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Dream Dad

Cycling, not running; but you get the idea.

Before Dad was a cyclist, he was a runner. On cold days he would don a navy blue half-zip shirt that pilled badly, a pair of baggy black running tights (a contradiction in terms, to be sure), and a once white terry headband yellowed with sweat and age. It was one of those outfits that, no matter how much Mom washed it, still smelled like sweat.

Dad had to stop running before he retired because his knees just couldn't take it anymore. But I still remember that outfit so vividly. So much so that it--and he--showed up in a dream the other night: My first dream of him since he died.

It was fairly simple: We were standing in the family room of my parents' house, and he was dressed in the aforementioned running gear. For some reason, I hugged him goodbye--something I would never have done in real life if he was just going out for a run.

But that hug...oh. It was so real, so heartbreakingly tangible. I could feel the warm solidity of his rib cage, smell his Lever 2000 and Old Spice at war with the stale sweat of his running shirt. And as I went to let go, I felt his arms draw me back in, and I suddenly realized: This would be the last time I ever hugged my dad. And we both knew it.

I started to cry on his shoulder, but he gave me one last squeeze and said, ever so calmly: "Allison. It's time to let go."

I have spent exactly three months waiting for my dad to visit me in a dream. But I can't decide whether this one was cruel or kind. To be allowed to hold him one last time only to be forced to let him go seems to have an element of unnecessary tragedy. As if I have lost him all over again.

And of course, from a psychological standpoint, I know that Dream Dad is just Allison with a mustache. Which means it was me telling myself that it's time to let go. But if that was really me, she should know that I'm going to have to take my time with this letting go business. Which means all I can do is hope Dream Dad has infused Dream Me with some of his world-class patience.

This is gonna take a while.

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