Although I rarely post about my dreams, this one has really stuck with me this morning. It was a vivid dream and in such detail that I cannot get it out of my mind. The bizarre quality of the dream leaves me distressed.
I dreamed that I was delivering medications to the top of Mt. Shasta for my late father, Floyd, who was a pharmacist. I don’t know to whom I was delivering the prescriptions, but we made repeated trips, so I assume there were several people there. My husband, David, was driving us up a snowy, extremely curvy road to the pinnacle in my old, blue 1963 Ford Fairlane 500 Stationwagon. We were driving very fast, but it didn’t feel dangerous to me. We made several trips up this 14,000′ mountain. As we got to the top of the mountain on one of the trips, it looked like I could reach out the window and touch the craggy rock outside my car window. I asked David stop the car; as he did so, I got out, and started climbing up the rocks to the peak. There was a little snow along my path, and my late cat, Angelique, a long-haired, grey Persian mix, scampered up with me. I remember thinking to myself that I’d better be careful or I’d fall. Immediately, I realized that I was not at all afraid. Considering that in my wakeful life, I am very nervous about great heights, I was surprisingly fearless. I smiled endlessly as I climbed, and felt a peaceful elation at ascending this amazing apex and seeing this thrilling vista.
The scene cut away to a ski lodge about halfway down the mountain that was in the middle of a small, snowy village that had narrow streets, a row of connected, wooden buildings on either side of the street. This particular village, to which I have never been in my waking life, has shown up in many of my dreams. Frequently in my dreams, my mother resides in this village. While at the lodge, my late mother approached me in the company of other women who may have been her late cousins, looking strong and healthy. Mom demanded that I stop making the trip up the mountain. I told her that I was fine and that I wanted to return. She insisted that I not make the trip again, and I agreed, thinking to myself that I would go when I want to go. I was clearly trying to appease my beloved mother. She was particularly agitated about what she was saying, though. The thought kept crossing my mind that I wasn’t sure why she was so adamant in her remarks.
In several other parts of this dream, I was newly teaching in a boarding school in McCloud, at the base of Mt. Shasta in Northern California, with a huge number of children. I remember only that we were setting the table with mismatched silverware, dishes, and glasses, for a larger group than we had anticipated. The children were rude and paid no attention to the rules. I kept thinking, “These children are not anything like my wonderful students.”
In another period of my dream, in my bedroom at the school, I had a porcelain wash basin, the type used with a pitcher during the Wild West era, in which I was washing myself. I had a large growth on my upper left forehead that looked like a large pimple. I pulled at the white head on the growth and an encapsulated sac came out leaving an open hole to my skull. It was painless, but I kept worrying that I was at risk for infection with a gaping wound in my head. Usually very attentive to issues like this, I felt particularly calm, but couldn’t help wondering what the sac was and why I was remaining so peaceful.
The setting of my entire dream was in my hometown region of Southern Siskiyou County. Although I have never climbed Mt. Shasta, in my dream the peak looked surprisingly similar to this photograph, if there was a road immediately below the craggy outcroppings. I don’t know what the dream means, but I felt compelled to write about it.
I was five years old and in kindergarten. Mrs. Dawson was my teacher. I was in the morning class. Every day, I got home from school just before noon. Mom always felt I should eat lunch and take a nap after I got home. My brother, David, was not yet in school since he was only three at the time. It was no different on Tuesday, October 6, 1964.
My grandfather, Stanley, or Dziadzia, as we called him, had moved back to North Tonawanda, New York, right outside of Buffalo, in June 1963 after living with us for awhile. He’d had several strokes and needed care. He was in and out of the hospital in McCloud, where we lived.
Dad and I would ride one of our horses to see him, sit on our horse outside his hospital window and wave at Dziadzia. Dziadzia always had the biggest smile when he saw us there. It was a highlight of my day, too.
When my parents first adopted me, the first thing Dziadzia did was fly out to California from New York to see his youngest grandson.
When I was very little, Dziadzia would sit for hours holding me while I slept. He smoked cigarettes, and my mother would always tell me how she would be so worried that some of the ever-growing ashes would fall off of Dziadzia’s cigarettes onto me. She was so amazed that they never once did.
Although I have only two conscious memories of my grandfather, including one from outside his hospital window, and one when he was painting the outside of our shed in brilliant colors, I do remember the feeling I got from my grandfather. It was always a feeling of pure joy to be in his loving presence.
On this Tuesday, when Mom sent me to bed to take my nap, I didn’t fuss as I usually did. I just went to bed, turned out the light, and went to sleep. Almost immediately, I began dreaming.
I dreamed that I was standing in this black, empty space with only a little white fog at my feet. I saw my Dziadzia walk out of the dark toward me. He was dressed in his dark slacks and white shirt. He was wearing a tie and suspenders as he always did. I ran up to him and hugged him, yelling, “Dziadzia!” I remember feeling so incredibly happy to see him.
“Jimmy, I came to say good-bye,” he said to me. I couldn’t imagine where Dziadzia was going, but somehow, I sensed that he wouldn’t be coming back.
“No, Dziadzia! Please don’t go!” I cried.
“I have to go now. Give Daddy and Mommy, and little David, a kiss for me. I love you, Jimmy.” At that point, I started to cry in earnest.
I cried so hard I woke myself up.
I ran into the kitchen where my mother was, trying to hold back my tears, but quickly dissolved into a blubbering mess.
“What’s wrong, Jimmy?” Mom asked, very concerned.
“Dziadzia’s gone! Dziadzia’s gone!” was all I could repeat.
“Jimmy, Dziadzia is fine. He’s in New York at Aunt Frances’ house.”
Mom comforted me and I settled down a little bit, but I remember not being able to shake that uneasy feeling.
Dad got home a little after six o’clock. No sooner did he walk in the door when the phone rang. It was Aunt Frances. She proceeded to tell my father that their Dad was dead. He had died of heart attack. Dziadzia died at 1:35 PM, which was 10:35 AM our time. It was about 1:30 PM our time that I had my dream. I guess Dziadzia waited awhile until I fell asleep to say good-bye.
When Mom realized that I had been correct about my grandfather, she just looked at me. She never asked me a question about my dream. I don’t know if she ever told my father about it. We never spoke about it again until many years later.
Although I don’t remember Dziadzia all that well, I vividly remember the feeling I got from my Dziadzia. I always felt safe and loved with my Polish grandfather. He was the only grandparent who was still living when I was born.
It’s funny to think of it today, but I will never forget that look from Mom that day. She intuitively knew that my Dziadzia had come to me to say good-bye to me. She knew that I had experienced something that people had told stories about, but I’m certain Mom, with her Roman Catholic tradition, could never believe… until then. I’m not certain if it was because of this event, but from that moment on it seemed, Mom trusted my intuition when I would tell her things. She knew I knew things that I couldn’t possibly know otherwise. Even today, my husband and children will tell you the same thing.
I am so grateful to have gotten a chance to see Dziadzia one last time in my dreams before he left. Perhaps because of that dream or our entire history, I miss him still so much.
Dziekuje, Dziadzia. I love you.
The day was beautiful on the crowded beach. It was very warm, but not too hot. The sand made my feet tingle with the little beads of round glass dancing underneath them as I ran across the long expanse. My taut, tanned body was clothed only in my swimming suit and tennis shoes.
When I reached the twenty story tower of raw, iron girders up which I had to climb for the next leg of the competition, I looked up, memorizing where every hand- and foothold was. I knew that I could find a rhythm because every ten feet were exactly like the ten feet before. I closed my eyes.
Knowing my innate fear of heights, I determined that I could climb this rigorous course with ease if I wasn’t fettered by the fear so compelling since my childhood. It didn’t seem to take very long for me to reach the top, horizontal I-beam. I knew I had reached the top because, although my eyes were still closed, the wind felt freer as it swirled around me. I held on tight to the vertical pillar so I wouldn’t fly off the ediface during a stiff breeze.
Eventually, I decided I couldn’t keep my eyes closed for another second. I slowly opened my eyes and looked across the glinting ocean against which this huge structure had been built. I had to know just how high I’d climbed, so I looked down. I suddenly grasped onto my support beam all that much harder as I saw that I was standing nearly in the clouds. It was then that I realized there was another man hanging onto the same girder on the other side. We never spoke a word. I wasn’t even sure who was ahead in the race. He, too, was clearly focused on the same, sole question I was, “How do we get down from here?”
Only moments later, I felt a gust of wind push at my back. I didn’t fall, but I knew that if I let go, I would plummet toward the water below me. I couldn’t tell if the ocean was deep or shallow. If I fell, would I be killed? I didn’t know for sure, but I suspected it was deep enough that I wouldn’t be.
For some unknown reason, I chose to let go of the girder and fly toward the ocean, feet first. I yelled all the way down. As I approached the surface of the ocean, I waited for the crush of the sea or the jarring battery of my body on the ocean floor. To my utter amazement, there was neither. I simply slipped past what felt like a veil of watery surface into what can be best described as a suspension. I could breathe, but was slowed in my descent toward the sandy floor by this new environment.
By the time I did reach the floor, I lighted upon it in the way an elegant bird might a tree limb. I was afraid to take a breath, but once I had no choice but do so, I realized I could breathe freely. As soon as I discovered this, I blew some bubbles to see which way was up and started climbing the ninety degree wall of sand toward the reddish-yellow surface. It didn’t seem possible to swim in this almost-fluid. Eventually, I broke through the barrier and found easy oxygen, blue sky, and the returning din of the boisterous crowd.
I found an opening in the cyclone fence that went into the hotel where I was apparently staying. I climbed the short rock wall and as I clung to the floor of the lobby of the hotel, I saw my husband, David. I asked for his help, and he asked the security staff person if he could help me. The security woman at the desk, a sturdy African-American woman in full uniform, asked if I had fallen, jumped, or if I was pushed?
I responded that I had not been pushed, but I wasn’t sure whether I had fallen or I jumped. She looked at me confused, but told my husband, “I don’t care. Go ahead and help him.”
As David helped lift me to my feet, I asked where my clothes were. The security person said that I couldn’t have my clothes back, but quickly relented and allowed me to go get my clothes.
Although I had been through a grueling experience and had lost the race, I realized that throughout the process, from the heights of the girders to the depths of the ocean, I had remained peaceful inside. I had done what I needed to do and had done the best I could.
That was the end of my dream.