A Walk in the Dark with my Father-in-law

It is exactly 6:15am on a Sunday morning.  I woke up at 5:15 and went to the bathroom.  When I returned to bed, I remembered the dream I had when I woke up.  I eventually start laughing pretty hard and Collette says “Why are you laughing?”.  I explain the dream I had and begin laughing even harder as I recall more of the specifics.  It is about 5:20 at this point and Collette is not laughing at all.  In fact, the next words she said were “I seriously have to go back to sleep.”  I try to compose myself but can’t, so I go to the next room to laugh for another 45 minutes or so.  I really want to remember this dream, so here is my first blog.

*      *      *

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Here is what I remember.  My father-in-law, Bill, and I close the door and enter the Alaska wilderness.  It is completely dark and I see the house that we intended to walk toward, it is about 100 yards away.  I can see the windows on the house and there is an outside street light. Bill claims this is his house, but I have been home with Collette and I have slept in their house, and the house Bill wants to walk toward is not the house Collette grew up in.

So Bill and I are walking toward “his” house.  After I close the door to the other building, I say to Bill “It is REALLY cold”.

“It is negative one hundred and fifty six degrees,” he replies, the same way that a person would say “It’s 75 degrees”.  My father-in-law is a brilliant man but I seriously question if he is correct about the temperature, so I pull out my smartphone from my front jeans pocket. Sure enough, it reads -156 degrees in the upper left hand corner of the phone.  So I say to Bill, “Does that include the windchill?” (like there would be a practical difference between -125 degrees and -156 degrees in terms of whether a person would feel that it was too cold!)

Bill says “What?” and he looks seriously confused, like I asked him the question in Spanish or another language he’s never heard. I explain “The wind makes it feel colder, does the -156 degrees include the wind factor?”  Bill gives me a “this is my crazy son-in-law” facial expression and says “They don’t factor in the wind in Alaska.”

I return with “They should, it can make a big difference.  Especially when it’s this windy.”  The fact Bill doesn’t know what the windchill effect means really bothers me so I try to explain it again – maybe he’s just not understanding the word correctly.

“Sometimes they call it the “Feels like” temperature when doing the weather on the news. Maybe they call it the “Feels like” temperature in Alaska too?”

Bill says, “I’m positive we don’t factor in the wind in Alaska.”  He is pretty matter-of-fact with that last statement, so I knew I’d be bothering him if I followed up with yet another question about the windchill issue.  I figure I’ll wait to ask Collette about it later.  Maybe the windchill issue just made it’s way around Bill and he’s never heard of it yet.

Bill eventually turns around after the brief weather discussion and takes a couple steps toward the house that isn’t actually his.  He stops and says “Shoot, there’s a bear” in a super calm voice.  I’ve learned that all the Broady’s remain remarkably calm, so Bill seeing a bear may actually bring about that type of response.  I peer over Bill’s right shoulder and say “Where?”.

I’m a wildlife biologist so I’d love to see this Alaskan bear. In fact my mother-in-law, Kathy, has promised to show me one someday.  Plus, Bill obviously isn’t frightened, so the bear must be off in the distance, putting us in a safe situation.  Bill raises his hand and points in the direction of the house and very calmly says “Right there.” I still don’t see the bear though I keep looking for it near the house.

Then Bill says “We have to stay on the left side of the bear.”  I have a PhD in Zoology and I am completely flabbergasted by that statement.  So I respectfully ask my father-in-law “Why do you want us to stay to the left of the bear?”  I say that the same way I’d ask whether he wanted the Philips or flat-head screwdriver while working on a carpentry project. I’m expecting a totally reasonable response.

“Bears don’t like it when people are on their left.”

“They what?”

“Bears don’t like it when people are on their left,” he repeats, like it is basic scientific principle that everyone should know.

Still confused, I say “Why would a bear care if you are on its right or left?”

Bill immediately responds “All bears are left-handed.”

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I’m not sure whether I want to ask “Why do you think all bears are left-handed? or “Why would that matter?” more, but he turns and takes a few more steps toward the house, so I follow him, trusting he knows how to handle this situation.  I still don’t see this bear.

“Wait,” I say, grabbing his jacket, “bears don’t even have hands!”

Bill responds “Well, they’re all left-pawed then,” like this is final answer about that issue.

“Then what happens if the bear turns around?”

“What?” he says, and looks at me like I must be crazy for asking something so ridiculous.

“If the bear is facing us and we’re walking toward its left, we’re actually going to be on the bear’s right,” I explain. “But if the bear then turns around and faces away from us, we’re going to then be on the bear’s left.”

“I’ve never heard of that before,” Bill says, “I don’t think it matters which way the bear faces.”  Bill was going to turn around and proceed toward the house so I grab his jacket again and say “Seriously Bill, I don’t think bears care whether we’re on the left or right.  Wild animals respond to cues and that’s really it.  Like ‘fight or flight’ responses.”  I say the “fight or flight” part with some emphasis, hoping that rings a bell with him.  He didn’t know anything about the windchill effect, so I’m hoping I don’t have to explain the fight or flight concept.

Instead, he says to me “Bears eat people, it’s not an issue about fighting or flighting.”

“Well, what kind of bear is it?” I reply, like that might make a difference about how we should proceed with the left-handed bear issue. I still can’t see this bear.

“I imagine it is a male bear.”

“No, like what species of bear.”

“Oh, all the bears on the homestead are brown bears.”

“I thought Kathy said they were all black bears.”

“Well, they’re brown, black bears.”

I am absolutely confused at this point, but I also realize it probably doesn’t matter what species of bear it is, so I stop questioning.  Bill turns and I look around for the bear one more time.

I’m a little frightened now, so I say “I don’t think Kathy and Collette want us walking around bears like this.”

“Well, Kathy is in the house so let’s go ask her,” Bill says.

Then I finally see it. The bear can hardly be seen because it’s so dark outside, but it’s only 15 feet away from us.

I grab Bill’s jacket, shouting “Holy shit, Bill, it’s right there!”

With a tad more excitement he says, “I know, stay to its left!”

Without letting go of Bill’s jacket, I turn toward the building we just left. “What were we doing in that building?” I ask.

“Oh, good idea, let’s walk back,” Bill replies, like he’s completely unbothered about the brownish black bear only a few feet behind us.  I feel like saying “I can’t believe you didn’t think about turning around since the bear was that close” but I don’t want to be disrespectful.  Anyway, Bill opens the door to the building and we walk into the building.

*     *      *

I wish there was a better end to the dream, but I woke up and went to the bathroom at that point.  I’m sure there are all kinds of inferences that can be made by readers who have experience with interpreting dreams!!

And here’s an fun fact we discovered while looking for pictures of left-handed bears on the internet: all polar bears actually are left-handed.

2 thoughts on “A Walk in the Dark with my Father-in-law

  1. Well, your no Orvil Wells or Stephan Alen Poop…but I liked it….I can actually envision your father inlaw and that conversation.

  2. Funny stuff. Of course you are probably one who dreams in color. I cannot imagine a dream about brown black bears in black and white.

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