I Dreamed of My Father


Some dreams are only dreams. They come to us through the mixing of our yearnings and our fears. They drift through our sleep, filled with images and sounds forged from both memory and wish.

They feel as insubstantial as clouds. They exist, but they are made of nothing we can touch.

But some dreams are more. Some of them, when we are very lucky, are truly visits from those we have lost.

Last night my father came to see me. He came to me as I slept because he’s been gone from this earth for more than ten years now.

I dreamed of my Dad.

I dreamed that I was walking in a foggy place. I couldn’t see what was around me, but I felt myself moving. And then I saw him, my Dad. Right there, right in front of me.

I felt myself begin to cry. I felt the pain in my chest, and in my throat. There were tears on my face that I felt as they moved down my cheeks. I sobbed and felt the loss of breath.

In my sleep, I reached for Dad, expecting to be aware of him only as a dream. I expected the one dimensional feel of him; an image that I could see but one that would have no substance.

Instead, as I hugged him, I felt the warmth of his breath in my hair and the feel of his arms around me. A shock of recognition and awareness jolted through me, and I said, “Oh, Dad, it’s really you!”

He laughed. His real, Dad laugh, and put his hand on my cheek. “Oh,” he said, in his own voice. “I’m here! Don’t cry!”

I held his hand in mine and looked at his fingers, his knuckles, the way the skin was pulled smooth across the back of his hand. I felt the rough texture of his palm and the pads of his fingers.

These were details that I’d forgotten about him. Awake, I would never have known them again.

But he was there. Smiling at me, laughing at the foolishness of my grief. As often happens in these vivid, “visitation” dreams, I knew what he was thinking without hearing all of his words.

“It’s OK! You’re fine.” I felt that he was amused and touched by my sadness, but I knew that it didn’t worry him.

And then the visit was over.

I don’t remember him leaving, but I remember waking up, feeling comforted, but feeling cheated, too. He had been there, for really real, but he was gone again.

I dreamed of my Father. I smelled his skin, felt the softness of his hair. I was held in his arms, against his familiar chest.

It was him. He was here.

I want to go back to sleep. I want him to come and see me once again.

Dad and I, once upon a time.

Did I Dream You, Or Did You Visit?


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Dear Miss Sadie,

A few nights after you left us, I had the sweetest dream.

I was standing in the kitchen, and I heard you scratch at the front door to come in. I looked down the stairs, toward the front hall.

The inside door was open, but I could see through the clear storm door.

There you were.

Standing on the front porch, looking up at me. Your eyes were both wide open, like they used to be before you got sick. Shiny golden brown eyes, looking up at me. Your mouth was open in that loopy doggie grin, with your tongue lolling out one side.

Outside in the yard it was fall, just like in real life. Yellow leaves covered the grass and I could see the drying stalks of day lilies.

But there on the porch, on our little brick porch, it was snowing hard. You were covered in snow flakes; it was swirling all around you. You started to hop up and down, like you used to do when you were really happy or excited.

I laughed in my dream, and I thought, “Oh, wow! I forgot how she used to jump! She hasn’t done that in years.”

You were so happy, jumping in the snow, grinning up at me.

And then it was as if I was floating toward you. Suddenly you were right there, just on the other side of the glass. Jumping with joy, jumping in the snowstorm. Right there in front of me.

You looked right into my eyes, and I looked right back.

Then slowly, you simply faded, and you disappeared.

Outside it was fall again. The porch was empty.

I think you came back one last time. I think you came to say goodbye and thanks.

I miss you.

Love,

“The Mistress”

Life is a tender thread


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When a life begins, we greet it with so much hope and love.  We hold our precious little ones in our arms, gazing into those mysterious eyes.  We whisper, “Be safe!”   We pray, “Be healthy!”  We promise, “I will protect you.”

But life is not so simple.  Life is not a smooth, straight road, leading us from birth to a quiet death in our old age.

Life does not promise us health or peace or love or joy.

Life is such a tender threat. It can be snapped by so many unforeseen things.  It can be broken in a heartbeat.

Today was a day when I was given the great gift of sharing lunch with a former student. She is beautiful, accomplished, happy.  She will be getting married soon.  We have known each other for 13 years, and I have been so blessed to have watched her grow and thrive.

Today was a day when I heard the awful news about the sudden death of another former student.  She was beautiful, kind, sweet, thoughtful.  She was cautious, unsure of herself. I remember her as hesitant to answer a question. I remember her face lighting up with pleasure when she was right.

Life is a tender and fragile thread.

Every minute that we spend with a young person is a gift, in which we both give and receive.

Tonight I am filled with joy at the knowledge that one of “my” kids is thriving. I am filled with sorrow that one is gone.

Hug your children.  Hold them close. Tell them that they are your greatest gifts.

 

Dear Tucker


Still as handsome as you ever were.

Still as handsome as you ever were.

I hope you’re feeling better, big dog!  You really scared us when you got so sick the other night. We thought you had hurt your back, like you did a few years ago, remember?  Dad called you inside, but you didn’t come. You didn’t even stand up.

Good dog, Tucker, good boy.   You always come when we call (unless you have gotten out of the fence to play Wolf King, of course.)  But that night, when we called you, “Tucky! Come, come inside!”, you only looked at us.

Finally we were able to lure you in with some cheese, but you moved so slowly, so painfully.

We thought it was your back.

We didn’t know.

It was a long night; you didn’t want us to touch you, and you wouldn’t eat anything. We had wrapped a pain pill in your favorite American Cheese coating, but you wouldn’t take it.

Good dog, Tucker.

When we finally got you to your vet in the morning, we were sure that she’d just do the usual acupuncture treatment and you’d be good as new.

We didn’t know.

But she did. She took one look at you, splayed out on the floor, panting.  She shook her head, and that’s when I started to get scared.

It was a long day, with a lot of long and scary words in it. “Splenectomy”, “hemangiosarcoma”, “chemotherapy”, “metastasize”.  Emergency.

Good boy, pup.  You’re a good dog.

You’ve been our boy for almost eleven years.  We picked you out of all the others in the pen that day, remember that? We picked you, or you picked us, coming to sit beside where I crouched, putting one little paw on my knee. You looked me right in the eye.  You didn’t jump up, or bite my fingers.  You looked at me, and you tilted your head and my heart melted and we brought you home.

Such a good dog.  Our good boy.

The surgery went well, they tell us.  You are out of the ICU.  We have to wait for pathology reports, but they’ve prepared us to hear bad news.

You’re such a good dog.

We miss you at home!  Miss Sadie misses you.  She has walked from room to room for two days now, looking for you in your usual resting spots.  She goes outside to the deck, then comes right back in. She stays by my side, whether to get comfort or to give it, I can’t say.

We need you home.  I don’t know what the future will hold for you, Tucky Pup.  All I know is that it is way too quiet here without our Mumblepuppy greeting us with a big “Helloooooooow” and grumbling as he settles on his bed.

Good boy.  Good dog.

Stay.

Please stay.

“All Things in Moderation”


My Dad knew how to have fun.

He loved life, and he loved all of life’s pleasures.  He laughed a lot, he ate well, he loved my Mother a whole lot.

And he loved a good glass of single malt Scotch.

I remember my Dad buying me a Scotch as a cousin’s wedding. I remember us sampling his array of fabulous imported Scotch gifts late, late one Christmas eve.

I remember the day that the oncologist told my Dad that his days were limited, that there were no more treatments to try.  The doctor asked him, “What will you do now?”  and Dad laughed, while the rest of us cried.

“Well,” he said, “First of all, I’ll have a shot of Laphroig.”

My Dad knew how to celebrate within reason.  His motto was “All things in moderation.” Sometimes he would add, with a twinkle in his eye, “Including moderation.”

Today would have been his 86th birthday. If I had my wish, I’d be sharing a glass of good Scotch with him tonight, looking back on a life well spent.

Instead, Paul and I shared a glass in his honor.

We miss you Dad.  We know you would want us to be laughing at happy memories of our lives with you.  We know you would want us to grieve in moderation.

We’ll try.

Salute!  A la famiglia.

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In memory of Alex.


The phone rang tonight. It was Katie, in tears, telling us something beyond comprehension.  Her oldest friend, her first “best friend”, died this weekend.  Alex, the little boy next door, the boy who grew up with Katie, the boy who played with my boys and went Trick-or-Treating with us, the boy who helped me make pizza and told me that he wanted to grow up to be a chef, the sweet, smiling, blue-eyed, troubled little boy from next door, has died.

We hadn’t seen Alex, or heard from him, in many years.  When we last spoke to him, he was in Middle School, in a school out of town.  He had moved away from “next door” when he was about 12, and we all missed him.  The family had moved to an apartment downtown, and Alex was mourning the loss of his yard, his house, his friends.  I remember having him here to spend the night.  I remember him putting a good face on things, talking about how good it was to live so close to “downtown”, as if the three little stores in our town were somehow a source of great pleasure and excitement.  I remember him helping to paint the boys’ bedroom that weekend, streaking red and yellow paint into elaborate “flames” on the wall.  I remember taking the kids out for dinner, and Alex saying, “Thank-you”.  I remember going into the bedroom that night, to tell them all to go to sleep, and seeing his face smiling down at me from the top bunk, his blue eyes bright, his smile framed by freckles. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember that I laughed.

And Alex is gone. Somehow, by some strange quirk of fate, Alex, aged 25, is gone.  What makes it especially painful for us is that two weeks ago Paul, who rarely uses the power of social networking, decided to ‘friend’ Alex on Facebook. He searched for Alex, and found him, and sent a message along with a friend request.  “Hi, Alex! Remember us? We think of you often, and hope that you are doing well!”  There was a picture of Alex on his page, with a beautiful little boy beside him.  Could our Alex really be a father already? We couldn’t wait to hear back from him.

But the days went by, and there was no reply.  Until tonight, when Katie called.  We don’t know what happened.  We can’t comprehend how that beautiful boy could be gone from this world.  We only know how sorry we are that we didn’t “friend” him sooner.  We had always thought that we’d have time to get back in touch, to check in on him, to find out if his inner strength and kindness had prevailed.

Alex, you were a special presence in our lives. You were the extra smile at our table, the extra “good-night” that our boys sent out each bedtime.  Your life was too short, and perhaps too sad, for such a sweet and gentle soul.  This Christmas, when I take out the old ornaments from the box, I will take special care with the two little popsicle stick sleds that hold your picture, those lovely gifts that you gave us so many years ago. This Christmas, I will be sure to hang those gifts in a very special place, where I can see your shy smile and send my love to whatever place it is that you have gone.