Until the night returns
Written in February
Sleep is where you flirt with the unknown without discretion and answer those almost plea-like questions left unanswerable in the waking world. I’ve found those 8 hours can yield three things: sheer sleeplessness, a growing norm for me; horrific nightmares that carry through long passed the waking hour; or opportunities for the subconscious to craft a movie to make me feel better. Whether beckoned to ease a troubled mind and make sense of a seemingly incomprehensible reality or whether he found me in defiance of rational sense, Craig has frequently visited me in my dreams recently.
Each dream was almost stupid in it simplicity–pure like a community theater with only one detailed set with background figures blurring in an amorphous swirl of colors in symbolic salute to their utter inconsequence. The only thing that mattered in my dreams was the few actors, the emotions and the dialogue.
It’s not the Rose I’d hope to Grow
Craig and I stood in our kitchen back home nearly shoulder to shoulder with our elbows perched on the yellow countertop. In a steady, contemplative tone, we shared reflections on his diagnosis and probable outcome as he prepared for an upcoming trip to an unknown destination. I remember him saying to me, “I certainly didn’t plan for this; I didn’t expect this to happen so quickly…It’s not what I had in mind.” I asked when he was leaving, and he replied “soon, I think”. I asked when he’d return and he said, “I don’t know. It doesn’t look like I will”. I nodded while fidgeting with my hands. Moments passed and I said, “I’m gonna miss you Craig”. ”I’ll miss you, too.”
Jill, Diane and I sat on our knees in the area we used to call the “back-back” of our old station wagon circa the early 1980’s. We spoke calmly yet quickly as we negotiated what to do as Craig lay lifeless in the middle. One of us cradled Craig’s head; the other two held each hand as we desperately told him how much we loved him and would miss him. I could sense what it felt like in my dream to rub his legs and the feel of my fingers rolling over the coarse hair on his cold skin.
Slowly, warmth returned to his legs and hands; a fleshy red color filled his lips and cheeks, and blue replaced eyes of grey. “Could you hear us? Could you hear what we were saying? The stories, the I love you’s?” we asked in a feverish tone desperate to know. “Yeaaaah, I could hear you. I could hear all of you and what you were saying”, he said as he began bending his knees and righting himself to a propped position on his elbows. The three of us relaxed back on our heals as if collectively saying “whewww”; joy and relief replaced expressions of concern and sorrow. “We didn’t know if you could or if that was annoying”. “No, I liked it; it was comforting, not annoying. Thanks for being there for me”.
They say hearing is the last sense to leave when one is transitioning and passing away. Yet, there is no means for confirmation. We sat gripping the hands of both Mom and Craig, buzzing their hair and telling them each moment how much they meant to us, how much we loved them, and how much we will miss their presence. When they passed, we were left clinging to the conviction that somehow our words and touch registered deep on their heartstrings and brought them some level of comfort during the dying processes. In my dream, I remember feeling a palpable sense of relief from that fleeting moment of affirmation. How I wish I could ask him, and mom, in life.
The four of us were driving in dad’s old copper-toned car down a gravel country road one late afternoon in Spring. I sat in the passenger seat with my back propped against the door and legs folded on the chair. Craig drove while Diane and Jill, unbuckled in the back, hugged the driver and passenger seats. The soft setting sun bathed over the swirling green, slowly and indistinctly rolling by in the periphery. The ping of gravel on the undercarriage below kept time with our constant chatter and laughter until a song came on the radio. “Little bird, Little Sparrow…”. The car continued to slow all the while. “Ohhhhh this song!!!” we exclaimed, “Although this isn’t the original version.” “I don’t recognize this song”, Craig said quietly. We began to sing to him the original version that was sung by our harpist, and needlessly made words plural in a grammatically incorrect fashion-treeses and the breezes-for fun.
His eyes narrowed; familiar “frankenviens” appeared at his temples as he held his laughter in his flared nostrils before finally letting it out. The gravel crunched below, no longer fast enough to spit up rocks on the undercarriage. The car slowed still, now to a near crawl, as he looked out the window until it came to an eventual and symbolic stop…
And these are the dreams. Some mornings, I’m left utterly disappointed by the inactivity and lack of imagination of my REM. Still, I’d rather boring dreams than the frequent sleeplessness I’m having where the intensity of life alone prevents ever drifting into that beloved dream world. Though hours in dreams are few and fleeting compared to the reality that remains, I often fall asleep eager for those stolen 8 hours in which I can laugh with them, hear their voices, and feel complete.
…until the night returns again.
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