become in many ways.
I fought him vociferously to keep him from leaving us. While at the same time, I no longer really wanted him. But someone leaving was someone leaving. And I’d been left too many times in my early years when I most needed continuity of care.
This was all fleshed out in the dream, starkly so. Kind of thrown in my face where I could no longer deny it.
Someone wise once told me that if you miss crucial stepping stones in your childhood development, you don’t merely pass them by. In some ways you stay stuck at that point. You do not pass go and collect two hundred dollars.
Years pass and a part of you is still in that phase of development, waiting to have that need met.
I suppose I got stuck there, because the refrain played out time and time again down the line. Popped right back up like a stubborn weed that you cannot rid yourself of.
I wonder if, at six weeks of age, when my parents left, if my brain had memory? If I knew the sound of their voices? And then, was I aware that the voices disappeared?
I wonder if this need to be fathered stayed in me, germinating like a seed?
I was a bit disturbed by the lucidity of this dream. Because it must mean that I did not have the right intentions. Well, I suppose I did for the sake of my daughter. But I was also trying to fill a need in me.
My brain has done a pretty good job of protecting me during my lifetime. It has at times poked through the membranes of my conscious memory and jerked me to a safe quiet place where I could exist without triggered memories forming.
If you Google “can you see without light”, you will read that there are no creatures that can see without at least some light. That in order for an image to be seen, light must be sensed by the eye’s retina, which then chemically converts light into electrical impulses.
Then the brain interprets the images. In the complete absence of light, this cannot happen.
Maybe that not-quite-awake feeling when the remnants of a dream are still unfolding is like losing the light. Your brain interrupts consciousness, and then the whole thing unravels like a ball of yarn.
And though the vestiges of what you recall might be bothersome, the light of that dream will fade. As all things do when exposed to the passing of time.