Last night I had a nightmare so disturbing that I woke up crying.

I haven’t done that in a very long time, as evidenced by the fact that it completely baffled my poor, concerned wife. I’m not terribly superstitious about a lot of things, but bad dreams fall into that tiny category, and as a result I don’t really want to talk about the main topic of the dream itself. Instead, I want to talk about one of the elements of the dream that most disturbed me: the arrival of my mom’s parents, my grandparents.

As a bit of background, I am one of the very lucky few who grew up knowing all four of my grandparents until well into my 20s. I felt close to all of them, though due to simple geography we tended to see my mom’s parents more often. Many of my friends met her parents over the years, and I take it as a telling tribute that when they passed, both times friends and even exes asked to attended the memorial services, because in their own ways they had loved my grandparents too.

To sketch the nightmare scene, I was in my parents’ house, and it was late at night. Everyone else – because I felt that my parents and my brother were also there, just like when we all lived at home – was asleep, and I was up reading. I heard a knock at the front door, and went downstairs. There was another knock, and I opened the door to find my mom’s parents standing there. They looked the way I tend to remember them, older but not as frail as they were near the end of their lives, and definitely not “ghostly” or “zombie-like” in any way. They didn’t have fangs, red eyes, spooky voices, or anything like that. It was just them, standing on the front step with sad expressions, but it still scared me out of my mind. It took poor Meg almost half an hour to calm me down, as I woke nearly hysterical, and even after regaining some composure I still slept with a light on for the first time in many years.

When the sun came up, though, I thought about how confusing a response that is, and to a degree how some other ghost stories are too. I mean, it was my grandparents, who loved me and supported me and would never, ever in a million years want to hurt or frighten me. And in the nightmare they didn’t do anything scary or disturbing – yes, seeing your deceased grandparents could be considered disturbing on its own, but that’s not what I mean. All the fear seemed to well up in me, rather than come from them or anything they did. But when I think about it, I’m not so sure what scared me so badly about seeing them.

Especially when I miss them so badly while I’m awake.

One response

  1. Scott Katinger

    A couple years after my mom died, I had a similar dream. There was a bnuch of friends and my close family hanging about a long-time friend’s house, and my mom was there, helping out by serving snacks and bringing folks drinks. My mom was a depressive in life, but in the dream seemed as genuinely happy and upbeat as during her very best days. She looked fine, hail and healthy, but I knew she wasn’t supposed to be there… she was dead. Everyone else didn’t seem to notice, but when I stood up to follow her into the kitchen, my dad stopped me and gently told me not to upset her.

    Just like you, I woke up in panic and tears. I later decided it the hardcore negative reaction I had to the site of my mom wasn’t about fearing my mother. It was a wish fulfillment dream. It wasn’t my mom’s presence that was the problem… it was the fact that her presence wasn’t real that was causing the emotional reaction. If anything, it was my subconscious self trying to give my conscious self the opportunity to be comforted by her presence one more time.

    August 23, 2011 at 1:25 am

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