From Dreams

Nightmare scene from a play at Broom Street Theater, Madison, WI. Photo by Callen Harty.

Nightmare scene from a play at Broom Street Theater, Madison, WI. Photo by Callen Harty.

Yesterday morning I woke up from a hard dream and it stayed with me all day long. In the dream I was at work when my cell phone rang. It was my sister calling and all she said was “She’s gone.” I knew immediately that she meant that after several years of suffering and being bedridden my mother had finally passed away. I asked her if she needed me to contact relatives or if there was anything else she might need me to do right away and she said she’d get back to me about that. I hung up the phone and sat at my desk in the office and broke down sobbing. There were co-workers around, but none of them seemed to notice and I was doing my best to hide it. A couple people, including my boss, were not in and the others were having some kind of conversation about something. When I regained my composure I got up and quietly announced I was leaving and why and nobody seemed to hear me. As I was about to head out the door one of my co-workers, Carol, who is a very sweet person, caught me in the hall and told me she was very sorry and gave me a big hug.

That was all I could remember about the dream. I’ve been curious if a person can actually cry in their sleep because it felt like I had been crying very hard when I woke up. The rest of the day was sort of surreal. I was feeling down all day and have to admit I was afraid to go to work for fear that the call would happen and the dream would come true. The emotions in the dream had felt so incredibly strong that I was very fearful that it may have been a premonition of some sort. Twice in my life I’ve had dreams that were so strong that I knew they were true and in both cases I was right. One was the birth of a baby boy to a friend of mine. I had woken up about the time the child was born and told my roommate the next day that Renee had given birth to a boy (she didn’t know the child’s sex before he was born). Dan asked me if she had called and I told him, no, it had come to me in a dream that was so strong I knew it was true. The other was about an old friend reappearing and that came true, too, the same day I woke up from that dream. This dream was strong, but it wasn’t as strong as those two; I didn’t feel confident in it being a premonition, but I still feared it all day long.

I haven’t seen my mother in a while and there have been no reports from home that her condition has worsened or that anything has changed. She has been pretty much the same for months. She received last rites about a year and a half ago and still keeps going. In fact, she was also getting hospice care and they left because she was doing so well–how often does that happen? While she was frail the last time I saw her she knew who I was–which isn’t always the case–and her mind was very sharp. We have honestly not expected her to make it to Christmas each of the last couple years or to her birthday on February 19. If she makes that again she’ll turn 90 years old this time around. She has been tenaciously hanging on, so there is no reason I can think of for why that dream would have come into my head now.

Maybe it’s because I just finished a production and my mind has been consumed with that and now is open to other things. Maybe I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t seen her in a while. Maybe because it is the Christmas season I am thinking more deeply about family and those who are the most meaningful in my life. Maybe it’s simply because I love her and somewhere in my mind is the realization that the more time that goes by the closer we are to that inevitable day and phone call. Each Christmas or birthday that comes and goes is one less to look forward to and one closer to there being no more. As tough as she is I understand that she cannot last forever and one way or the other that dream will one day come true. Maybe the dream and everything that has happened to her over the last few years is helping me to be a little bit better prepared for that moment. Maybe, but I know that you can never be prepared enough. I only hope that when I sleep tonight that I’ll dream of better things.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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1 Response to From Dreams

  1. Joseph Lutz says:

    A virtual hug to you my friend.

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