Dreams can be such humbling things. Even in the most bizarre, awkward ones there’s still some element of truth wrapped into the center of them if you dig hard enough. Strange places with vague similarities to ones from your waking life. Objects that have a visceral importance in a dream turn into something completely different once you wake up and start to think about it. “What the hell was that?” “What did that mean?” Familiar places and people are these bizarro versions of themselves in your dreams. Traits morph as you make your way through this dream world. Who you thought was one person turns into another. Meanings can change as well. It just depends on how your sleeping conscious is processing what your subconscious is trying out on it.
For the most part, my dreams tend to stay in the same sort of categories. There’s not a lot of variety when that old “R.E.M. Theater” is running. I’m usually at familiar places that morph into unfamiliar places. People I know are strange interpretations of themselves in my dreams. It’s never like I really know them, other than just I “know” who they’re supposed to be. I rarely have nightmares. If anything, my dreams take on a David Lynch-ian vibe(which I guess for some could be considered a nightmare.) Odd behavior from people in real life that aren’t odd at all, places I’m very familiar with that have very distinct differences in my dreams. Like a house I know in real life has rooms that don’t exist in my dreams. Oh, and bathrooms are always, always disgusting in my dreams. This must be a subconscious phobia of mine or something. I’ve had so many gross bathroom dreams.
Some recurring dreams of mine are the aforementioned “dirty bathroom” dream. I usually have to go to the bathroom really bad in the dream and come across this dungeon-like restroom where I can’t find a toilet that isn’t overflowing with waste or isn’t wet. These restrooms take on more of a maze-like form the further I go in looking for just one clean bathroom stall. The further on I go I start to feel like I’m in some underground cavern; walls and floors are dirt and the air gets dank. All I need to do is go to the bathroom. Why must the restroom turn into some medievil catacomb?
Another recurring dream is the familiar place that has an unfamiliarity to it. One that sticks out in my mind is a dream where I went to my parents house to visit and in the front of the house there were these concrete pillars on either side of the garage. My parents live in a 1,000 square foot ranch-style brick house. The same house I grew up in for nearly all my adolescent life. No pillars. Then when I went inside the house there was a hallway that led off in-between the living room and kitchen that had been closed off for years in the dream(never there in real life.) My mom and dad had removed the drywall blocking the entrance and I walked into this long lost walk way and found boxes of old toys and baby blankets that were mine. Some of the items were things I did remember from my childhood(like a plastic scarecrow toy that had targets on it you shot at with rubber darts, and a blanket I’d had as a real little guy that I’d thrown up on when I was sick once and it had become a lost cause as a result.)
Of course, I’d had a few dreams where I was with someone I’d loved that had died. Really, I’d only had like two of those dreams. Both were sad and one was disturbing. The first one was shortly after my grandpa Hubner died when I was 12 years old. He’d been sick for some time with heart problems(as a result of docs putting him on meds he shouldn’t have been on.) He was a stubborn man and did things he shouldn’t have done around the house. One of those things was go up on the roof of their two-story house to clean the gutters. At 76 years old he’d gone on their roof and had fallen off. This was the beginning of the end. A chain reaction of problems that he never recovered from. He passed away in November of 1986 in a hospital bed at Elkhart General Hospital. I loved my Grandpa and Grandma Hubner, but there was a bit of distance between me and them as they’d had cats my whole life, and I’m deathly allergic to cats. This meant that I could only visit on nice days when sitting on the porch was feasible, or they would visit us. My grandpa died and I never really got to know him. I never got to ask those questions about his childhood and what he did as a young man before he married my grandma. I was only 12 when he died, so those things didn’t seem important to me yet. Years went on and I found out from my dad that EA Hubner was a feather weight boxing champ in Chicago back in the 30s(where he met my grandma whose family was from Metropolis, Ill.) He was born in Laporte, IN. There might be some Hubners still left there, though my dad says if there are they’re not worth looking up. Anyways, the dream. In the dream I came out into the living room and the Nightly News was on the television. My grandpa Hubner was sitting in the brown chair we had in our living room. He looked normal except for that his throat looked as if it was decomposing. You could see through it. He looked at me and smiled, and I sat on the floor by him as he patted my head.
The other dream was about my childhood dog, a miniature schnauzer named Klaus. We’d had Klaus since I’d been in the 3rd grade. 1982. In 1993 he started having these fits. We took him to the vet and they said he had an enlarged heart. He had maybe a year to live. The vet said to just try and keep him comfortable. So that next year he would occasionally have these seizures. He’d come to and be okay afterwards. In November of 1994 he had one and we thought he had died. My mom called my dad home from work(I was working 2nd shift and still at home at the time.) By the time my dad got home Klaus had seemed to perk up a bit from what we thought was his death knell. Still, my parents decided it was time. They didn’t want to see him go through one more of those fits, so they had Klaus put to sleep. I cried like a fool for that dog. About a week after Klaus was gone I had a dream I’d walked out of my bedroom and into the living room and saw Klaus, in that same brown chair, just laying there with his little nub of a tail wagging furiously as he saw me walk out from the hallway. I walked over to him and pet him one last time before the alarm clock woke me and told me to go to work.
Last night I had two dreams, and in each one was there was my mom’s mom and dad who both have passed away in the last 5 years. The dreams weren’t necessarily sad, or weird even. My grandma Ruth was at a house with my aunt and uncles laughing in the living room(like she often did.) I saw her from a distance and waved and she waved back. I sat at the kitchen table eating chocolate chip Teddy Grahams and Nutter Butter cookies(why those I have no idea.) In the other dream I was at my grandpa Gaut’s old farmhouse in Wyatt, In visiting him on some nondescript holiday. In the dream he looked younger and happier. He too was laughing at something. I was in the kitchen with him looking at him like I often did as a little kid, with both wonder and mild trepidation. I spent more time with him when I was under the age of 7 then I did any other time in my life. When he’d had a stroke in 2001 him and my step grandmother decided moving to Florida was the best thing for his health, so sometime in the early 2000s they sold their farm and bought a plot down in Florida and put up a modular home. I talked to him more through emails back and forth from 2005 until he died in 2012 than I had in the last 20 years prior. I learned a lot about him(he liked whiskey and fighting, and he once took a train from South Bend to Chicago with his buddies at 14 years old to see a burlesque show. They got booted out of the show, so they went to the Chicago Theater and saw some up and coming kid from Hoboken, New Jersey sing named Frank Sinatra.) Seeing him young and laughing in that dream was a nice surprise.
I don’t know why we dream what we dream. I think dreams are a mix of both wishes and regrets. Longstanding longings. Unfinished business that somehow tries to work itself out while we try to get a cool 6 hours in before the alarm goes off and another day passes, pushing us further away from events both triumphant and tragic. But regardless of how far away we may get from those moments, they’re still very much there in our subconscious. Good and bad. Last night it was good. I got to see two amazing people that I haven’t seen in a very long time. They were happy and laughing, a way I’d always like to remember them.
And no dirty bathrooms.