Sunday morning I woke from a dream in which I was working in a library. Not that dreaming about library work surprises me—I work for a library now, and my very first job years ago was working for a library. The library in my dream was unlike any library where I have worked, but it was not an odd or peculiar library. What made less sense was the matter of what my job involved in working for the library.
I did not seem to have any set tasks or responsibilities, although at one time I was gathering information for a researcher to use. Much of the dream involved walking around the library, using back staircases and passing through administrative areas, overhearing the gossip of various departments, but not really accomplishing anything of note. At one point I crossed paths with a group of business leaders who were on a tour of the library, but I had no responsibility to guide their tour. Whatever my job might have been, it did not seem to require me to stay in one place or to perform any task to completion.
The best part of the dream, though, came at the end. I walked into an open-air meeting area with tables and chairs in place. Seated at one of the tables, with two or three other men, was Richard Nixon. I sat at the next table, hoping I would have a chance to speak with him. The other men got up and left, and Mr. Nixon greeted me. I moved to sit at the same table across from him. He first asked me if I had lost some weight. (For years, in real life, it has been common for people who know me and haven’t seen me for a while to remark that I seem to have lost weight. In fact, my weight has been surprisingly constant over a number of years. Evidently, people remember me as heavier than I really am. And those thoughts, true to the real world, went through my mind in the dream.) He asked how I was doing, and I asked him the same, and then he asked how my family was doing—all routine conversation, nothing that indicated that he had any interest in me or anything I might have to say.
But—and this is the most interesting aspect of this dream—without acknowledging to myself that I was dreaming, I was aware that this Richard Nixon was not simply Richard Nixon, but was Nixon from a particular time in his life. Before I could say much more to him, I needed to know where he was on his personal timeline. So I asked him about his family, trying to make it clear that I had a genuine interest, not mere courtesy. His first remark was to say that David had just turned twenty. In the dream, I knew instantly that he meant David Eisenhower, who would marry Julie Nixon. (David was not only the son-in-law of President Nixon but also the grandson of President Eisenhower.) If he had just turned twenty, I calculated, David had not yet married Julie, even though they must be engaged if Mr. Nixon was counting him as family. I gathered, therefore, that the Nixon I was addressing was Richard Nixon of the late 1960s, a Richard Nixon who had not yet been elected President.
I must have awoken at that point, because I don’t remember what I said to Richard Nixon once I knew the year he was experiencing. Later in the day, though, I did my research and learned that David Eisenhower was born March 31, 1948. If he had just turned twenty, then Mr. Nixon and I were in the spring of 1968. Nixon had announced that he was running for President and had won the Republican primary in New Hampshire, but he still faced serious rivals for the nomination: George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, and Ronald Reagan. President Johnson had already announced that he was not seeking reelection, and the Democratic nomination was being sought by Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, by Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and others.
What might I have said to Richard Nixon that spring? I knew that he would receive the nomination and would win the election. I knew what challenges would face him as President. I could foretell his accomplishments and his disappointments. What would I have told him about the years to come? What promises might I have offered? What warnings might I have spoken? What things might have changed if Mr. Nixon and I could have spoken in the spring of 1968, given everything I know about his years in the White House?
I will never be able to answer those questions. More to the point, why would I dream about an opportunity to talk with Richard Nixon? Why would my dream mind have chosen that very time in his career for us to meet? Is part of my mind hoping that, like Nixon in 1968, I am about to enter the most important time in my life and career? If so, what doors might open for me in the coming months? How might I finally reach my potential and be of benefit to others? And what advice would President Nixon have to offer me this spring if we could meet and visit today? J.