Friday, January 13, 2012


Last night I had a dream about my father. More specifically I had a dream about polishing a car for my father.
It was a big yellow, lightly used 50s Cadillac, and it was like new, inside and out; except that its exterior needed a good cleaning and polishing.
I was still a young girl in that 1950s dream, and however I had managed to bring home a Cadillac home for him, I'm not sure. But dreams are dreams, and anything can happen in a dream.
In my dream last night, I hid that car behind the barn (we actually didn't have a barn in real life) and proceeded to wash and then begin putting a good coat of wax on that pretty yellow Caddy. An hour, maybe two, is what I thought it would take to do that task. However, it turned into a full day, because that car had a lot of chrome and decoration, and it was also so big I had to take a ladder out of the barn to wax the roof.
In the meantime, darkness was coming on when I heard my father calling for me. Feverishly I continued to polish that fine surprise of a car. I finally finished, and that's when I woke up.
Now here I am, wondering over my morning coffee why I dreamed I had brought a fancy yellow Caddy home to my dad in the first place. And then I realized how much I still connect my dad with the memories of his old, black 1934 Buick; he was still driving that car when he died in 1955 at the age of 49.
I loved the sound of the car's engine; a sound much like the sound of wind rushing through the leaves of a tree in autumn. He often returned home from his railroad job well after dark, and I would go to sleep with my bedroom window open, half listening for the sound of his car.
We kids often got teased by schoolmates over that old car, and one day I asked my aunt Helen why Dad didn't buy a newer car like everyone else. She enlightened me.
My father had been a bachelor until he fell in love with and married my mother when he was 33 years old. Prior to that, he always had new suits, and every few years had a new car too. What had changed? Turns out it was marriage and family! As good practicing Catholics who respected the church edict against birth control, Mom and Dad were one of those couples who ended up with a lot of children. So, said my aunt, my father had simply traded new cars and new suits for a house full of children.
Just before Dad's death, he had surprised us all when he announced that he had talked to the local Ford dealer and was going to buy a brand new station wagon big enough to carry all his kids at once. And that station wagon would be bright red! What excitement!
Dad, however, died at work of a heart attack before that purchase came to be, and his old car sat in the garage for quite some time before Mom finally sold it.
Now, I sit here with my morning coffee smiling at my daring deed in last night's peculiar dream. I had simply taken myself back in time to fulfill Dad's plan to buy a new car for his family. But I had gone one giant step farther; I had replaced the bright red Ford station wagon with a big, fancy, shiny yellow Cadillac. 
Now what would Dad have thought of that?