I’ve been a daddy’s girl for as long as I can remember. I called for papa while I was still in the crib and he would try to appease me; somehow mama never had the same calming power. Even then my dad understood me better. She would offer me a doll and I would shake it away – he came up with the idea of giving me an empty matchbox. Now that entertained me! Of course this was Russia over 30 years ago where no one judged parents for using matchboxes to soothe whiny kids in a crib.
Yes my dad and I have formed a unique bond over the course of three and a half decades. We’ve both lived several lives laden with self-satisfying needs that others have misjudged as mistakes in the process. My dad and I like to think of them as life lessons.
When I was six years old, I remember taking a walk from Alexander’s in Forest Hills, Queens with my dad. Somewhere in the middle of the 20-minute walk, I asked my dad to be carried. It was in this conversation that he told me that I was getting too old to be carried. That I was a big girl now at 5 – and from that time on, I hardly doubted it. I felt empowered to have a (loud) voice and express my opinion vocally. He instilled in me the expectation that my voice was worthy of being heard. We were in America now … live free and talk loudly.
It was also on this memorable walk that I demanded my dad cease the cigarette smoking. He stopped smoking the next day never to pick up a cancer stick again. In the newly stop-smoking campaigns targeting my young receptacles, I didn’t want him to die. So he started the habit of singing, ‘Fame’ to me, focusing only on the “I’m gonna live forever part.” He has never wanted me to worry that he would leave me.
I’m not sure if I ever truly believed him, but in that moment, he became a bit immortal to me. The daddy superhero that Sigmund Freud would psychoanalyze inappropriately. He was always a strong man – opinionated, manly, handy. He was the epitome of a man, of a father – albeit not the world’s most perfect husband.
Somehow for each of our faults, we understood each other for who we were and accepted one another. Stubborn, determined, perfectionists – both short and loud – people either hated us or loved us. We both did OK attracting the opposite sex. Annoying to me, he was charming to women. I’m not sure he ever wanted to see me with men.
Lately I’ve been relating to my father in a different way. We’re both light sleepers and we both only dream in nightmares. Ironically – or not so much – my nightmares often involve my father and something catastrophic happening to him. Cancer, a horrific car accident, his eyes needing to be cut out.
And it’s not because I’m obsessed with death and disease – although I have always had a familiarity with both. From the time I was in fourth grade and watched the Lifetime movie with Susan Dey having breast cancer, I would go to bed at night and hope that I would wake up in the morning. We still lived in Forest Hills and I had been sharing a room with my new sister at the time. She slept in a crib in the corner; I slept on two pieces of a sectional sofa.
Maybe that’s when I stopped dreaming. Maybe the dreams were always too heavy, a cry from my subconscious to stop creating scenarios. But lately – now that I’m pregnant, I’ve been having vivid dreams and nightmares.
At the beginning of my pregnancy, it was like a sleeping revolution. I realized I was dreaming and on some sort of an adventure. I was seeing Amsterdam in the 1800s or enjoying some wonderful dinner. Even sex dreams were more graphic and more pleasurable. I finally understood why my boyfriend preferredtarget=”_blank” his dream world to his real world so much. Stephanie Meyer must have dreamed up Twilight when she was pregnant (actually I think it was right after the baby was born; I remember her saying she was typing with a newborn on her lap.)
Something about this influx of hormones must make us tap into our innermost subconscious.
But recently, I have been plagued by these nightmares that won’t let me sleep. I roll over just to change the station on my eyelids and see another graphic horror movie. A few nights ago it was snakes. Snakes that apparently would climb into the human body through a slice on the leg and tangle up all our organs. What? I’ve never been a fan of horror movies or scary movies. Where did my mind concoct that mess? Then daddy’s cutting out of the eyes? I could only blame that on last year’s Slumdog Millionaire – but did I really hold onto that for a year only to spring up in my slumber at 3am?
When I roll over I don’t want to fall asleep. My body is shaking, I am crying. It is my reality even in my dreams. Even though it’s not real – I have experienced it and it has effected me and left me scarred. I carry that dream around with me for days. Like I was physically wounded, I have to let the bruise slowly heal.
So, daddy … how do I learn to dream pretty?