Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Phantom Pick Up: Or how I learned to manipulate my dreams

My father came and went when I was small. This was not sad, or extraordinary, it just was. When I was ten he left and did not come back. There was a visit when I was thirteen or fourteen I think, and then a trip to New York City when I was fifteen, and then no more visits until I was on the verge of eighteen and I had to go to him. When I was a little girl I didn't like it so much when he was around. It was better, easier in my opinion, when it was just me and my mom. I slept in her bed and we ate dinner in front of the television. When he came back around he ruined our rhythm. And I always knew it wouldn't last, and as I am impatient to the core, I was impatient for him to leave so that we could get on with our lives.

But the truth to human existence is that the pragmatism of early childhood is overshadowed by the hormonal angst of tweendom and then the teen cycle that doesn't really end until the mid twenties or when someone becomes a parent themselves, whichever comes first. I started missing my dad when I was in junior high. He had been gone long enough for me to forget how strange it was for him to be home.There were other things going on in my life that I didn't know how to deal with so it was easier to focus on what was not there, and he wasn't there. The dull empty became and ache and then an obsession.

My dad loved to drive pick up trucks. They were the vehicle of his land trade (carpentry) so they suited him. He drove away in one when I was ten and I expected him to return in one as well. I took a school bus to and from the private school I attended in the seventh and eighth grade. I lived far away from that ritzy part of town and was the last on my bus route to be dropped off. My stop was on the corner of Avon and Lexington, a block and a half away from home, and though I could clearly see the front of my house when I got off the bus, I couldn't see the side. We lived on a corner lot, and the garage and driveway faced the side street, so the driveway was out of my line of vision when I got off the bus.

Walking home I made a game of it. I would visualize his truck in the driveway. Sometimes it would be red, sometimes it would be blue. And I would go over all of the emotions that would follow. Would I be excited and run to the house? Would I be excited but pretend to be angry? Would I be afraid? Was it what I really wanted after all? But none of it mattered, because when I got to the corner the truck was never there, so I didn't have to feel anything. All the plans I made about my reactions were moot. You can't plan for something that doesn't happen.

As the year progressed, I began to get philosophical about the whole thing. I played a different game with myself. I figured since planning on him being there when I rounded the corner didn't work, I would focus hard on trying to un dream him there. I would tell myself over and over again that the truck would not be there, would not be there, would not be there, and maybe then, if I didn't plan for it, or dream about it, it would happen. Because that is the way things work out, right? They turn out the opposite of what we want. BUT then I started thinking that this approach was jinxing me as well. If I planned on him NOT being there because I was, in truth, planning for what happened when he was there and I hadn't planned on it... that is the same thing as dreaming him there, right? Yeah, I know.....

Eventually I stopped thinking about it altogether. And in the end it didn't matter because the truck never graced that driveway again. Not one more time.

The thing that is important about this memory is what I learned about dreaming. I learned the lesson that things NEVER turn out the way you plan them, the way you dream them,or the way you want them to. They just don't. Frequently they turn out better and sometimes they don't turn out at all, like dough that won't rise because the yeast went bad. Yep. That is the real lesson here. And so I always derive amusement over wedding plans and baby plans, birth plans and retirement plans (and now even savings plans!), because something is going to happen to change the course of the event. Something always happens. I like being prepared, so I have learned to not prepare. I tell myself all the time that the best days are the days you don't expect, and that all we can hope for is that nothing catastrophic happens when we make extensive plans. The best wedding I ever attended was outside and it poured. The couple didn't care, it wasn't about the plan, it was about the love, and it was lovely. The man I fell in love with was the first boy I ever dated who I thought "This one I will never marry." I didn't plan on getting married to Bill. I never dreamed about it, and it was a fantastic wedding, ask anyone, a wonderful day. I didn't plan my first baby and she saved my life. Sometimes the best things come as surprises. The problem is that we are conditioned, as a society, to plan. We plan so much and with so much fervor that I think many of us lose the ability to see outside of that proverbial box. Doors of opportunity, joy, reunion, love and success are opening every moment of every day and we just have to look for them. The pinata has been busted people! There is candy in that grass! Check it out.

My dad and I found each other again. When we were supposed to. If his truck had been there, I wouldn't have known what to do, no matter how hard I planned. And he needed to do what was on his path, he needed to spend that time with the woman who would be his new wife and he had to make my brother who saved him much the same way my daughter saved me. And now, I love him and I know he loves me, but we didn't even know each other back then. A truck in that driveway would have put a period on the end of our relationship sentence, not the .... that we have now. I wouldn't have it any other way.

And now, with this publishing quest, I find myself playing the what if game again. What if I get published? What if I don't? What if I get published and the book doesn't make any money? What if it does? And I think about walking home from my bus stop and asking those very questions. And then I feel really good, because even though I didn't get my father back the way I wanted to at the time, I did get him back in the end, and that means..... yeah.

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