In my dream last night, my mother was– once again — as she was when she was ‘herself.’ For those of us who suffer the horrors of Alzheimer’s, this is no small feat. It was years after my mother’s death before I saw her as this picture shows her, and not as a skeletal shadow, silent in a bed far too large for her.
I don’t dream about my parents — or any of my much-missed departed — very often. But last night, my mother & I were at a dear friend’s house in Hawai’i, and my mother was her once-upon-a-time ebullient self, charmed by bright flowers and umbrella drinks. And my friend J’s 2-bedroom villa w/ lanai, surrounded by papaya and orange and lemon trees, somehow became a huge mansion, w/ suites for many visitors. Each room filled w/ people I know and love, almost none of them family.
I met my friend J through her daughter, one of my dearest friends. I’m actually smack dab between them — about 15 years up/down from each. So I don’t think of J as a mother figure. I do think of her home, however, as one of those rare places where I was immediately comfortable, and didn’t worry EVER about ‘being myself.’ And yes, you heard correctly: I ‘t feel that way only very rarely. And almost always only w/ family.
Digression: I believe in dreams. Whether you think they come from some ‘source’ (in which case my family would call them visions), or from deep inside our own complex knowings, I believe they speak truth to us. So when I woke up, recalling that my mother, in this dream, looked just like me when she turned away, I wondered what I needed to learn.
I know I’m at risk for Alzheimer’s. All four of us — my three sisters and I — live an uneasy truce w/ this knowledge. I’ve told my husband & sons my wishes should I progress badly, as my mother did.
That didn’t seem to be the root of this dream. I am a lot like my mother, and I don’t always acknowledge this. As with even the best of mother/daughter relationships (and ours was very very good), there are aspects of my mother I really don’t want to replicate. So some of my dream is acceptance of my own flightiness, my love of frivolous material objects (tea sets, charm bracelets, nice linens…). My dislike of confrontations, my silliness w/ children & animals.
But what about Hawai’i? And J? And my friend S, her daughter? What about the big house on the small island? What’s the point I’m supposed to get??
Dreams don’t speak linear logic. They have a language best listened to when you’re half asleep, obviously. So I’m trying to feel my way back to the centre of my dream, like Hansel & Gretel following white stones in the dark. Feeling their way home.
And what I think is this: when I woke up, I missed my mother. Desperately. Because your mother will always love you. She’s loved you through diapers, through bad report cards, through teenage and bad choices and her own decline. Even at the end (and maybe after…?), she loves you. And your politics — that in my case are so tightly wound through every thread of my beliefs — are fine w/ her. As they are w/ J & S, who loved me before I even knew it.
The other people in the house? The same. And that’s saying a LOT, because it was a big-ass house!
Seriously — I think my dream may well have been that simple. I miss my mother. Often. Because she loved me. And we all need that. Even grown-up grandmothers, whose own kids make fun of her deep love of them.
If you still have even a tiny shadow of your mother, grab her. Wrap your arms around her and inhale her, the way we do babies. She won’t last forever. But the love will.