Thursday, 5 August 2010

the things my dreams are made of...

Last night I dreamed about my old house… 
I dreamed about my mum… 
It’s not often that I dream about her but when I do it is always incredibly vivid.
In my dreams she’s always alive and relatively well. I don’t ever dream about her being ill or not being there. If my mum is in my dream she is not just a memory, she is a real, living thing that I interact with and hold.
I always hold my mum in my dreams…  the way I wish I always had. I never held her enough when she was alive (that’s not to say that I held her at all when she was dead… I just made that sound incredibly odd. Just to be clear, I never once held my mum when she was dead… though I did touch her skin AND look down her top to investigate the colouration where no makeup had been applied).
Prior to moving to England I would visit her every two days between my shifts at Mini Mart and the mall… I would go to her room and lie on her bed and she would talk to me about what she won at pinochle or how well it went when she had called the numbers at BINGO the previous day. I would listen to her and snooze for the hour I had before having to get on the bus to my second job. She would talk about how she wished she could see the grandkids more and how proud she was of me.
Most every time I went to visit her I found myself unable to embrace her. I don’t know if it had to do with me being a sassy teen who was “too cool” to hug her mum or more to do with the fact that I was frightened of her being so ill, but hugging her… sigh, that’s it, isn’t it? I was terrified of her illness. Despite her large frame and outstandingly beautiful smile, she was so frail and I hated that. If you so much as brushed the skin on her arm she would bruise. She was forever covered in blemishes from where she had bumped herself on her wheelchair or the walls during her daily routines. I remember so clearly how tiny and frail her arms and hands always looked, the skin so perfect underneath all the bruises and cuts… the cause of the weak skin being her medication.
Medication time was always the most fun. Lamotrigine, Phenytoin, Hydrochlorothiazide, Amytriptiline, Levodopa, Glucophage, MAO-B Inhibitors, Wellbutrin… names of things that I forced myself to memorize from a young age but names that I should never have had to become familiar with. I would watch as she swallowed three of those little cups of brightly-coloured tablets to take away her pain, swelling, depression and sleeplessness. Some days they worked and other days she couldn’t cope. Other days she could barely leave her room. Other days I sometimes found it hard to look at her because her face reflected so much pain. I hated seeing my mum in pain. She would always try to smile but I could tell when it was fake… when she was putting it on to stop me from worrying.
But when I dream about her I never, ever have to worry. In most dreams she is suddenly as fit as she was when I was eleven… just before she fell very ill. In most dreams she always seems to have something I am looking for. Sometimes it’s a food I’m craving, other times she’ll be spending time with a friend I’ve been pining after. Last night it was an underskirt for one of my dresses. I went into her room at our old house and she said she had been going through her clothes. I laid on the bed and smelled it. It smelled like the sweet odour of her perfume and patchouli… there was an ocean of clothes scattered across the floor of every colour and fabric… some of them were actually ones she used to own, shirts that were silk or crushed velvet in deep purples and bright reds. I crawled to the floor and began sifting through her clothes, much the same way I used to when I was a child… I was mystified by all the things that she owned, wanting immediately to wear everything and to have her tell me I was beautiful. I lifted up her favourite shirt… it seemed so real, the way the fabric felt cool in my hands from the fan that had been blowing fresh air into the boiling summer atmosphere.
I kept digging, travelling from the foot of the bed into her wardrobe, touching all of the different fabrics to my face to smell them and memorize her scent. It was when I had reached the right-hand edge of her wardrobe that I found the underskirt… the perfect underskirt made from netting in several pinks and black, perfect for me to wear under my dress at my leaving party.
I put it on and it looked faultless. I pranced into the lounge where she was sat on her chair with the sunlight hitting her face. She was sleeping. I woke her up and she told me I looked beautiful and I hugged her. Her hair hit my face and it was so soft, smelling of a random mix of Herbal Essences shampoo and her perfume. I started talking to her about Muffin and the phone started to ring and I hopped up to answer it. I couldn’t find it and it got louder… then I woke up.
I woke up and missed her. I missed her so much it hurt today. The missing was made worse by a discussion that forced me out of my office this morning.
There’s a woman that used to work here who was diagnosed with cancer last year… cancer that spread through her entire body. She’s in her early sixties and last year was only given two weeks left to live. A year on she has just started her third bout of Chemo and Radiation-Therapy (as they have found a lump on her brain). Everyone is very close to this lady and it was discovered yesterday that she was in hospital and had been for quite some time. Two of my colleagues immediately went to see her and this morning every detail of their visit was explained from the way that she looked to the way she slurred her words.
It was at the mention of slurred words that I had to leave the room… I immediately bolted up and announced I had to go get a cola. For me, “slurred words” is synonymous with the last conversation I had with my mum… I still remember every single word that she said to me and just how her voice sounded as the phone was put to her ear. She couldn’t hear me through all the machinery whirring around her to keep her alive so she was shouting, presumably because she thought I had the same machinery keeping my ears from hearing correctly as well. My mum was on heavy doses of Morphine and Valium to help to ease the pain and everything she said sounded like it was being played to me in slow-motion. All of her words blended together and it made me hurt. I could hear what a struggle it was… I could hear her piecing the words together, not wanting to make a mistake, wanting to say everything as clearly and consciously as possible so as to not worry me.
I put down the phone after the nurse reassured me that she would be fine in the morning and I could ring then… I wept. I’ve no idea why I wept, but I did. I wept because I wasn’t there and couldn’t hold her, I wept because I had spent so much time being terrified of her illnesses, I wept because I loved her and was 8,000 miles away. All she ever wanted was to have me nearby and I left her.
Within four hours she had died and my sisters were booking my flight back to america.
I don’t know why exactly it is that when I dream of her I always find the things I’m looking for and I don’t know why exactly I never dream of her in any other way than how she was when I was eleven, but those are, without fail, always my favourite dreams.


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