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June 2006, vol 2 no 2

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Helen Ruggieri

Dreaming of My Dead Father

I sit on the faded velvety silk Oriental rug. Across from me is a huge red mahogany desk and behind it, a large highbacked chair facing away from me. The chair swings around.

I'm face to face with my father though he's been dead for years. But this is not my father as he looked dying of cancer. This is my father as he looked fifty years ago when I was ten and was sure he knew everything.

Who the hell are you, he barks in that voice, the voice he used when you knew you were going to get it. He doesn't recognize me. That makes me so sad my eyes fill with tears. I don't know what to say, so I say nothing.

He stands up and walks around the desk. Doing so he moves out of the small glow the green glassed desk lamp throws. He walks to my side, the shadowy side.

He doesn't know me. He hasn't seen me in the last twenty years when I've grown to look more like my mother. God, my chest is filled with grief. I don't think I can speak or if I can, put into words what I want to say.

The last time I saw him, on the bed in the nursing home, there was a storm gathering outside. The purple mountains disappeared behind dark clouds, dust devils whirled across the hard pan soil. You were on the bed. I was at the window. You were unaware. Daddy, I said, Oh, Daddy.

You made no sound, no answer. You'd lost so much weight I thought they might have mixed up the wrist band, sent me to the wrong room. But there was the widow's peak, the hair white now. You raised your hand as if you were hitchhiking. I took it. I hadn't come soon enough. I felt your warm hard palm; you held on. "A grasping reflex, like babies do," the nurse said.

I wanted to believe it was more. I finally ask the Dream Daddy, "Did you know I was there?"

The dream Daddy looks at me but now he's back at the desk in the greenish light.

"There is no god," he says. "It was made up by a group of people to civilize the world."

Perfect reply from his personal philosophy. Back at the window the mountain comes back into view, a purple bruise against the Arizona sky. The light winks out.

The dream Daddy disappears into the shadows of this insubstantial room. I hear a door slam.

In June
jacaranda blossoms fall
on my father's grave