In my dreams, he is a composite of himself: He's wearing the ivy style hat and long coat he wore to his teaching job every day of my childhood, but his face is older. He's holding a briefcase, but wearing sneakers. His hair and beard are fully gray, but thicker than it was at the end, after the chemo. The glasses he's wearing are from some fuzzy, unspecific point in between.
They are not happy dreams: "What are you doing here?" I asked him in the very first one, bubbling over with joy.
"Your mother died," he said simply, and walked away.
W. T. F?
I immediately woke up and texted my mom -- something unrelated and upbeat, just "cuz" -- and then sat in terror as the hours went by without a response and I wondered if I could fake it through a phone call without letting on that OH HI YOUR DEAD HUSBAND TOLD ME IN A DREAM THAT YOU DIED BUT YOU ANSWERED THE PHONE SO I GUESS YOU'RE GOOD OKAY SO NEVERMIND.
Kind of a day-ruiner of a dream, to put it mildly.
Since then, his presence in a dream unsettles me. I'm afraid of what he'll say; I'm afraid that he simply won't say anything and disappear. I'm afraid of waking up because when I wake up I lose him all over again, I once again feel the full weight of he's gone, he's really gone, and I will never see him again.
Except for the glimpses of this mixed-up shadowy phantom. Who even in my dreams I know doesn't exist anymore, doesn't belong there, and who even in my own dreams I cannot seem to go up to and hug and say the one thing that was left so painfully and permanently unsaid.
"Hi Daddy, I have someone I want you to meet."