November 23, 2007

No Dreamers Allowed

Three days ago I called a buddy of mine I hadn’t spoken to in a while to wish him a happy Thanksgiving. Though we don’t get to talk or visit each other often anymore, our friendship is such that we can pick up the phone anytime and pick up where we left off. I’ve known him for twenty six years, and we’ve experienced a lot together, and I’ve watched his two sons grown from mere babies to young men in their twenties.

During our conversation, we ended up discussing dreams. He told me that his oldest son’s girlfriend bought a book on dream interpretation and has taken to asking everyone, including him, about their dreams to analyze them. To know my friend Nat, you have to understand how he is and what he looks like. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, is in his early fifties (he’s ten years older than me), is very large with a close cropped beard. He looks like someone the director of a movie would order up from central casting to play a mafia hit man. Ask him his dreams? His son’s girlfriend is "lucky she’s good looking", he told me jokingly.

The subject of dreams hit a nerve with me. Nat fully knows after over a quarter of a century of friendship that I’d rather visit a dentist than hear someone tell me their dreams. He bought up the dream book his son’s girlfriend toted around because of an incident at his house over twenty years ago when me, Nat, my friend Mike, my other friend Mike, and my late friend Wade were seated at the kitchen table in Nat’s house playing cards. Yes, there were three "Mikes" in our group. Another guy, Danny showed up to play, but he came to the game late and to wait for a new hand to be dealt before he could join us. I really didn’t know Danny that well and he seemed like an alright guy, and we let him hang around because he always brought beer with him.

During the hand Danny sat next to me and tried to look at my cards. That annoyed me and I shifted myself to hide my hand. I had a full house and the stakes were pretty high. I’d say there were about two bucks in nickels in the pot (hey, it’s better than playing for matches) and I didn’t want to be disturbed as I felt the need to concentrate. Danny wanted to feel included so he started to talk… a lot. Worse yet, he started to tell us all about a dream he had the night before. Nat, Mike, Mike and Wade all buried their faces in their cards and Danny turned himself and talked directly to me, as if I gave a damn what he dreamt about. I was playing poker and I needed to place a bet and Danny was becoming annoying. Normally, I’d let it slide, but he was killing my concentration and I was becoming frustrated. After clearing my throat a couple of times (ahem) Danny didn’t get the hint. Right around the point where he was telling me about the creepy house with the crooked steps and the weird lights inside, I snapped.

“Hey look Danny,” I said, dropping my cards on the table. Nat, Mike, Mike and Wade chuckled as they knew what was coming. I didn’t want to be rude, but he couldn’t keep quiet; and besides, he bought Meister Brau. That’s the kind of beer you’d buy at a dog fight.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t listen to you tell me about your dream, okay?" I said. "I don’t care what’s it’s about, I don’t care if I’m in it, and I don’t care if you have a vision of me getting killed by a falling safe and you want to warn me. I just don’t care. Dreams don’t mean anything.”

Surprised at how harsh I sounded, I smiled a bit and smacked him on the shoulder in a playful kind of way.

“But, I think this dream does mean something. My Grandfather was in it and he died five years ago.”

“Tell me later.” I said.
“But, I think you’d appreciate this Mike, you know about like, psychology.”
“Hey Dan, what I know is that we’re trying to play cards. I need to concentrate. I don’t know anything about psychology, and I can’t stand to listen to other people tell me their dreams, okay? The only time I will listen to anyone tell me about their dreams is if her name is Heather Locklear and she dreams that we're in a hot tub together, and we're both naked."

To this day, Nat still laughs about that because his wife, Angie walked into the kitchen at the exact second I said “we’re both naked.” It was a bit awkward explaining to her what I was talking about.

My thoughts on dreams stood for decades, including all the way up to that phone call and in spite of my slight awkwardness in front of my friend’s wife. That was until the other morning after I woke up my eight year old son to get him ready for school. He came downstairs for breakfast after getting dressed looking a bit glum. I was on the couch with a cup of coffee and the newspaper and I called him over. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that he had a bad dream and it was bothering him. My typical response to an adult would have been to immediately hold up my hand and warn them that they were entering hostile territory. Dreams aren’t welcome here.

I sat up listened to him talk. He told me that he had a dream about Grandma and it was really sad. My son has had a tough time dealing with the loss of my mother and there have been more than a few times where I had to cuddle him in my arms as he cried to sleep. That morning, after hearing him tell me he had a bad dream about my mother, I pulled him close to my side.

“I dreamed that Grandma was dying, and all of the doctors went away, and I was alone with her. There were all these machines and I didn’t know how to use them and I told grandma not to die, but she did.”

This little man of mine had so much love for his grandma he dreamed of wanting to save her. He leaned on me and cried muffled sobs as he pressed his face into my side. I held him and stroked his hair and kissed the top of his head. My boy, my son, he was breaking my heart.

I thought back to my phone call with Nat, his son’s girlfriend and her book of dreams, and Danny asking me what his dream about is dead grandfather meant. I was rude and immature back then. With my young boy’s tears falling on my shirt next to my own, I told him that his grandma loved him so much; and that she was in his dreams because he missed her. It was okay for him to dream about her, I told him.

We sat for a while before I carried him to the kitchen for breakfast. If I had to do it all over again, I still might not have listened to Danny. I was a young man who wasn’t very touchy-feely and didn’t want to get emotional during a card game. But, over two decades later, Danny managed to teach me a lesson although he wasn’t around to watch me learn it. Dreams do mean something. They mean something to the person who experienced them. Still, I’ll only listen if you’re a child of mine who wants to tell me about the scary house with the creepy lights or if a safe is going to fall out of a building on my head.

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