Last night I dreamed father who, rather than spending his last ten years in a nursing home, had divorced my mother and moved to Chicago. We were visiting the Loop, and he met us at our hotel wearing a leather jacket and a watch cap, but the same stocky Schwaben build and the same bald head. I asked if he was seeing anyone and told him about my Weight Watchers™ experiences.
What was I thinking?
My father returns from the grave. Do I tell him about his grandchildren, my career in academia, my wife’s quilt shows? No, I talk about weight loss. Is this how my retirement will unfold? Not in a nursing home, but as a series of dreams in which I meet heroes, mentors, objects of sexual desire, and ask each one: “Guess how much weight I lost?”
In real life, my father was laid off from a small factory decimated by Japanese imports and really did re-invent himself. He took over the cooking and cleaning and even catered my sister’s wedding. What did I do other than embrace wellness?
When I was a graduate student at Michigan State, I attended a Q&A session by Jorge Luis Borges and his translator Donald Yates (who was also bald and also grew up on the west side of Ann Arbor). Borges was in his eighties and blind. Someone asked Borges whether he dreamed in black and white or in color. He sputtered in disbelief, unable to answer after all the years. My dream was definitely in color and felt so much like a Borges story that I could probably find it among the pages of Ficcionnes.
Do all my dreams feature my worst self, the person I never want anyone to see?
A person wandering petulant and alone through a story that never resolves itself much like a labyrinth, a garden of forking paths, a garden in which I suddenly feel the flickering tongue of my lost weight somehow transformed into a long snake, a snake I can still hear hissing like a humidifier as I slowly wake up, reassemble the shards of my life into a reflection of my father and slither off to start the day?