My father insists that when he sleeps at night he does not dream. I find that hard to believe since everyone is believed to dream. But then as an adult I went back to my father’s home place in rural south Georgia after a twenty year absence. After a period of reflection, I understood what he meant when he said he does not dream. The simple house, built by his father, in which he grew up was still there, though it was now painted an awful blue. The bountiful fields of crops that used to surround the house and enrich the view were now barren with only rusty old cars and abandoned mobile homes. There was nothing of substance left. If there ever had been anything there for him as a boy, there was nothing there now to dream of.
I believe in dreams. I dream all of the time. I lay asleep at night dreaming of what should have been. I lay awake during the day and dream about what should be. I dream in vivid color of people and places that I may otherwise never see again except in my dreams. My dreams are so remarkable that it is like watching my own personal television show in the middle of the night.
I dream of those who came before me. My earliest known ancestor immigrated to America from Ireland in the 1600s. His last name was “Touchstone”which literally means “a test or criterion for the quality of things.” He came with a dream of a better life for himself and his children. He came as an indentured servant to work for a number of years in order to repay his passage to his sponsor. When he died he left little more than what could be listed on a small piece of paper. But he instilled his dream in his sons who passed it along to their children. Each successive generation was able to test the quality of things and dream of how life could be better. I, too, dream of a happy and prosperous life for my children.
My father is a man of few words, but he remarked once that each generation builds on the accomplishments of the previous one. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors as we reach for the stars. I believe this. Like our Irish ancestor who freed himself of abject poverty, my father pulled himself out of the mire of destitution of the rural south. He served his country and built a better life for himself and his family. He may not have dreams, but he instilled in me the need for them.
When I pass from this life and go into that eternal realm of sleep only to enjoy my dreams forever, there is a verse by W.B. Yeats I want on my tombstone: “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
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