Cailyn and I were sitting on a bench, watching kids run back and forth on the playground. She sat perfectly still and her head followed the movements of a few of the kids. She turned her head up to me and looked me straight in the eyes as I spoke.
“Cailyn, do you want to go play with the other kids?” I asked.
“No, thank you, Dad. I want to stay with you.” was her reply.
We sat there for a few minutes and, although I don’t remember the exact conversation, we talked, joked and laughed. These talks usually ended with me telling her how proud I was of her and she always ended with “I love you.” Then the sound of loud music would startle me. I opened my eyes to the familiar green glowing numbers on my clock. I just sighed. Six o’clock. Time to get ready for work.
I’ve always remembered my dreams. Like everyone else, they run the gambit from horrifying to downright stupid. They’ve always been breathtakingly realistic, however. So much so, that I’ve had trouble drawing the lines of where they began and ended. I even have those “déjà vu” moments, where a scene of my real life lines up exactly the way a previous dream did. It only lasts for a few seconds, until actual events begin to slightly deviate from the path of my dream and the feeling suddenly drops.
Since the day that Amber tied a yellow pair of baby boots around the steering wheel of my car, I’ve had two significant recurring occurrences in my dreams.
In the first, I realize during the dream that I have a loose tooth or several loose teeth. I spend the rest of the dream fighting to maintain a normal lifestyle as the tooth gets worse. It begins shifting dramatically, until it falls out and I’m left staring at it in my hand. It’s always a prominent tooth and I know that everyone is going to notice.
The second are conversations with Cailyn. There are a few variables to them. They started just before she was born. Sometimes she is older than in real life. Other times, she is the same age. Sometimes I’m shocked that she’s talking so clearly and, in others, we just continue the discussion as if we were old friends. What remains consistent is that she speaks in full sentences and has perfect, plain speech.
I’ve told Amber many times about both of these dream scenarios. Shortly after they began occurring, I tried to look up meanings, online. Unsurprisingly, consistent dreams about losing teeth are supposed to represent a paralyzing fear of not having control. When you are losing a tooth, there is really very little you can do about it and it begins to guide your actions and thoughts. It’s the ultimate subconscious metaphor for a real-life fear.
I was less successful in finding information about the root of my dreams of Cailyn speaking. That is, until she began to get older and the speech never came. Increasingly, the dreams began to make me sad and even angry. I felt taunted by some interaction that I was being robbed of. It was like I was looking through the window of an alternate reality, where my life was once headed until it began to deviate off course. I surmised that the dreams began as moments I most looked forward to, and they became the moments that I most feared never obtaining.
A few times, in dark moments shared between only Amber and I, I would share the mounting resentment. More than anything else, I wanted my daughter to be able to tell me that she loved me. I selfishly wanted a conversation between she and I. I wanted to know what her voice really sounded like. They are things, for which you never anticipate longing, they are hammered into your mind every time you see another child interact with their parent, they stab you in the chest every time you hear another adult reference their child talking “too much.”
I remember the last dream of her conversing with me. I was in New York, away from my family for a week. That night I dreamed of a conversation that I had with Cailyn. All I remember about it was that she looked me in the eyes the whole time and I was focused on the little brown “freckle” in her eye. A few days later, I would come home and she would sing “Somewhere, over the rainbow” to me. Apparently, my subconscious was calmed because the dream I had at least a dozen times before has never returned,
I still have the “déjà vu” moments, however. One of these events, which inspired me to write this post, occurred on my 30th birthday. I got Cailyn out of the shower and wrapped her in a towel. I held her, cradled like a baby, as I often do. She just sang along with a random song that was playing on the iPad when, all of the sudden, she stopped and stared right into my eyes. It must have been for at least thirty seconds. I saw the little freckle in her eye, imagined hearing her voice speaking to me, and started to tear up a bit.
“Cailyn” I said “I’m so proud of you. Daddy kiss?”
She gave me her cheek and said “I yub you.”
I told Amber that it was Cailyn’s birthday gift to me. Maybe the best I’ve ever received.
These moments come and go, as we lose control and Autism forces our world down a different path. Someday, however, I believe that my dream world and reality will be on roads that converge into one and the same. For, today, I see that little girl through a glass, darkly. Someday, I’ll see her face to face.