I recently visited my parents’ grave for the first time since we buried my mom. After the visit, I was lying in bed thinking about writing a blog post about that first visit. I fell asleep that night pondering my feelings about that visit and how I would present it in this blog. I did end up writing a blog post about it, but there’s more to the story.
I had a dream that night, and since my dreams are always extraordinarily vivid, this one shook me in a way no other dream ever has. I should preface this by saying that this was the first time either of my parents had appeared in any dream since they passed away. I had been waiting and hoping and praying that they would visit me while I slept, but in the three years since my dad died and the year and a half since my mom left us, this was the first time either of them stepped foot into my subconscious. In this dream, my mother was very old and frail. She looked the way she looked several days before she passed away. She was sitting in front of me and put her head down on a hard surface; it looked a bit like a picnic table. Then she lifted her head and said, “I can’t even lift it anymore. There’s all air in here.” She was pointing to both sides of her head.
I put my hands out on the table, palms up. There was a blue sky beyond where we were sitting and fluffy cumulus clouds filled the sea of blue. She put her head down again, this time in my hands. Then my mother, this dream mother, did something I only saw her do once in real life: she began to cry. She said, “I want things the way they were. I want the house like I had it, and your father coming home, and I’ll even pick up three dirty socks.”
I was sobbing in the dream. I was holding my mother’s head in my hands as she cried and yearned for everything she would never, could never, get back. Things could not go back to the way they were. The house was sold. My father was dead. She was now dead. And as for those dirty socks, I don’t know, maybe she actually enjoyed doing laundry.
I woke up with tears in my eyes. All I could think of was what I’ve always heard elderly or very ill people say at the end of their lives: that it’s the small things they remember, the little things they want back, the seemingly unimportant moments they want to relive. Knowing she would never have these things again cracked my stoic, German mother open. At least in my dream.
I was crying and feeling like this was one of those visitations, like maybe she was still around me. Then I hiked myself around to look at my bedside clock and saw this: it was 2:16. February 16. My birthday. What, I ask you, are the chances of waking up from a dream like that at exactly 2:16?
I want to think my mom was visiting me to tell me, in a way that I would understand, that the life you have right now is precious. Cherish it. Be present in every moment. Feel grateful for it. And for God’s sake, don’t keep hoping things will get better if only. All my dream mom wanted was her simple life as she lived it. The house in order. My dad coming home from work every day. Even picking up dirty socks. Those are the things my dream mom wished to have back. The simple, everyday realities of life.
I want it to be my mom telling me these things. I want to believe she is around me, watching me, attempting to convey these thoughts to me. But dreams are only our subconscious talking to us, right? So maybe it’s me who’s trying to tell myself to stop wishing for this or that and things will be better. Just be happy now, then do the next right thing, then the next right thing, and pretty soon I’ll be on track to living a happier, more abundant life.
I really, really want that life. I’ll even pick up those dirty socks.