Do Androids Dream of Dead Parents?

If ever there were 12 words guaranteed to make a person’s stomach churn, they are “I SOOOOO need to tell you all about my dream last night!”

Add the words “It had my dead parents in it” and people will run like UKIP runs from rationality.

As a rule I don’t really discuss my dreams or personal torments with others; I fear I will bore them while not providing enough snacks.

Yet a couple of nights ago, I had one of the most affecting dreams I’ve ever had about my dear departed mother and father. It was beguiling, mesmerizing, and left me wandering the streets (by which I mean my house) muttering “woaaaaaaaahhh”.

I decided I wanted to talk to someone about it. (Pinches bridge of nose at memory of this decision)

For context, this July marks 17 years since I lost my father to a sudden stroke. Nine years ago, my mother also died suddenly from heart failure. I haven’t dreamt about them in a long time, but I still miss them terribly.

It’s true; I am terrible at missing people. I can never express my grief or sadness properly and instead push it way down into an endless sea of torment that I only release at parties or at a friend’s wedding. Or when watching Lilo and Stich for the first time the other day because SERIOUSLY that bit in the forest with Stitch and the ugly duckling book and the ‘waiting for family’ NEARLY KILLED ME.

Given the recent viewing of said Disney film and some lingering feelings of loneliness (for my lost family), it was inevitable that a big fat dream was coming my way.

I am a prolific dreamer, with all manner of passive and lucid dreams* messing with my night’s kip, but I do not spend hours trying to interpret them because a) I have a day job and b) please, it’s not hard, it’s so not hard, it’s so fucking obvious, really you have to stop buying the books.

Dreams are just a fluffier way of packaging up a whole big batch of head crazy and flinging it into a crowded pub. Oh heavens, no, you aren’t just randomly bringing up your dead parents and the agonizing pain you live with every day knowing that you can never go home again! No, you’re just analyzing a dream. Out loud. In italics.

Yet…this recent dream would not shift from my head. I should have just sat down and tried to work it out on my own, in my own time, with my own gin. But instead, I decided to be ‘healthy’ and share my thoughts with another living person.

I’m in my 30s. You’d think I’d have learned not to do this to people any more.

So how does one accurately convey how a dream can be beautiful yet eerie, uncanny but familiar, heart-wrenching but steady?

Well here’s how to never do it:

  1. Back whichever hapless fool happens to be listening to you into a corner.
  2. Talk very fast. If anything sounds different to how it sounded in your head, speak faster.
  3. Omit no detail, and insist on its relevance at all times while also discounting it.

And so, we have the following from me to the hapless fool:

Me: “Okay so the dream was in Florence…but it wasn’t Florence. I was Venice. But it was actually Florence, you know? And some people were partying in houses on either sides of the river…or was it a canal?….anyway, these boys were trying to party on my land and I pushed one of their girlfriends into the river because I had warned them that I would and….look that bit doesn’t matter, but what happened KITTENS!!!! Wow I’d almost forgotten, in the middle of the dream that other recurring ‘cat dream’ I have every so often popped up, where lots cats and kittens were nearly in the water and I had to save them but couldn’t save them. Weird huh?”

(Hapless fool subtly tries to check Facebook on any object to hand)

Me: “Look the point is that there was a grand, yellow stone footbridge over the canal, and AND AND…BOTH my parents had died on the exact same step, at different times! Eight years apart, just like in real life. Weird, right?”

(Hapless fool looks at you as if to say “no, considering this is happening entirely in your own head”)

Me: “Never mind, there’s more. There was this woman  who worked for the Daily Mail or something, a real snooty bitch, and she wanted gossip about dad for the papers, because he’s dead and you can’t libel the dead.

“So I decided I would take her to the steps and reveal in a really calm, dignified voice that dad had died there of stroke and mum had died on the EXACT SAME SPOT eight years later of a broken heart. And she would feel soooo guilty and really sad and I’d be all ‘yeah, take that, bitch!’……..but she kept moving while I was telling the story and I had to keep forcing her back on this one step to make the dramatic point.”

(Hapless fool starts move slowly towards the whiskey)

Me: “Okay, okay, okay, look the REAL point of the dream was that dad had died years ago while on holiday in Florence…or wherever the hell it was. He was with mum and had a stroke while on the steps, and fell and split his head open on the stone. And the steps were stained with blood like this flagstone inside Canterbury Cathedral that dad used to show me when I was little, because he pretended that was where Thomas Beckett had been murdered and the stain was his blood! Isn’t that weird?

“So the point is that I was there, reliving the memory of him dying but through mum’s eyes, because she had seen him die in real life but I didn’t. And everyone was screaming except me because I knew everything had already changed in a split second and that it was hopeless. Which is why mum died there too, eight years later…”

I stopped rambling. Hapless fool looks very sad and worried for me.

At which point, I bolt: “Ah, it’s just a dream, don’t worry” I said, and then hid under some coats, hoping that all would be forgotten by the time I emerged.

Despite not finishing the story, talking about it had helped me to decipher what was really wrong. The dream death itself did not really hurt; it was just a false memory of something that had happened a long time ago. Only this time, the head injury that killed him was a physical gash instead of a brain stem bleed hidden in dad’s skull.

What was wrong with the entire scene was that while I saw so much in perfect detail – the steps, the kittens, the architecture, the stains, the sunlight – I could not see my father or my mother’s face. They were a blur. I realized I am starting to forget them, and this is what had stayed with me most of all.
When you lose your parents when young, part of your past goes with them. As they fade, so does the evidence of where you came from, and who you are turns into guess work.

In my dreams, my parents never age or develop. But whether happy or sad, they are always missing. They are imagined, and never quite right. Part of me is missing with them.

The family, the way we were

Perhaps, in the end, this is a strange post for me to write. Maybe it’s a jovial way of writing about bereavement, maybe it’s to remind you all of the old cliché ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’, or maybe it’s to preserve my parents a little bit longer in pixels. Whatever it is, hopefully you’ll be inspired to cuddle a loved one and try to talk to them for at least a few minutes without shooting yourself or them or everyone.**

*At this point, I am obliged to have some sort of caveat because the minute my sister reads this bit, there will be hell to pay.. When I tell her that I often am not only aware that I am dreaming, but can alter and control elements of my dreams while still asleep, she goes a bit purple and says “you DON’T, you DON’T, it’s REALLY HARD to do that, only the Shamans can do that!!!” Everything boils down to the Shamans.

**Ring a living loved one. Don’t ring a dead one, they need their rest.

New family. Little, but still good. Still good….Damn you, Lilo and Stitch!!!
(Me, Leo and Em – Andy and Ben are…somewhere)

2 thoughts on “Do Androids Dream of Dead Parents?

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