This is a dream that I periodically revisit. Ever have one of those? It would be nice to have one that has a happy ending of sorts. Mine is never like that. The scenario may change, but the outcome is always the same: The realization that my parents are dead and our relationship is over.
Variation #1: This is how it goes. I am trying to calm my mother. She is lying in a coffin, weeping. My father sits on a couch nearby. My mother is wearing the cherry red dress we buried her in. Peter Pan collar, white cuffs and gold buttons. I had chosen it myself when sorting out her closet. All her clothes had been in complete disarray—on wire hangers, draped over the hanging rods, and tossed in a heap on the closet floor. It was as if her closet was smack in the middle of a wind tunnel. Chaos reigned supreme. Or maybe it was the madness in her brain, a brain that had succumbed to Alzheimer’s, that caused it.
So I found the red dress, its tag still attached: $29.95, from J.C. Penney’s. When had she made the purchase? Before she lost her mind to Alzheimer’s? Perhaps, and, just like that, she never got a chance to wear it. Except to her grave.
In my dream, I don’t know why my mother is crying. I assume she’s hungry so I give her some bread and hope that it’s one with raisins, her favorite kind. Eagerly, she devours it. Ironically, in life, she ate so little. “Como un pájaro,” my father says. Like a bird. Then, as if reviewing a scene of a crime, and suddenly realizing the identity of the murderer, he proclaims,
“It’s the cholesterol that gave her the Alzheimer’s! To control it, she stopped eating and it ate away at her brain, instead!” That’s his theory and he is sticking to it, no matter what.
My mother then sits up in her coffin. The bread has made her thirsty. “Tengo sed,” she says.
I leave the room to get a glass of water. When I return, I find she has stepped out of the coffin. She is walking toward me, her thin, frail arms outstretched, as phantoms often do in scary movies when floating ethereally through graveyards.
“Tengo sed,” she repeats and I hand her the water.
At which time, a crowd gathers, shouting at me not to give her the drink. Too late. As she gulps it down, the water pours out of her body, seeping through ghostly skin and on to the floor. Which is when I remember. Oh yeah, that’s right. My mother is dead.
Then I wake up.
Variation #2: Sometimes, my brother and I are in my childhood bedroom, looking out the window on to the street, waiting for our parents to return from running errands. Waiting. When finally their car pulls up, our hearts beat fast with anticipation. Yet no one comes out of the car. My brother and I look quizzically at each other and then it hits me. They’re not coming out of the car. They’re dead.
Variation #3: We’re in a bowling alley, which is odd because I never went bowling with my mother. She’s putting on her bowling shoes, and her back is to me. I cannot see her face. But I talk to her, and keep talking. She says nothing but keeps adjusting her shoes. Finally, I say, “Mama, Mama” No response. I wake up, remembering that she’s gone.
Creepy dreams, yes. Strange, even. Yet, I look forward to them because, crazy as they are, for a brief moment my parents are with me all over again–if only in my dreams.