I had a nightmare last night. A real, old-fashioned nightmare that bolted me awake at 5:11 AM.
I was so shaken I actually wanted to wake up Sruli who was blissfully sleeping through a very real threat to his ever-lovin’ wife.
I lay, bug-eyed, for a few minutes in shock—until my ever-lovin’ bladder made a very real threat of its own.
Back in bed (after a freaky check on the babes) I remembered some long-ago psychologist-type who said that scary dreams are manifestations of unfinished business.
So the cause of nightmares is—unresolution.
I will add to that. I have day-mares every time Zachary borrows the car. Every time the twins aren’t right next to me in the mall, or Ilana tells me she is walking home, alone, through Washington Square Park. And now that Aaron is traveling all year—all those plane rides…oy vey.
So I know that the real cause of nightmares is fear.
Then, weirdly, I started to feel real anger—at Stephen King (! ) How could he contribute to the horror in this world, by writing it all down, making it into movies and thereby making the horror a real experience for millions of people who obviously don’t get off enough on their own nightmares?
Then, of course, I realized it was total jealousy because what I wouldn’t give to have written only three of his stories. (The Body—which became the movie “Stand by Me,” Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile.)
So the real cause of nightmares is—envy?
I did get back to sleep eventually.
In the morning, I called my Dad to check how his cataract operation went.
It’s been very hard to see my father slowing down and casting off his interests.
He was a very formidable man—I was scared plenty of him sometimes when I was little—he held my sisters and me to very high standards and ruled with an old-fashioned European potch.
But we were very close, too, still are, and I spent endless hours in his study just talking about life and feeling the pride and love that he had for me.
He shlepped me to orchestra every week and we performed together at nursing homes on Chanukah. Now he and Mom come to Zachary’s and my concerts.
He is a violinist, cellist, pianist, clarinetist, sax player and composer and has the sweetest tenor. He was a High Holiday Cantor every year at a shul in Pennsylvania. He still hosts a high level Gemorah shiur every Shabbos. He is an amateur but ardent astronomer.
He was a Full Professor of Mathematics at Queens College—recently retired. He has published many books on prime number theory and statistics.
A Renaissance Man.
And then it hit me.
My nightmare. There was a long, dark hallway and the walls were hung with meters—meters that measured pain.
The red lights on the meters went up and down and I could hear muffled cries behind the walls.
I somehow knew I was representing my family. And then my turn came.
A large man filled the hallway, coming suddenly at me, sweeping me up into a dance macabre.
He released me and I followed him to a room where he held up two contact lenses.
He dropped one and I instinctively bent to help him pick it up but he warned me away with a look.
I then had to wait in that dark hall with the red lights.
I was frantic and filled with dread because I knew he was preparing something for me with those lenses.
I opened the door to the room again, and there he was, sitting and waiting for me with a pink and blue haze of light surrounding him, a meaningful look in his staring eyes and a slight smile.
I realized I was going to be in for pain like I never experienced.
He started to rise from behind this desk, still staring at me with that crazed half-smile and I turned and fled down that hall—and that’s when I woke up.
My heart was really pounding. Now, as I write this and try to recall crazy-contact-lens-man’s face I see only Dwight Schrute from The Office. But it wasn’t him.
I think it was Death.
And I wasn’t protecting my kids, or Sruli, or even myself. I was protecting my Dad.
What a turnabout.
But Daddy, biz 120 poopoopoo, is still someone I talk to every day and my sisters and I try to get him to exercise more (we got him to quit smoking 30 years ago) and I try to keep Johnny and Charlie less wild when we visit and I still try to amuse him and make him proud with the mishigena stories that make up my life.
And at least I figured out what the real cause of nightmares is.
And I betcha Stephen King knows it, too.
The real cause of nightmares, is love.