Friday, February 6, 2015

A Little More In Touch with Reality

I had a dream. (I hesitate to open with this, as I always hear the voice of Dr. MLK ringing in my head as I'm saying it. Some sort of posthumous warning against plagiarism, perhaps?) But I did. Most dreams escape my memory shortly after I realize I've had them. And very few are vivid enough for me to want to punch Scott right in those perfect teeth of his for flirting with that blonde in Accounting again, and then lying there asleep next to me like nothing just happened! (There is no blonde. There is no Accounting. Except in Dreamworld.) But it happens. Last night's dream was a two-fer. Quite vivid and quite profound:

I was who I am today, I mean, personality-wise. Not nearly as neurotic, and a little wiser I'd like to think. But I was young again -- twenties or so, in my twenties-or-so body. There was some sort of meet 'n greet going on in my mother's living room. A very beautiful, but equally young Asian girl in a black dress was there. She looked fabulous in the dress, but began matter-of-factly pointing out to us small holes that had formed in the lace. And while it was apparent to me I'd never met her before, I knew she was having a party that night and I had been invited. My mother was making pleasant chit-chat with this young woman, asking relevant questions and simply being her charming, forty-something self. Before I knew it, my mother and I were in my truck -- she was driving -- and we were leaving the upper entrance of our development, headed to this party. In the darkness, Mom (who in reality hasn't driven for about two years) navigated cross traffic like a pro. I was putting in my contacts made of boiled chicken (ok, that was the really weird part), when suddenly I remembered I didn't have "the gift" (and no doubt, pants. Aren't most dreams pantless? Not for you? Ok, forget I said anything.) Mom acknowledged that we'd have to go back, yet breezed past the lower entrance of our development. As I started to object, she put her hand up, or shushed me, or said something -- I'm not sure -- but I instantly settled back, trusting that she had it all covered. Within seconds we had come to a stop; she pulled off the side of the road, across the mouth of a gravel drive, the very last place -- and this is where it gets tricky -- I recalled from a previous dream, I'd taken her driving. Somehow that fact was significant to me. As I was coming to this realization, my mom collapsed, sobbing, to the floor and agonizingly confessed, "Sometimes we just need to stay home." I rubbed her back, comforting her, reassuring her. "You did good today, Ma. You had a good day today."

So that was the "vivid," but what was so profound? First of all, I'd give almost anything to be who I am now and in my twenties again. I messed things up so badly back then, that having a second chance at making better decisions with lasting, far more altruistic consequences? Well, let's just say, that would be a dream come true.

And, this raven-haired, size 4 beauty so casually discussing the flaws in her attire? It was her party after all; who wouldn't want things to be perfect? But she was so confident, so in the moment, that all of that superficial stuff was of no consequence to her. She was honest and pure in her desire to be with others.

I'm going to skip Mom's pleasant chit-chat for now, but the boiled chicken eyewear? Yeah, I got nothin'. Not enough iodine in my diet, maybe.

As for Mom driving? That was past Mom. Mom that logged hundreds of miles each year running us to and from school, sporting events, activities, parties. Mom that volunteered for homeroom mother, crafting costumes and cupcakes. Mom that was always there for us. And settling back, letting her be Mom again -- even for a split second -- was such a comfortable feeling from the past -- one I'm sure I never fully appreciated until now.

But that Mom taught me a valuable lesson about what not to do as well. That Mom was all about her kids' lives, choosing to never really have one of her own. She immersed herself in the lives of her children because they were safe. They were her children; they needed her and therefore, couldn't/ wouldn't leave her; they wouldn't reject her. What she settled for was not love but need; it was good enough for her. In elementary school we did an experiment with a seed, placed in a baggie with a paper towel. Water it long enough and it will sprout. Fail to give it soil in which to take root, and eventually it will die. Mom thrived in her role like that seed -- taking off like a shot, brilliant green, but no roots in the world. She had no friends to speak of; she thought less of herself than anyone else did; she put up enormous walls to keep everyone out, for fear they would hurt her. The only one truly hurting her was herself. And that's where the chit-chatting, charming Mom of Dreamworld becomes so poignant: like the young woman in the black dress, this Mom was honestly getting to know others and letting down her guard, and -- the ultimate irony of Dreamworld -- being real. It was nice seeing Mom confident and happy; a sort of fantastical redo for her also.

But the end of my dream is where we are today. My mom is very tired some days. She worries about forgetting, and the stress of that causes her to forget; new situations and environments upset her tremendously. She has trouble differentiating between days, and recognizing family members. My childhood has been all but erased, and except for a couple of intense memories, hers has been as well. Sometimes repeating the same information day after day can be tedious and painful. After all, this is not how this is supposed to be -- a child mothering her mom, grandchildren and great-grandchildren she can't even recognize. But seeing this play out before me as I slept, made me realize just how grateful I am for the opportunity to be there for her on difficult days. And though I can't trust her to always remember to eat, much less use a stove or drive, she remains Mom, if only in the shadows of my dreams.

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