The Trouble With Dreams / by Deborah Clague

A few weeks ago, I experienced a dream that acutely tapped into dormant senses. It involved my father, again, embracing me, again. As he gave me a big bear hug, my head nuzzled tightly into his neck, the musky odour I associated with him from childhood manifested the air. I woke up immediately believing him to be in the room with me. And that's the trouble with dreams; their denial of reality a reminder of how disquieting life can be in comparison. 


As the date of October 26 nears, I've been thinking about how surreal the annum has been. This date - this godforsaken date of wretched despair - is the first commemoration of the worst year of my life. On this date twelve months ago, I was awakened by Monty gallivanting through my condo after returning from an early morning walk with my father who was in town on one of his monthly visits. As I opened my bedroom door, reaching out to take away a squeak toy and playfully scold the furry beast for disturbing my peace, I heard my father ask "are you up?"

At the time, I thought this was strange. Normally he'd be sitting on my couch watching British comedies on a channel I subscribed to primarily for his entertainment. Conversations would surround the long drive in from Winnipeg and the terrible drivers that plague Saskatchewan roads. As per routine, he'd then inquire what I wanted for breakfast. He always had a McDonalds coffee and fruit-and-fiber muffin. The exact change to purchase such lined up on his dresser the evening prior. "Are you up?" seemed like it had an obvious answer; superfluous small talk that didn't need to happen between two people well familiar with each other's habits. I only had about three seconds to ponder this though. When I looked up at my father's face to respond, I could see tears stream down his cheeks.

The first hit. Wounded. 

Then, through a cracked voice that was barely audible, "I have cancer and I have less than a year to live".

The second hit. Fatal. 

He pulled me close and gave me a bear hug, my head nuzzled tightly into his neck where I could feel his tears stream down his face onto mine. 

My father after his first round of radiation (hair loss at treatment site visible in picture at left)

My father after his first round of radiation (hair loss at treatment site visible in picture at left)


Two nights ago, I dreamt of my father again. I can't remember the full context of the narrative, I only recall his voice and the words of wisdom he was passing on. Mirroring my awakened state, I was depressed. Lost. Seeking deeper meaning and a glimpse of nirvana, even if superficial or fleeting. His response was "don't worry. Go ahead and do it."

I awoke.

Do what? 

This advice can pertain to way too many things going on right now, many of which require more substantial therapy than a well-meaning reminder quoting a Bobby McFerrin song. If he's trying to counsel through my subconscious, my father is going to have to be less vague, I thought to myself as I reached for my iPad at 3:23am. 

If there's an upside to insomnia, it's being forced to glimpse a side of the world that one forgets about during regular business hours. In my case, I read Japanese blogs as these are the only ones routinely updated with new content while my timezone – 15 hours behind Tokyo – is in deep REM. I appreciate the attention to detail that is placed on all facets of the culture from art and design to various social graces. Even something as mundane as drinking a latté has been turned into a magical experience, however superficial and fleeting.  

I've been in the early stages of planning a trip to the country since my father died on July 3. In his final weeks, I promised him I would climb Mt. Fuji on his birthday in 2015. I'm not sure why exactly. I just kinda randomly threw it out there. I think I was looking for a grandiose way to express how special he is to me and that I would never, ever forget it using the date as a way to commemorate this love every year eternal.

I resisted booking a ticket though. Mt. Ontake had just erupted, leaving dozens killed. There are predictions that Fuji may do the same. I'm also in shit shape with no motivation whatsoever to better myself. Wheezing up a mountain for two days would probably kill me if lava and ashes didn't. I decided to check aircanada.com though, to see if there was any fluctuation from the $2300.00 single round-trip ticket price that had been listed. 

There was. A thousand dollar difference actually. 

My father, famous for frugality, may have nudged me at that exact moment to "go ahead and do it". To book that ticket. I did. 

I believe what he was really telling me though was "don't worry. Just live."

My dad with two Harajuku girls in Tokyo (2009).

My dad with two Harajuku girls in Tokyo (2009).