Monday, May 2, 2016

My Father's Face

When I arrived at the beach house, I walked into the master closet and noticed its emptiness except for the few jackets of Dad's hanging on the back rack. I was drawn to this corner and thumbed through those brand new and possibly never worn jackets. Dad had a penchant for buying nice jackets. He had no shortage of coats. I imagine having grown up in the 1930s with three older brothers who didn't hesitate to take his food, that he could have gone without a coat too. There were so many jackets when he died, and Mom tried to pass them out to the family members who would have appreciated them. My daughter and a son-in-law both ended up with brand new sheepskin coats and I took an older, worn sheepskin. With memories of him wearing this coat, I had it cut down so it came a little closer to fitting. I don't mind the matted down sheepskin in the sleeves and the stained leather at the wrist.

Next to the jackets, was a pair of pants. Why had Mom saved these? I touched the pants and felt a closeness and longing to see my father  again.

As time passes (it will be two years in August), his memory slightly fades. I don't think about him as much, which is a good thing as it became to painful to always have him on my mind. However, when I do think of him, the missing is more intense.

Last night I dreamed of him.

Yesterday, in my reading of Kenneth Cope's The Great Work of Your Life, I came upon the beliefs and practices of an admired colleague of Cope's, a Jungian analyst, Marion Woodward.

Marion was confronted with an unexpected challenge: cancer. The lessons that came from her fight resulted in new thoughts and profound wisdom. She deemed her cancer as what Carl Jung calls the "night sea journey."--the "journey into parts of ourselves that are split off, disavowed, unknown, unwanted, cast out , and exiled to the various subterranean worlds of consciousness." Marion, like Jung, believed that the way to discover these "exiled" parts was through dream analysis, which Jung taught were the "royal road to the unconsciousness," and that "dreams are the path--circular and meandering as it is-- to a knowledge of the exiled self."

I know very little about dream analysis, and frankly would be nervous to have my dreams analyzed. They are more often than not, inexplicable, complicated, and full of things I wouldn't even tell myself let alone a Jungian dream analyst. Yet, the coincidence of reading about dream analysis and dreaming of my father, paused me to ponder and wonder if my dream did indeed have meaning.

In my dream, I had come to visit my mother. In order to see my father, whom I understood at the time was living in a different place, I had to follow a series of clues to find him. My sister had set up the adventure and after taking two right turns,  I proclaimed to Mom that "Loraine always made two rights and then a left. I proceeded to the left where I had to push a button that ejected a card and then I had to scan the card under a beam of light. At this point, I could feel in both my dream like state and my conscious state the anticipatory excitement of seeing Dad. Mom made a phone call to him and at this point I realized he was just up the stairs. I meant to follow the last clue, but I skipped it and ran up the stairs. I had expected that Dad's condition would be worse than the last time I saw him. When I reached the top of the stairs, there he was! Standing. But his back was turned toward me and I never saw his face, because, I awakened.

By writing this, I discover I am trying to be own dream analyst. When I wrote, "never saw his face," it was a cut to my heart and I teared. Why couldn't I see his face? Why did my dream end before the moment I longed for? Why did I choose to wake up? Or did I have a choice?

For me, the dream was real.

What Jungian dream analysis doesn't account for (that I know of), is that dreams are also a conduit to God, an opening to sacred experience and revelation--exactly why dreams can be so bizarre too, because everything sacred is everything with a perverse opposite. What I believe as God may have been to Jung the connection to one's unconsciousness.

Through the dream, I had a real connection to my father in whatever realm he now exists. The difference in our places, that I now exist in a realm so different from his (but possibly not so far away), is what kept me from seeing his face; yet my lack of readiness or faith to actually see him, is the reason why I woke up right before I saw him---the moment he would have turned around and smiled a smile that would have broken my heart.

I want to pay greater attention to my dreams; I am not an innocent bystander to the road my dreams may take. I may drive those dreams with intention and faith. I admit I'm not ready, but someday, in my dreams, I believe is the possibility of seeing my father's face.