Over The Fence of Our Differences

Letter to Dad, a dream, March 5, 1982

Dear Dad,

I just awoke from this dream.

Frances and I were arriving in Boise in the late afternoon. You were still at the college. Mom greeted us cheerfully at the door, but I could not linger in the reunion; I had to answer nature’s call. I hurried downstairs to the basement bathroom and closed the door without turning on the light, because I sought retreat from the glare of the highway we had so recently quit. The setting sun filtered dimly through the small, curtained window. I slipped off my shoes and squatted on the toilet, as is my custom, exhaling a deep sigh of relief.

I was just finishing, when something moved in the shadows behind the shower stall door. It was on the floor wriggling, a big lizard, several lizards, writhing in a heap on the cool, damp tile. I squinted for more detail, glad my feet were well above the floor. Ah-hah, I thought, you’ve got a new hobby. You must have sent away for reptile eggs unearthed in archaeological diggings, a Scientific American mail order, and you’re raising them here in your private bath.

Suddenly there was movement in the deeper shadows of the shower. I gaped and sweated and could not move, as a green-warted creature reared up and waddled toward me, extending pterodactyl wings of bone and stretched skin, with little reaching fingers at the tips. I could hear it breathe and see the nostrils of its hideous snout taste my scent. My stomach convulsed. But the creature stopped, propped on its thick tail, and stared at me with bulging eyes near the top of its knee-high head.

Then with deliberate patience, it curled its tail around and folded its wings against its blistered body. It tilted its head. I began to see intelligence in its eyes, and no malice. I breathed. The little dragon came forward, and I let it lick my toes, squirming at the tickle of its slimy tongue, but not jerking my foot away.

He looked at me again, his eyes wistful and old. I peered back in time, maybe 100 million years, to when my ancestors were weird little creatures who shared the earth with reptiles as odd as this. He extended his wings toward me and flexed his fingers. I took it as a request to get closer. I sat down and we touched “hands,” then he leapt up and forward so his feet were on my knees. He delivered a cold and gentle peck of a kiss on my cheek. My heart went heavy and I almost cried, to discover a kinship so remote. The little fellow was cute, I embraced him like an old friend, and I knew that you had discovered his potential for affection, had nurtured it in him as you did in me, and prepared us to appreciate each other over of the tall fence of our differences.

With love,

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