It goes without saying that David will dream of his father, Douglas. Their relationship over the decades has gone through so many phases, from cold distance to hot conflict. Their sorrows, shared and separate, tempered them to what they share now: warm companionship.
In his dream, David is uncertain what his father will say about him; he is aware of a deep sadness that the order of things is wrong, that his father has to say goodbye to him, his son, first. It should be the other way round, of course; and Douglas has already lost so much.
And yet, in the way of dreams, there is also a shimmer of curiosity, of childish eagerness to hear his father praise him, and a fear that what David will hear from his father is criticism, rejection.
“My son was a good man,” Douglas begins. “Or rather, he became a good man. Despite my failings as a father, David worked hard to become for his daughter what I could never be to him.” Douglas pauses here, choked up. Several hands reach for him, steady him. He goes on.
“I remember when he was just a toddler, one of the few times I had with him, one of the very few birthdays I showed up for. We went for a walk in a park, David pulling a red wagon he’d received from his mother with one hand, his other hand holding mine. I remember being filled with enormous pride to share this beautiful boy with the world, to show him off as my own.
“Something happened, and he began to cry. I don’t recall what it was, I only remember that I could not comfort him. I could not stop him crying. My pride was instantly replaced with an awful rage, a roaring frustration that my own inadequacy was so visible. I plopped him in the wagon and towed him back to his mother’s house. I left for a while, a long while, I’m afraid, before I was brave enough to try again.”
In the dream, Douglas seems to look straight at David. “I’m sorry, son, that I was too weak and afraid to be there for you. You deserved the kind of big, open-hearted father that you are becoming for Penny.”
David wakes from this dream, hearing his daughter cry in the next room, knowing that whatever she needs – a meal, a dry diaper, a snuggle – he will be able to provide.