A client brought in her elderly father. As I remember, he was a couple of years short of his 90th birthday.
She told me that he had been crying, but wouldn't speak to her about it. They took him to a psychiatrist that specialized in Gerontology, but the doctor found nothing wrong. His daughter said, "She put him on an anti-depressant, but he wouldn't take it. He said he just needed somebody to talk to."
He walked into my offfice, sat on my couch, and said, "Please tell me something," he said, "do you dream?"
Having never been asked that by anyone, ever, I didn't know how to answer. So I said, "Yes, sometimes. It depends on how deeply I sleep."
He corrected me. "No, I mean do you have dreams? Things you hope for, wish you could've done differently, places you could've gone but didn't? The person you should have been but fell short? I don't dream anymore. I just think. I sit and think of things I wish I would've done, the man I wish I would've been. I could die anytime. I just don't think about anything beyond this minute. I used to dream of big things, accomplishments, travel. Now I have nowhere for my consciousness to go. I'm just here. There's nothing in front of me anymore."
His daughter was in my waiting room. I asked her to come in.
She sat down next to her father and put her arm on his shoulder. "Is everything OK?"
I smiled and said, "Could you do me a favor? Could you let me know if you love this guy?"
She had a startled look.
She turned to her father and said, as her eyes began to tear, "Dad, I love you so much. Do you not know that?"
He started to cry again. "No, I'm not sure. I've let you down. I never meant to fall short. My head got in the way. I tried to give you a life. I'm sorry if I fell short in being the man you wanted as a father."
She broke down. "Dad, I love you. You're my Dad. I don't care if you didn't go to France or become the Chairman of the Board. You don't have to dream anymore. You are MY dream."
"We can share our dreams with each other and talk about all the dragons we can slay together, all the things we're still able to do. But I dream of you being here for your grandchildren, to show them how to play the guitar, make them laugh, and to read to them. The dreams I have are the dreams of your presence. Of you just being here, with us, as long as you can."
The man wiped his eyes and said, "I've never known that. I just thought I was such a disappointment."
"No," she said, "Love has no disappointments that cannot be healed. I love you now. I want you here. How about we start with lunch?"
They didn't stay more than twenty minutes. The man got up, shook my hand, and they left.
The daughter called me two weeks later. She told me he hadn't cried since.
"Thank you. I guess he needs to be reminded he's loved. And he had a dream!"
I asked what it was about.
She said, "He dreamt about me and the grandkids!"
I told her that dreams are often directed toward what makes us happy and what helps life feel worth living.
Sometimes even our dreams need a little reminder.