[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following was originally printed in The Forum newspaper, on Jan. 25, 2014.]
By Roxane B. Salonen
The other morning I woke up chuckling and couldn’t stop. Throughout the day I’d catch myself starting in again intermittently while recalling the dream that had triggered my funny bone.
It went like this: I’m in Chicago as part of a travel group, and after having absorbed the city a while on my own, realize it’s time to reunite with the others to catch our bus. But I’m running behind and it’s growing dark. I begin to panic.
Thankfully, I’m near a hotel where some of my fellow travelers have gathered. I scurry toward the lit entrance, relieved to leave the dark city behind, and walk into a lively lobby.
Immediately, I notice him at the front counter – my father. Somehow, Dad has become part of this adventure, but not as a fellow traveler. We smile at each other, and it feels natural and good; nothing at all strange about it. I’m in safe hands now.
Dad is answering phones at the front desk. The phone rings, and he coughs and clears his throat before picking up. I know whatever comes next won’t be conventional.
In real life, Dad couldn’t answer the phone straight. We never knew what was coming. “George’s Pizza Parlor, can I take your order?” he might say, or, “Sorry, she’s not here. You might check Bill’s Tavern, however.”
In our teen years, we cringed when he answered, never knowing what might erupt. We wouldn’t put it past him to scare away possible suitors with his unpredictable antics.
Dad once explained that his sister Monica introduced him to this unique way of phone-answering as a kid. “Beauclair’s Bull Farm,” he recalled her saying, “Ferdinand speaking.”
So in my dream, I’m listening.
“Jonah Jetta Car Rental, at your service!” Dad says, and then he starts cracking up at his own cleverness.
After a moment I realize his dual play on words: Joan Jett the singer; Jetta the car. Now I’m laughing, too. We linger in that moment together before something lures me awake.
I’m still attached to the dream yet aware I’m no longer in it. The kids are getting ready for school and it’s almost time to go, but I want to remember, so I tell each of my three boys separately about the dream and delight in their smiles.
In the telling, the realization comes to me that I’m truly my father’s daughter. After all, I’ve been known, during a silly moment, to laugh hysterically at and with myself, too. The kids always just look at me as if I’ve gone bananas.
But I don’t care any more than Dad did. God knows I need a good laugh, and I’m going to roll with it, despite the questioning stares.
It feels like a gift, realizing how Dad has rubbed off on me. And it might never have occurred to me if not for the dream.
I’ve had three vivid dreams of my father since his passing a year ago. Though each brought an element of warmth, this one was by far the most enjoyable. I want to revel in it for a while.
In each, my father’s presence has been incredibly vivid, however. Some might suggest these encounters were more than a dream; that my father’s spirit actually paid a visit. But it could just be that I was just missing Dad and my brain concocted these scenarios so I could experience him again for a while.
What I do know is that through these “encounters” I somehow connect with him in a way that feels very real; that the part of his spirit that dwells near and within me becomes accessible again. I find these dreams healing and don’t feel compelled to dissect them too much, only to embrace them.
In her book “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art,” Madeleine L’Engle said we’re not meant to be as separated as we have become from those who have gone before us and those who will come after.
“I learned to know and understand my father far more after his death than during his life,” she said. “Here we are on the border of the tremendous Christian mystery: time is no longer a barrier.”
Thanks to my dreams, as well as recollections in the living, I know it is so.