a guest blog: from my best friend amy litzenberger….HER DAD

My Dad died a year ago. My Mom died ten years before that. Ever since my Mom died I’ve been having recurring dreams where Mom in fact is not dead, but alive and living with my father in her pre-Alzheimer’s, cognitive, rational state, but somehow still not completely there. And since Dad’s death, I have been dreaming about the two of them, living together in the home I grew up in, where they lived inseparably for over forty years and where my Dad remained until four months before his death when he came to live with me.

Frequently in my dreams I am aware that I am dreaming. I usually realize I am dreaming when something unreal or frightening occurs – I find I am flying and suddenly I realize that birds fly, humans don’t or I am on an airplane that is crashing and I decide I don’t want to crash and I change the dream so the plane lifts back into the air and then I realize that it must only be a dream. Lucid dreams they call that. The dream is very, very real – more real than your waking life – but at the same time, you realize that you are not in your waking state because the world you are encountering is not obeying the natural laws of nature you have come to know and that you “know” are absolute. People don’t fly and planes can’t be lifted back into the sky by force of will when they are crashing. And parents don’t come back to life after they die. I frequently remember these dreams because I will wake up soon after I realize I am dreaming – usually at 3 o’clock in the morning (when I get up to pee anyway and take my thyroid pill so I won’t have to wait a half hour after I take the pill in the morning before I can have my first cup of coffee).

Living with Dad when he was dying changed my life profoundly. It brought me closer to death than I have ever been. It showed me – quite clearly – how finite life as we know it is. It also gave me a much deeper understanding of who my Dad was than I had had in the 50 years before that. Sitting with him on the couch, not speaking – Dad didn’t really talk much anyway – knowing that we were losing each other, I came to understand him, to feel his presence in a way that I never had before – to know his soul so to speak.

Since he died, my dreams now include him as a much more active participant in the dreams about my mother. Maybe I am more aware of his being there because I am so much more aware that he isn’t here anymore and it snaps me into that “lucid” state. They are almost always at home which makes a lot of sense because they were almost always at home. Dad was a “home-body” who was most comfortable in his small, familiar house. Mom liked to “get out” more than he did and he “gave her a long leash”. She was active in politics which gave her a social life and an identity independent of my father, and at the same time kept her very close to my father – in the 1960’s and 70’s few other men would have allowed her that autonomy. Mom would have liked to have moved – to a bigger house, a new community maybe – but Dad loved his little house and Mom loved Dad so there they stayed. He stayed there and kept Mom there with him after she started to deteriorate into the shadows and ultimately the darkness of Alzheimer’s. He insisted on caring for her and refused to allow her to suffer the indignity of a nursing home, refused to turn responsibility for her care over to people who did not love her the way that he did. After Mom died, I tried to get my Dad to come live closer to me. He refused. He wanted to stay in his home and was determined to do it for as long as he could. He considered alternatives. He realized that he probably would not be able to stay there forever, so he investigated his options. For ten years. I always assumed that he would come when he had to come- when he was no longer able to live there by himself. And I worried about him because he a man in his mid-eighties shouldn’t be living by himself.

Last night – well no, tonight since it’s now 5 AM and I woke up an hour ago – I again dreamed of my parents. I was at their house and noticed that there was a table covered with paperwork. They were both there, although as I think about it, I didn’t actually see them, I just knew that they were there. I looked at the paperwork. There were bills and there was a real estate listing for a piece of property. I thought “Oh, so Dad’s considering moving” and felt relief that he would no longer be living alone. But then I thought, “but Mom’s here, he isn’t by himself” but then I thought “but Dad died and Dad isn’t here either” and I looked down at the paperwork, desperate to find a date on the paperwork to see if it was before or after Dad died – to put a time frame onto what I now realized must be a dream because Mom and Dad hadn’t lived together for over eleven years and Dad hasn’t been alive for almost a year. I woke up crying. I miss them both very much and the feeling was overwhelming.

As I lay in bed reflecting on the dream I suddenly understood it and all the dreams I’ve had about them. I realized in a flash of insight that Dad did not live in that house alone for ten years. He lived with my mother as he had always lived with my mother in that house and that is why he didn’t want to leave it. And he lived with her as she was, not as the woman she became as her mind slipped from her grasp. Every day when he woke up, she was there. And they are still there somehow. Because they were there. Death doesn’t erase a person. People don’t cease to be just because their bodies have died. They were here and they will always be.

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3 Responses to “a guest blog: from my best friend amy litzenberger….HER DAD”

  1. Char

    Very, very, beautiful story of 3 people whose love for each other penetrates the veil between this world and the next.

  2. Frances Mican

    I am usually only able to have lucid dreams if I’m about to fall – I’ll realize that I’m about to fall out of a tree or jump down from a building, and I’ll force myself to float slowly down. I hated that dream-falling feeling so much I just forced myself to not have to deal with that!

    I have had some very vivid dreams after people that I love have died. Both were very comforting and left me feeling a little bit more settled than before. I hope that your dreams help to bring a sense of peacefulness!

  3. Amy Bridge

    What a beautiful story, Amy, I just came across it and it gave me the chills.
    It’s so true, the spirit is never erased!

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