I had no idea how my life would change when I woke up that January morning.
The bedroom was cool, judging by the tip of my nose. The rest of my body cocooned under several layers of cotton, batting and fleece. January brings blue and steel colored mornings and that dawn was no exception. Winter is a reminder that nature’s pallet is flung in the corner of the studio, dried up, and what is left; a monochromatic wash.
I squeezed my eyes tight, though they were shut to begin with, it seemed an appropriate response to the question in my head. What was that? Richard? I remembered the dream in its’ entirety, what was said, what I felt and what I saw and I rehashed the details of the dream as I lay there. Once more, how strange. My husband lay next to me, asleep. His breathing deep and peaceful. I took a moment to enjoy the….moment. How, if I moved a millimeter the stillness would be broken and the day would start. The moment was held as long as possible until the inevitable.
I was once told that no one is interested in another persons dream. That’s probably true. The best way to lose anyone’s attention is to start off a conversation, “Listen to this crazy dream I had last night…” Dreams are significant only to the person who has them. I’ve also been told that dream are the ego working out the psycho-drama, mental garbage we collect throughout the day. That’s probably true too. We share common theme dreams. Who hasn’t had falling dreams, flying dreams…..exam dreams where we show up naked? Or better yet, reoccurring dreams. Yuck. Doomed to repeat same scene over and over again without an erase button. There’s books on dreams trying to disect the symbolisysm of water and bunnies and what it means when your second grade teacher is planting flowers in your bathtub. I think, it’s also believed there is no real explination why we dream.
But this dream, the dream that woke me up that January morning was unlike any dream. And, hopefully, I will never experience another one like it. Historically, I’ve had strange dreams. Some of them as simple as shapes that I would see the next day in a bowl of ice cream. More memorable ones were dreaming my loving brother was in a car accident and having that dream realized the next day. My beautiful brother discharged from the emergency room and safe at home. Coincidence, probably. Explainable, sure. But not this one.
The morning was unremarkable and forgettable. As soon as I got out of bed, the dream was side-lined by shower, breakfast, daughter’s homework accounted for and off to school and work for the family. However, while completing routine tasks throughout the day my mind returned to the dream. It was no longer analyzed it in my head but turned to feelings of sadness with the possibility the dream could be true. What if it’s true, what if they’re feeling like that? I decided to no longer ruminate over the possibilities and would discuss the dream with family that night.
Tacos. Nothing like discussing a little dream over some spiced meat and flour tortillas. I had eaten half of the meal and stopped. My husband was working on his second taco and our daughter poked at her lettuce when I interrupted the silence.
“I had a dream last night.”
He didn’t look up from his food and said, “Oh yeah?” The theory confirmed, nobody cares about another person’s dreams. But he humored me and continued, “Let’s hear it.”
“It’s hard to explain where I was. Like I was nowhere…in a black void. And someone whispered the name Richard. I heard the name, as if someone whispered it in my ear, but I felt it as well. You know how when a stone is thrown into water and makes ripples?” My husband nodded his head and continued eating.
“It was like that. I felt the name travel over me from my feet to my head.”
“Weird.” Was my husband’s reply.
“It gets a little weirder. Somehow I know Richard is a priest. Like I’ve always known he’s a priest. It was never said, but I just know. Anyway…I felt what Richard felt. It was horrible. He felt, despair. Like, he wasn’t doing a good job and was feeling lost.”
My husband interrupted before I could explain the last bit and asked, “Did you see this person? The one who’s talking to you?”
“No. It was a conversation without words really.” He looked at me with a cocked eye and rocked his head to instruct me to continue.
“The second word and last word I heard was a location.”
“And?” My husband had stopped chewing and set his taco down.
We were silent for an awkward amount of time. I then started doing something unexpectedly, I began to tear up.
“It’s crazy right?”
“I don’t know about crazy. What are you going to do?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” My honest and only reply.
A few weeks had gone by since the dream and my admission of it to my husband. I had convinced myself that it was just a dream. A dream about a priest of all things. If it were a message, the person delivering the message had made a mistake. I wasn’t religious or a church-goer. I was raised catholic and had my fair share of Sunday mass, catechisms, confirmations and all that by the time I was sixteen. I had decided that church was not for me, though I would please family members by showing up to mass on Christmas and Easter Sunday. I wasn’t the person to deliver any message to a priest. Right?
During family gatherings or out for drinks with friends, the dream would come up in conversation. My husband was the one to bring it up, “Why don’t you tell them about the dream you had. You know, the one about the priest.” I would refuse and then capitulate with a Reader’s Digest version of the story. “Interesting” or “weird” were the garden variety of comments. Until my mother heard about the dream. She was the one behind the sixteen years of Catholic upbringing.
“I spoke to your sister the other day.” She said.
“How is she?”
“She told me about a dream you had.”
“Tell me about it. I want to hear it.”
I went into complete detail, explaining a little more about the dream than I had told my husband. By the end of story, there was silence on the other end of the phone.
“Well, what do you think?” I expected the ‘weird’ comment.
“It might be unholy.” Her deadpan tone conveyed she wasn’t joking.
“Oh mom, why would you say that?”
“You know the devil puts doubt in people’s lives.”
“I don’t think it was a message of doubt.”
“You should be very careful about this, I’m just saying. What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. Probably nothing.”
“Well, maybe you should see if he exists.”
“And tell him what? That the devil sent me to place doubt in his life?”
She giggled the special way.
“I don’t know, now I’m curious. Let me know what you find out.” This was her way of saying I should make some phone calls. See what can be found out.
It was about ten o’clock in the morning and the phone calls subsided at work and the first cup of coffee was gone. I sat at my desk and looked and the cursor blinking on the monitor. An empty time to fill with thoughts and my thoughts kept going back to the priest. The feeling was so sad, so full of anguish. Of all the human emotions, the feeling of defeat ranks high along with abandonment and hopelessness. What would it hurt to make a couple of phone calls? I looked at my coworker who was fumbling with a pencil.
“I’m going to take a ten minute break.”
“Ok. I’ll watch the phones.”
I grabbed the phone book and looked up churches. The thought struck me as I looked at the list of potential churches; Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran. God, what if they’re not Catholic? What if they’re Jehovah’s for christ sake! Well, I had to start somewhere so I found the number to my childhood parish. A nice sounding woman answered the phone.
“I’m looking to find a church in Houghton. How would I find a list of churches?”
“You can call this 800 number and when prompted punch in the zip code to the town you want and you’ll be given the phone number to the closest church.”
“Wow, I didn’t know that service existed.”
“It’s kind of neat, huh?”
I thanked the lady and hung up. After finding the correct zip code, I lifted the receiver of the phone. I punched in the 800 number and entered the numbers 49931. After a few clicks an automated voice recording stated St. Ignatius Church and proceeded with the phone number. I scribbled the number on a sticky note and placed it on the frame of my computer. Maybe after lunch I’ll get the courage to call.
After lunch I tried to ignore the sticky note with the phone number. It was neon pink but I pretended not to notice.
Where do I start? I ended a business call and gave in to the sticky note. I peeled it off the frame of the computer monitor and let it cling to my index finger. In my mind the conversation would start by asking whoever answered the phone what the name of their priest was. If it is Richard, then what? I would have to start off by saying to a priest that I had this crazy dream about him. Absurd! The thought made me laugh out loud. Co-workers looked over their shoulders at me, hoping I would share some humor with them.
“It’s nothing.” I said in everyone’s direction. Ok, crazy person, just pick up the phone and dial.
The phone rang, once, twice, three times. Maybe luck will shine down and I can leave a message.
“Hello?” A pleasant voice answered the phone.
“Hi, how are you today?” Stalling is good.
“Fine, how can I help you?” This person was all business.
“I was wondering what’s the name of your priest?”
“What?” It wasn’t a what, can you repeat that but a what…you’re crazy.
“Yes, he’s out for the minute, but I can put you through to his voice mail.”
I listened to the voice of Father Richard, apologizing for no answering his phone and that he would return any call within 24 hours. I left the message as follows:
“Hi, Father, uh, you don’t know me. My name is Bridget and when you get a chance, please call me back.” I gave my phone number and hung up. Sweat started to form on my forehead and the back of my neck. I placed my elbows on the desk and cupped my head in my hands. Every piece of me started to tremble. He was going to call back and I’d have to tell him about the dream. To calm myself down I played his voice over and over again in my head. He sounded pleasant, not in distress or sad. I convinced myself that Father Richard will call back and we’ll talk about the dream and have a good laugh.
Later into the afternoon the work day became hectic. I was receiving call after call asking for help about deadlines and starting new projects. It didn’t matter though. My eye kept looking at the phone bank and the dark light bulb associated with incoming calls. If Father Richard were to call, that light would blink yellow.
“Are you going to the St. Patrick’s day parade?” My co-worker asked.
“I am. You?”
“My wife and I are debating about it.” He replied. “It’s for the amateurs. All drunk and loud. I just want to….”
I looked back to the phone bank and there it was, the little yellow light flashing. It was notifying me that Father Richard was calling in.
“I’ve got to take this.” I interrupted my co-worker and pressed the answer button.
“Hello?” My heart started to race.
“Hi, is this Bridget?” It was him.
“Yes, how can I help you?” Hang up the phone, I thought.
“You don’t know me…am I interrupting you?”
“Ok, this may take a few minutes. Do you have time?” I piqued his interest because his answer was masked in a curious tone.
“I have time.”
I started the conversation how it had been rehearsed in my head. “This may sound strange, but I may have had a dream about you….”
The dream was told once again, in every detail. Every so often I would pause and ask if he was still on the line. He would reply, “Yes.” When I was done, I said one last thing that was never mentioned to my mother or my husband or friends.
“Whoever was talking to me wanted you to know that you are making a difference and to not give up.”
If silence could be heard, it was coming from the other end of the phone. Then, ever so quietly, the sound of weeping could be detected.
“Father Richard?” I asked.
“It’s me. The dream was about me.” His voice had changed to a soft whisper and I could hear he was crying.
We stayed on the phone for another thirty minutes. Screw my company, they’ll have to wait. We had agreed to call each other that evening to talk more and answer any questions we had for each other and then I hung up the phone.
Tears formed in my eyes and even though I was at work, I didn’t care who saw me cry. It was real. It was true. I had found Richard.