Letter to...

I’m Sorry I Didn’t Catch You, Dad

Dreaming about my long-dead father still keeps me up at night

My dad in his store.

Dear Dad,

It’s been over 40 years now and I’m still having that same dream.

Can you see my dreams from where you are? I wonder about that sometimes. Can you see anything at all? I mean, are you someplace or is that stuff about spirits living on just a big load of crap?

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that. If you’re there, you’re there. I learned early on that I have to take what I can get and be grateful for what I have.

I learned that from you. I don’t want to make you feel bad or anything but having a sick father can be tough on a kid. And let’s face it, you were always sick. I don’t remember a time when Dr. Catapano wasn’t over the house at least once, even twice a week. Sometimes he'd be in and out right away, other times he’d hang a lot longer. It all depended on how you were feeling.

I always knew you wouldn’t be around for very long. You and Mom tried to hide it from us kids, but I knew. That’s why I always tried to be around you all the time, to take whatever time with you that I could get. Remember how close to you I always sat when we watched the ’69 World Series? Or how many times I worked with you in the store instead of being outside playing with my friends? Hell, I even tried to be with you when you didn’t know it.

Don’t be mad, but there were plenty of times I’d follow behind when you’d walk alone to go to church on Sunday mornings. It was only a block and a half away from home, but you’d have to stop two or three times to rest, or take one of your pills. I cried sometimes watching you struggle, you know, but never came out from behind the parked car or the stoop that I was hiding behind.

Mostly I just got really angry that I couldn’t do anything to make you feel better.

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Near the end, the doc’s visits seemed to last for hours, long enough for mom to fix him something to eat while he waited for the meds to kick in, or even catch a couple zzz's on the couch before heading to his next stop. (They don’t make house calls anymore, Dad; I’m not sure you knew that.)

For about a year after you died, I had the dream so often that — well, I’ll be honest with you — there were a couple times I thought about offing myself just to make them go away.

I never told you about the dream. I never told anybody about it — not even my wife. Yeah, I got married when I was 29, which would’ve been 16 years after you moved on. She’s a good woman, Dad. I think you’d like her. Though if she reads this letter, she’ll probably want to know why I kept such a dream from her all these years.

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You and I are on the roof of our apartment building on Liberty Avenue. You’re close to the edge; I’m further toward the center, where it's safer. We’re standing there, looking at each other but not saying anything. The sun’s shining, it’s a nice hot summer day; you’re even smiling, which I guess you know you hardly ever did.

All of a sudden, the sky goes dark and the wind picks up. Rain starts pouring down as hard as I think it can. Except I only know it’s raining because I can see that you’re soaking wet. None of the rain is landing on me.

I’m just about to ask you how a thing like that could happen, us standing only a few feet apart the way we were, when the wind blows so hard that you lose your footing. You reach out so I can grab you, only my hands are inside my pockets and I can’t get them free.

I look down for a second, panicked and struggling to get a hand out to help you, when all of a sudden, I notice that now I’m soaking wet too. When I finally manage to yank a hand loose, it’s all torn up. Blood is spilling out of me like an open faucet but my hand doesn’t hurt, not even a little. I reach out so I could grab you, but you’re not there anymore. You’re gone.

I had the dream again a few nights ago. That’s why I’m writing you this letter. I’m hoping that finally telling you about it might make it stop once and for all.

There’s just one thing. I’m a little worried that this idea might actually work and the dream will go away.

It’s the only dream I ever have about you, Dad.

What if I never see you again?

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