My sleep schedule is so out of whack, that even I am not understanding it. So last night I took an Ambien at about 10:30pm to see if I could jolt myself into some sort of pattern.
What that really means is that I’m not sure I’m going to remember writing this entry, but something is brewing in my perception about the meaning of life.
Recently I’ve been dreaming about grandparents. The dreams themselves drift away on gossamer leaves quickly, so the content of the dreams is unimportant.
I have many theories about the purpose of dreams. The prevailing theory is that dreams are our mind’s way of organizing thoughts, feelings, and memories into associations. Dreams can be analyzed to the extent of identifying worries past or present, and situating them in our imagined and actual experiences to help resolve brain aches.
That’s the logical theory; however, I do also believe that I’ve had dreams of premonition. None that I’ve been able to use, but a certain moment will occur, and I’ll think to myself, “I dreamed of this before.” There’s never any context of the situation. The first time it happened I was playing pool at Parkside’s Union. I was blasted by deja vu, and remembered a dream I had. Whether or not I actually did dream that moment is impossible to prove. Maybe it was just my brain trying to rationalize deja vu. Maybe in the organization of thought, feelings, and memories, by brain produced an image of a likely occurrence. Not as an immutable Destiny, just as a given the inputted parameters, there is a high probability of experiencing a moment like: whatever.
That’s the thing: the moments aren’t all that special, nor can I put a time table on when I had previously dreamed the event… within the previous week? month? year? Who knows.
One theory about dreams that I was exposed to in my early twenties is that everyone in a dream is just an aspect of yourself. If you dream about your father, for example, you have to think about the qualities you associate with your father. It is those qualities within yourself that are being reconciled in those dream processes.
Just for a moment I’d like to admit a desire to believe in the Supernatural: ghosts and gods, prophecies and fate, untarnished good fighting creatures of evil with holy words and silver swords.
These recent dreams of my grandparents, though somewhat of a reprieve from the visits from my parents, have been on my gnawing at me in an effort to put those visions into some usable prospective.
I’d like to cherish the concept that the spirits of my ancestors have come to guide me, give advice, keep me connected to my blood family. Unfortunately, the contrarian nature of looking at things from multiple angles prevents me from making this fantasy one of my truths.
And that’s when it occurred to me that maybe this time I could accept that supernatural aspect at face value… somewhat.
When I was 13 or 14 my dad made me sit down in the kitchen nook of our house on 42nd Avenue. It was a weird occasion. My father wasn’t in the habit of spending time talking with me unless he was either a) relentlessly teasing me, b) yelling at me for some reason or other, or c) yelling at me to behave in a way to prevent myself of getting yelled at in the future.
This wasn’t like any of those times. It was a fatherly moment disguised as a lecture.
He took out a sheet of paper and drew a dot in the lower left corner. “This is your great-grandchildren grandfather. He was a peasant in Lithuania.” He drew another dot to the right of that dot and a little higher. “This is your great-grandfather. He left Lithuania and worked in the Chicago stockyards. (The Marcinkus name is in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle — how cool is that?)
Another dot again to the right and a bit higher. “Your grandfather was a mechanic at American motors. He became a skilled laborer.” The next dot again to the right and higher. “This is me. I graduated college and became a teacher.”
He connected on the dots to show the inclining line of… success? When he reached his dot, he continued the upward slope but dotted to show the future.
“So you see, you need to take the next step up. You need to do better than me.”
I was immediatly hit with two thoughts: 1) No shit, that’s just common sense, and 2) The way we’re living is pretty decent, I’m not struggling to get out of a life of eating dirt, or coming home bloody and smelling of death. I’m not on a path to slave between whistle blows. Being a teacher is a pretty good way of making a living (although at that time, it was pretty certain I’d be doing something with computers.)
The lesson stuck with me. When I became a teacher, I read Huck Finn more times than I’d care to count. Every stinking time I got to the section of Pap Finn berating Huck for putting airs on a trying to be better than him, I had warmth in my heart for my father. I guess generational improvements of the life condition aren’t common sense.
For awhile, I was bummed that my dot really wasn’t moving any higher than my father’s. But I think it was in terms of defining myself by all of my actions, not just my career. When I became department chair, I put that “failure” aside, my dot had moved up ever so slightly.
Back to those dreams about my grandparents. In context, dreaming about them makes a little more sense.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks largely in leisure. I’m under the perceptual impression that no less than 95% of my life can be viewed as one of leisure. Even if I’m doing something that smacks of work, it’s because that’s what I’ll feel like doing at that moment. The other 5% are just chores: sweeping the floors, picking up dog shit, fixing things that broke.
It’s very hard accepting this without some amount of guilt or “should be.”
The grandparents in that dream may simply represent those dots on that chart my father drew so long ago. Each dot striving to make a better life for himself, his family, and his children.
It begs a question.
Where does a life of leisure fall on the y-axis of my father’s chart? I assume it’d be pretty high on the scale… higher than a president? Is the y-factor associated with success as measured by wealth?
I am the legacy of my grandparents. And when these questions confound me, I think they’re visiting my dreams to remind me the effort that they put in to have a better future. I see their apparitions giving their blessing on how I’m choosing to live, and if I do it right, be able to give my children the means to make their dot higher than mine.