My dad, now deceased, used to say that he never dreamed. Scientists could have disproved that with REM readings of his brain, but that wouldn't have altered the fact that my gentle father never remembered any dreams, and therefore it seemed to him that he didn't dream. Because he apparently didn't know what a dream was, I'm not sure he ever believed the rest of us who claimed we did dream. In fact, he tended to poo-poo any talk of any possibility of consciousness beyond the strictly ordinary--beyond, that is, what he experienced, himself. But a strange thing happened toward the end of his life, and sometimes I wonder if it had anything to do with all those dreams he never was aware of having.
He was sliding into Alzheimer's--or something like it--and he was also extremely deaf. He wore two hearing aids and even then could barely hear anything. He took off those aids when he slept. One Saturday morning, after months of being in a deep Alzheimer's fog, he awoke early, lying next to my mother who also woke up.
They began to chat about this and that as long-married couples do.
Suddenly, my mom exclaimed, "Clinton, you're hearing me!"
And he was. Without either of his hearing aids, he was hearing her perfectly. Not only that, but he was lucid. That weekend was an astonishment of a blessing, because for two days we had him back almost the way he used to be. He was rational, and he could talk to us. He wasn't totally without confusion, and he was fragile, but it was a miraculous turnaround, nonetheless.
There was one strong holdover from the Alzheimer's, however, which was that he continued to have hallucinations. This time, however, he could tell us about them as an observer would, instead of living them in fear and confusion. He told me there was "a man" who followed him everywhere, dogging his footsteps, and who drove him crazy. (!) My dad called that hallucination, "that fellow." At one point when I was sitting on the fireplace hearth, my dad said there was a middle-aged woman on either side of me.
He had also always poo-pooed even the idea of psychological therapy, but something was different about him that weekend--beyond the obvious miracle of his "recovery"--and so I asked him, "Daddy, have you thought about turning around and asking that fellow why he's following you?"
Instead of laughing at that suggestion, my dad looked interested. "You could ask him what he wants," I followed-up. "That might be a good idea," my father said, and my heart leaped, because it was the first hint of interest in introspection and consciousness that I had ever heard from him.
I should have pursued it right then, should have asked him about the middle-aged women and the other people he saw, but I didn't, and by Monday, he was deaf, and mentally gone again, never to return. That strange and blessed weekend had given us our chance to say goodbye, though we didn't know it, during a brief opening when he could understand us and we could understand him. When he died about a year later, of acute leukemia, he had completely disappeared into delusion.
I've wondered a lot about his hallucinations, those products of something gone awry in his brain. It seemed at the time as if the contents of his denied dreams came surging out, standing behind him and in front of him, as if to say, "Look at us. Now you have to look at us!" Possibly this is a crazy idea, but I can't shake it, because I know there's truth to the quote from the Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas, which avers that, "Whatever you bring forth from within you will save you; whatever you don't bring forth from within you will destroy you."
I've been paying close attention to my dreams for thirty years. That close attention--that belief in them, if you will--started with a dream that told the future in a way so undeniable that I couldn't do anything but accept the mystery of it and know that in that sleeping consciousness lay knowledge. There have been times when it has literally saved me--once from a murderer, and once from crooks. I'll tell those tales another time. The subject of dreams is far too big to cover in one little blogger post. I just want to introduce it this first time, and start a conversation that may continue over time--daytime and nighttime.
Thanks for reading this.