Scan of a Kodachrome slide, landscape, 1969. A young man in the near foreground in front of a long valley in Greece, with broken sun and weather clouds sweeping across it

My father in Baghdad

Published 2015-01-27

I had a dream last night in which my father appeared.

Dead people often appear in my dreams, most commonly for a year or two after they’ve died. Sometimes I have an unsettling moment where I realize I am talking with a dead person. Sometimes in the dream they are dead, sometimes they are alive again, sometimes the dream is set in a time before they died. Sometimes I realize I’m dreaming, which is equally unsettling. Sometimes I wake up disappointed and want to crawl back into the dream.

This dream was a little in the last category.

The dream stuff is probably boring to anyone not-me. Is there a more dreadful way to start a conversation than “Let me tell you about this dream I had…”

So everyone not-me can stop reading now if they want. For not-not-me…

The dream was like this:

I was travelling with my father and a few other people — not people I knew — and we were in Baghdad. Only it wasn’t the Baghdad of 2015 after a couple decades of embargoes and invasions. It was like an alternative Baghdad that was a lush and pleasant tourist destination, that had been spared the awful drama of the last fifty years or so. It was 2015 but my father was younger, perhaps 50ish, and the atmosphere was very midcentury. Everyone was dressed well: long trousers and shirts with collars, not the sloppy cargo-shorts-and-flip-flops way we travel these days.

We were attending a performance by an artist renowned for a kind of a capella song-speaking, which in the dream was apparently a traditional Iraqi music form. The Renowned Artist song-spoke Paul Anka’s “My Way,” and my father grinned. I knew, in the way you know in a dream, that Dad was singing through the Renowned Artist.

I never realized during the dream that Dad was dead. The dream moved onto other random dream stuff: a train, a stairway much like the one outside our apartment in China, bicycles, a snowstorm that was surprisingly warm.

I don’t believe dreams have secret meanings. I think dreams are where emotions and unfinished thoughts are played out then discarded.

I think if there is an afterlife — a big “if” — it might feel a lot like a dream.