Many Happy Returns

Originally published at Sharonda.net on April 13th, 2017.
Added to SMWoodfin.WordPress.com on October 31st, 2017.

I used to have nightmares all the time: ghosts, devils, demons, vampires, holocausts, extraterrestrials with evil intent… Then I started getting stuck in my dreams, aware I was dreaming, and trying, but unable, to wake myself up. The latter type of dream was, generally, more terrifying than the former.

I don’t have either of those dreams, anymore. I don’t have them because my mom spent a few years suffering with dementia, and then she passed away, and nothing in my experience—not even my imaginary experience—has been worse than that.

My “nightmares”, these days, reflect that reality.

Typically, I dream that I’m in California with my wife (I am), but that I left Mom in Missouri to come out here. (I did not.) I dream that I’m on the phone with her, but can’t get to her, and she isn’t making sense, and apparently, no one back home is looking out for her. She’s on her own and unaware that she’s unable to take care of herself.

Or I dream that I’ve gone to visit her in Missouri, and the situation is the same, except I’m trying to convince her to come to California with me, and she is refusing.

I don’t wake up afraid to ever sleep again. Not like I used to.

I only wake up heartbroken and guilty, and maybe afraid that my waking reality isn’t what I think it is; maybe there’s some reality where what I’ve dreamt is true.

I understand, now, why some people insist that (a) higher power(s) exist(s), and that the(se) higher power(s) ensure(s) a pretty swanky afterlife built around being reunited with loved ones previously passed.

And my own understanding, my own wishful thinking, makes me more certain than before that it probably isn’t the case.

Meanwhile, I have flowers delivered on holidays. I keep flowers on the memorial that my wife helped me to build in our dining room, too. It’s where I keep the small portion of my mom’s ashes that were separated out to stay with me.

I light a flameless candle every night, and say “Good morning” every morning.

I am vigilant, having missed only two nights—excepting the trip that my wife and I took home to have Mom’s funeral and to bury the larger portion of her ashes in the cemetery next to my dad—lighting that candle in the three years since the ashes were passed to me outside Anaheim’s own Melrose Abbey Mortuary.

I don’t think I’m grieving correctly.

I don’t think I ever will.

I have trouble with letting go. But that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing this in part because I had one of those dreams just a couple of days ago.

I’m writing it, now, because today is my Aunt Bessie’s birthday.

Aunt Bessie was one of my mom’s two sisters, and they were close. They shared an inherent forthrightness I haven’t seen much of since moving to California, and I wonder, sometimes, if that’s why it’s taken this state—this neighborhood that I live in—so long to feel like home.

I was close to Aunt Bessie, too, despite being hundreds of miles away when she passed.

And if I’m wrong—if there is some sort of family-reunion style afterlife, and that afterlife has internet access—I’d just like to say happy birthday, Aunt Bessie! I love and miss you!

Tell Mom that I love and miss her, too!