When Dad was going through his final fight with cancer, I was able to spend some time with him.
The last few times, he was in a morphine coma because what the pain in his body was taking from him was just too much. Every movement, too much. Every procedure, too much. Beyond capability to express, or even to let him cry out.
Those hours are etched in the hardest stone of my memory.
In that room I could hold his hand, or wipe the tears from the corners of his eyes, without him feeling embarrassed and self-conscious.
In that tiny room I talked a lot. Out loud. Even though he couldn't respond. Talked to him about things we used to do, about happy memories. Talked to him about what a great job he had always done, often against terrible odds, such as when the company cut his career out from under him and he had to start over.
In that final room I read to him. The Gospels. Every one of the Psalms. "They have pierced my hands and my feet, I can count all my bones." -- Oh, that was him, that was my Dad, with the tubes coming out of the backs of his hands, and wasting away to bones.
I have dreams of that room. I dream those hours that were, now, most of a decade ago.
Some of the dreams are mere remembering. As it was, where it was, all the sounds and sensations.
But some of the dreams go vertical. In my dream the room is the bottom of a rectilinear shaft hundreds of feet deep. I am looking down on the room, the bed with the cancer-crucified man who loved me so much he acted all my life for my good rather than his own pleasure. I am looking down on the both of us, me in the armchair drawn up to his final bed, all of it oddly lit from above and between like looking down on a stage through one rack of theater lights while more lights shine from higher up. The scene changes in my dreams, as the observer-I moves farther up the shaft, and the sick man and his son get smaller and smaller below.
In the vertical dream the observer-I tries to protest: No, don't take me out of this room! Let me stay! Don't let it diminish! I don't want to go away! I don't want to have it all go away! Let me go back down and be the son who watched and prayed. Let me go back down to then and even farther back to before the conversation became all one-sided. Let me go back and back and back -- into a time and place where I can pick it up and enter it and live it again and maybe get something right this time, something that might save us both.
But then I wake, and I know: that was then and there, while this is most of a decade down the road, and there is no fixing it now. At best there may come a time when, in the vertical dream, I cease to scream. Perhaps some day I can ascend to the next rack of theater lights, turn my gaze from the sick man on the tiny bed far below, and say hello to the man who loved me so much -- no longer in pain, but whole.