The World of Franyo 83: Prophetic Dream

 

I arrived at Rockefeller Center in pre-dawn darkness. It was five AM and although the doors were locked, a line had already formed.  Everyone had an emergency. Everyone needed a passport before the end of the day. I’d arranged earlier with my friend Laurie (whom I’ve written about here in previous chapters) that she would call the hospital in Nice, where my father had been taken, and attempt to speak to one of his doctors. If my French was good, hers was even better and she wasn’t in crisis mode, she’d be able to understand what they said without freaking out. Also, she was home by her phone, not fiercely guarding her place on a line where no one gave a sh*t about your particular sob story. For the next three hours as I waited to get into the passport agency, all I could think about was Laurie’s call (this was before cell phones, remember). I hadn’t had any sort of update on my father’s condition since the previous afternoon. I only knew two things: he was in a coma, and my twenty-two-year-old niece who’d been in Paris anyway had quickly traveled down to Nice to be with my mother.

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Inside the passport office, I spotted a pay phone. It was by now a little after eight AM. I begged the person behind me to save my spot and ran to call Laurie. Up until this moment I’d hoped that maybe there was an improvement. But Laurie’s voice told me otherwise. “Il n’y aura pas de consequences,” she said. What that meant was Gustavo would not come out of his coma. So for the rest of that long day, rushing from the passport agency to the French consulate, where they had the kindness to wait for me instead of closing early, back to Brooklyn and from there to the airport, I knew there would be no consequences, nothing would come of the situation, my father wasn’t going to make it.

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On the plane I learned something else. Due to my fear of flying I hadn’t flown in nearly a decade. I grabbed the armrests, visualized my daughters’ faces, prayed that I would live to see them again. The plane banked at a steep angle. I felt as if a thunderstorm with vivid bolts of lightening and ice cold pebbles of hail was ransacking my body, from brain to heart to stomach to frozen feet. Then, as people around me lit cigarettes, I remembered a dream. It was a dream that had recurred over the years, so filmy and diffuse that I could never keep it in my head long enough to make sense of it. I was rushing through an airport. My sister was somewhere nearby, with me but not in a way that I could see her. A voice kept saying, “This is an emergency. You have to fly. You have no choice.” In that moment, with clouds of cigarette smoke swirling around me and the drinks cart beginning to make its way up the aisle, I knew with a certainty I didn’t often have about things that the dream — that dream I’d been having for years and not paying attention to — was prophetic and had always been about now, this trip to a hospital in the south of France where my father lay dying. Perhaps it was the reason I’d developed a fear of flying in the first place. While I’m not the calmest flier today, I never experienced quite the same level of agitation again. Nor did I ever dream that dream again.

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Arrived in Nice, I met up with my sister and brother-in-law at the hotel (they’d gotten there shortly before me) and we raced to the hospital. Gustavo lay on a narrow bed in a small, cold, private room in ICU. His eyes were taped shut. He seemed to be breathing on his own, no ventilator, although a number of machines whirred around him, keeping him alive. His body, however, was immobile, lifeless. He looked like a corpse. Vivi positioned herself at his right hand, I went and stood by his left, and my brother-in-law, Mort, stood at his feet. For a moment we were silent. Then Vivi said, “Dad?”

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Gustavo

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At the sound of her voice, his body seemed to lurch and he abruptly turned his head to the right, toward Vivi. It was one of the most shocking things I have ever witnessed. I uttered the same word, “Dad,” seconds later and he spun his head toward me. My heart lifted. He was alive! We looked at one another incredulously and then Mort put his hands on Gustavo’s feet. “Gustave, ” he said in his sweet voice. “Say something.”

My father’s mouth struggled. The corners of his lips turned down and trembled in his great effort to speak. I knew instinctively that he wanted to say, “Take care of your mother,” and that even in a coma he had stalwartly waited all those hours for us to get to his bedside in France to tell us just that. But he couldn’t manage the words and he never spoke or turned his head toward any of us again.

That was on Saturday, July 2. Because it was a weekend, it wasn’t till Monday, July 4, 1988, that he was pronounced brain dead and unhooked from the machines.

 

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To be continued…

(Cover photo ~ www.dreamsemantics.com)

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