Sunday, March 24, 2013

When I Dream of Her

When I dream of her, the setting is always different, but the premise remains the same.

This time I am walking through a neighborhood, and as I turn the corner I see Mom standing on the sidewalk. She is pacing, trying to decide whether to cross. Immediately my heart swells with love, longing, anxiousness. And in that same moment, she turns and notices me. She is just as glad to see me. Her lip begins to quiver and I realize that she is near tears.

I rush toward her, suddenly overwhelmed with emotion too. I want to hug her. I don’t remember yet that she has passed away.

And herein is the premise that remains the same: I never remember in the beginning. All I know is that seeing her fills me with unabated joy and an undercurrent of desperation — terrible, terrible desperation.

I don’t recall if we talk, but we hug. And as we do, I notice two police officers nearby. They have been watching her and now they are watching us. I understand within seconds that they are wary of Mom because she has been pacing, maybe appearing a bit crazy. I want to protect her, so I take her by the arm and lead her away.

As we walk I begin to remember. She is sick. She is feeble. She needs me. My heart starts sinking. We arrive somewhere. There’s a room, and in it a bed. She lies down and I sit on the edge. I am looking at her face, really examining her face, for the first time. She looks scared.

It’s the same look I remember from real life, one morning back in June of 1990, when she woke up disoriented, not able to speak the right words even though it was clear she knew what she wanted to say. I remember the tone of her voice, a tone someone would use as if to say, “Well, this is curious, isn’t it?” But her eyes betrayed her. Her eyes were full of panic. Hours later I would be standing in a hallway at George Washington Memorial Hospital as a nurse explained to me that my mom had had a stroke. The following day I would be sitting bedside with Mom in ICU, watching her head rock from side to side on her pillow, her eyes opening and closing, involuntary movements repeating over and over and over and over. Her body was rebelling against her, breaking down, short circuiting. But her mind was still there. I remember her wailing when the doctor tried to raise her hospital gown to place the stethoscope over her heart because my dad — her ex-husband — was standing in the room. Dad said soothingly, quietly, “Bonnie, it’s ok.” And I think I saw something that looked like defeat in her unfocused eyes as the doctor raised her gown and continued with the exam.

She would slip into a coma the following morning, and two weeks later, she would be gone.

In my dream I am sitting on the edge of the bed, but we are not in ICU and she is not in a hospital gown. The surroundings are home-like and comfortable. But there’s an overall feeling of dread in the air and I now remember how it ends. I want to scoop her up in my arms and hold her close to my chest as if she were my child. I reach for her in a panic, but my arms will not move fast enough.

I wake with a start, bolt upright, my arms flinging out in the dark. For a second, I am confused.

But then I recognize my bedroom.
       I realize I am alone.
            I remember she is gone. 

                      And I will always be,

                                             always be,

                                   a motherless daughter.