My sisters came to pick me up to run an errand the other day. I had not been feeling well, and in an attempt to rid myself of a headache I had laid down on the couch before they came. As usual, I drifted off. Sad to say I can fall into a fairly deep sleep quicker than any other person I know. By the time they arrived I had experienced a complete dream, filled with detail. I cannot recall it at the moment, except that at some point in the storyline I had tried to bargain with a woman to lower the price of something I was buying. As I discussed the dream with my sisters, I commented that I was saddened that I would try to talk this young woman down on whatever I was buying, because she was obviously in need and I certainly had enough to pay what she was asking.
“I wonder,” I said, “if dreams are just a way of living our lives quicker than reality can offer us? I wonder if we teach ourselves and train ourselves as much in our dreams as in real life? I wonder if dreams are Book I of the test and real life is Book II?” I think we got to the store or the post office or wherever we were going before we got it answered. I suppose it’s unanswerable anyway. At least at this point.
I’m not sure what I dreamt last night. Can’t even recall the last dream of the morning, the one that often sits in the back of my head, quickly fades into the background, and sometimes starts reappearing as I get sleepy at night. Whatever I dreamed put me in a certain mood, and when I stepped out of the shower and looked out over the wooded hollow outside our bathroom window, the trees all covered with snow and looking like a ruffle of lace tucked into the bosom of the hillsides, I heard that familiar whisper in my head; “Oh, I am going to miss this.”
I am not planning to leave, permanently leave, any time soon. But I know I will leave. And knowing that, but not dwelling on it, is important.
One day this will not be my home. Hopefully someone else will love it and build beautiful memories here. But for now, it is the place where my memories store themselves; the books on the shelves, the artwork on the walls and marks on the floor. The little red permanent marker spot imprinted on the wooden refrigerator door. I love to see it there, because it makes me think of Kate, who was leaving me a note in high school and the ink bled through. I get to think of Kate often because I go the fridge often, so I love that it’s there. Someone new would sand and refinish it, but I won’t. There’s a large drawing of an old man holding a lantern behind the armoire in Johnny’s old bedroom. Someone new will paint it over. But I won’t. I pass by that room and remember my teenage boy, full of passion and adequate angst, lying on his bed with a copy of Leaves of Grass in his hands, the music of Led Zeppelin wafting through the air spinning from the ceiling fan over his bed. There are paintings gracing the walls of this home, crafted by the mind and the heart and the hands of my Sarah. And in the corner of this very room are photo albums bursting with memories collected and sorted and lovingly preserved by my Nanners. I’ve been to estate sales and garage sales where photo albums are sold for 50 cents, not for the value of the photos but the value of the book. It breaks my heart.
Sarah has an old dresser we bought from a friend at a garage sale after his wife passed away. As we were moving the dresser to Kansas City for Sarah’s medical residency, we noticed on the back of the piece, when the drawers were removed, these words painted across the wood: Eric loves Sue. The dresser was painted red, but these words remain. We treasure the love that imbedded itself in the wood of that physical thing, which will one day be dust as well. One day God will take those words back to the earth and remove them from all of us. But we won’t.
I allow myself to think, in small enough bites to digest but not make me sick, the concept that I will leave the things and places and people I love. I think it’s important to imagine myself leaving. I try to tell myself that its all good, because change is part of life and I want to be part of life and not just live in fear of it. I imagine myself moving to a smaller place. I picture a little patch of earth where I can plant just a few flowers and not have to be overwhelmed by a whole big yard. That’s what I tell myself. I imagine sweet images. I tell myself this space is better suited for a young family who will create so many good moments here. I allow myself to pack up, to give away, to move on.
I think to myself…I could leave THIS…
as long as I don’t have to leave THIS…
And yet I know that this is not going to be the case. And I attempt, with the aid of the Comforter, to tiptoe into that holy spot, without even a whisper. I cannot even approach that door without the rims of my eyes running over, my chest curving over my heart. Just imagining it here, blowing a breath of sorrow onto the chilly crusty surface of pretending, I ache to go hold the man I love. But it would startle him, and make him laugh and then stop and he would draw me in and let me cry and then the moment is gone.
We were talking to a woman the other day who said she had never been to a funeral. She was in her late twenties and said that she had not yet lost anyone close enough to attend the funeral. Imagine that! I suppose my present state, which may appear morbidly morose to some, is triggered by the recent loss of my mother. Or perhaps it was the link on Facebook that led to the blog by the young widow whose husband died just after Christmas, during his last year of medical school. I am woefully conscious of the fragility of life, and the temporary nature of our present state. I attempt to process all of it and still function as normal.
I know I will leave one day. But I know, just as surely, that every single thing that matters to me…really matters to me…will leave as well. And from the other side of it, it will feel like this was just a moment, just a tiny breath. But a life sustaining breath nonetheless. To release myself to the fear of losing would be such a sad thing. I dive… in my dreams…in my remembering…in my imagining…deep into the realm of potential, of inevitability. But like the girl I used to be, back in the Jefferson Swim Club, I touch the bottom, bend my legs, and push myself right back up, my nose facing up toward the Son, my arms raising out of the water and my lungs sucking in the warm clean air, my laughter claiming victory over fear.
I will one day leave THIS.
And for a moment… THIS.
But THIS…. I won’t.