Today I woke up in the small morning hours and wandered out to the living room. The house was cool and dark and I tapped away on my computer, writing in the stillness. All the windows were open and the croaking frogs were the perfect metronome to my words. When I was done, I crept back into bed as Terry was getting ready for work. I drifted off to sleep for one last precious hour.
In that snippet of morning sleep, I dreamed that our family was having a party. It was a backyard party with crisp white tablecloths snapping in the breeze. Aunt Nancy poured some sort of exotic soup into bright white ramekins. She filled one too full, and soup dribbled over the edge, seeping into the tablecloth like a tea stain.
My mom and I set the tables and I stopped for just a moment to watch Terry. He sat near the grass and looked so handsome. He didn’t see me sneak a peek. You always told me he just gets better and better looking with age and I couldn’t agree more.
You arrived at the party and came up from behind me, putting your arm around my waist. I put my arm around your shoulder and kissed your cheek. It was so soft, like the cheek of a baby. You said “Hi, honey.” Your voice was so clear. In my waking hours I have trouble recalling the particular lilt of your voice, the rhythm of Texas buried under years of California. But in my dream your voice was so familiar, so filled with love.
In my dream you had cancer, but it appeared you were undergoing treatment. I asked you “How are you feeling?” You squeezed my waist and said “Much better. How are you feeling?” I laughed and said “I’m feeling fine, Gramma, just fine.” You said “That’s good.” and patted my bottom twice, like you always did. I have no idea why you always patted my bottom like that. Was it because I’m so tall and you were so small? Is that all you could reach?
There was music in the background and Uncle Jon and Aunt Jill danced close together on the patio. Hayley was mortified until Katie pulled her on the dance floor. Katie wore a gorgeous, dark pink dress that made her rosy cheeks even more striking. Katie and Hayley danced and laughed. Everyone laughed with them. You and I stood there, your arm still around my waist, my arm draped around your shoulder. You leaned into me, just the slightest little bit until your hair was touching my chest. We watched them dance and we were so happy.
You turned to me and asked “Is everyone here?” Before I could answer, I woke with a start back in my own bed. I gasped for air like I was breaking through the water’s surface after swimming down deep.
My dream hung around me like gauzy sheets and as I sat up in bed, I realized my alarm hadn’t gone off. I swung my legs over the edge and for a second my mind convinced me that my dream was real, that your cancer was responding to treatments. That you were indeed feeling better. That you were still here. My feet touched the carpet and I realized it was not real, that it was just a dream. A cruel dream that left tear drops on my shirt as I got dressed. The dream looped in my mind, always stopping when you asked “Is everyone here?”.
In the unforgiving light of day, I answered your question. Everyone is not here. And today that thought has seeped into me, leaving me stained with sadness.
I love you, Gramma. Come talk to me in my dreams again soon.