For the first time in ages, I dreamt of my father. I was walking across campus with my backpack over one shoulder, as I would have been lo those long years ago, and I spotted him through a corner window that never existed, standing behind his desk and talking on a phone — in an office that never existed, for Dad was never on the first floor with a huge window. But he was talking to someone about how I was coming to see him prior to Freshman orientation.
At some level I was aware that this was a dream and that he was gone, and I was long past this point in my life, but I raised my hand at him and smiled and he raised his hand up to me and smiled and damn, but that was great, because I could see him. Not just for a frozen moment in a memory, or photograph, or even a rare shot of him on video tape, but I could look at him, living, as long as I wanted, and meet his eyes, and he was looking back at me.
I didn’t realize how powerful it was until a little later this morning when I thought about it and wept. It’s been eighteen years. It’s been long enough now that it’s impossible to imagine me calling him up and catching up on everything that’s happened, like I used to fantasize about. The acute pain of his absence is gone. But I will always miss him. I would so like for him to have known my kids as adults, or even to have met my youngest. What I wouldn’t give to tell that kid with the backpack that you’re not always going to be walking across campus and have the chance of running into your dad.
I can’t do that, but I can try to take time to be present in the lives of my kids, as my father always did. Maybe I can pass that on, and one day they’ll get it too.