I was with Dad the other night, standing in the sunshine in the gravel drive of my friend Claire's house, and he looked good, his dark hair was glossy, he was tan, he was smiling faintly. My brother was there, too, and the three of us were going to get in Dad's car and drive home.
"Before we leave I have to pee," I said, holding up my hand to pause things. "I'll be right back."
I went in the house but couldn't find a bathroom, I stumbled around the dark-paneled rooms, no bathroom anywhere. I started to hurry because I didn't want to keep Dad waiting – he never liked that. He used to get angry if he had to sit and wait when he came to pick me up somewhere.
"Hurry, hurry up," I'm thinking. I'm starting to panic. I don't want to keep him waiting. I decide I'll just pee outside behind a bush, to save time.
But outside there are people milling around and I can't find a hidden spot.
And then, as I'm rushing around, I think of something, and I brighten.
"This is my chance to ask him!"
The thought makes my spirits soar: I can finally ask him – about the way he died. I've been desperate to ask him. Did he know what the risk was when he kept playing tennis after the diagnosis? Does he regret what he did, does he wish he could take it all back?
This is my chance, I think. We can finally talk about it.
"Screw it, I won't even pee," I think, and I start back toward the car.
But people keep stopping me, they keep asking me questions, wanting to talk. I'm dodging them and running around and trying to find the way back to the car. "Dad's going to be angry," I think. "Now I've kept him waiting."
And then I actually make it back there. Dad and my bro are sitting in some chairs set out in the sunshine. They've been having a nice talk, I can see, a heart-to-heart, which I've missed.
"I'm sorry it took me so long," I say. To my surprise, Dad isn't upset.
I wake up.
Of course it was a dream. Of course we weren't really together in the sunshine in front of Claire's house. And of course I can't really ask him about the way he died.
But all the rushing around – that was real.
Lying in bed, eyes wide open, I realize that the way I'm always rushing, the way I'm always afraid of keeping people waiting, is for him.
It's for Dad.