"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Safe Haven

I dreamed last night of my late husband. He was at his rakish best, dressed in Carhartt coveralls, leaning against a Caterpillar tractor, one leg crossed in front of the other, his arms folded over his chest.

Under those light brown, well-worn coveralls was the body of a man who worked hard for a living, the muscles of his back, chest, arms, and hands well-developed and strong. On his face was a smile I had seen many times, the times before Alzheimer’s came and took him smile by smile, word by word, thought by thought.

There was humor and wit behind that smile, and something else, a something that made my heart and lungs pause for just an instant. There was a bit of the bad boy in that smile, that Marlon-Brando-come-to-town-on-a-motorcycle bad boy. That something said life with this guy wasn’t going to be a re-run of some genteel family sit-com. It wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t.

It was good to see him like that, good to see that smile again. His youngest daughter will say, when I tell her of this dream, that he came to tell us he’s okay now, two years after his death. I won’t dissuade her from that, because for all I know that’s exactly what happened. But, there’s more to his dreamtime appearance, because I had been having a nightmare, what I call a “stress dream.”

Once again—I have had an endless stream of dreams along this theme—I was cooking in the restaurant we used to own. This time it was breakfast and something was wrong with the eggs. I cracked one, and another egg was inside, and inside, and inside. Finally I reached an egg the size of a marble, and it was cooked. And purple. (I hope this isn’t related to the nesting dolls I brought home from Russia as gifts for the girls across the highway from me.)

The dining room was full, the order wheel bristling with tickets, and something was wrong with the eggs. Finally, we had to announce we had no eggs, and the dining room emptied. Then the lunch crowd came in and filled the dining room. This time it wasn’t an egg problem. This time, no one would order off the menu.

They ordered things like “nemesia.” They ordered other things I’d never heard of, and none of them sounded like food. Another announcement and again the dining room emptied. (Ironically, or not, I am halfway through reading Julie and Julia, the story of one woman’s cooking and blogging her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.)

I hoped it was all a dream and fled out the back door of the restaurant’s kitchen. That’s when I saw him—my husband in his Carhartt coveralls, leaning against his tractor. And that smile. I ran to him and grabbed him, my face close to his and that smile.

“Tell me,” I begged, “tell me this is all a dream.” And he did, those strong arms circling me and holding me close to him.

Perhaps the youngest daughter is right. He’s okay now, he has his smile back. As for me, I think there’s another message here, a message about me. After all those years of watching his essence disappear, of being a caregiver, and the one who had to make all the horrific decisions, I’m seeing him whole once again and looking to him for one of the things couples should derive from marriage. I’m looking to him for emotional support, for safe harbor from the storms, for surcease from the anxiety of jumbled dreams.

And to see that smile again.


  1. This is a beautifully told story Gully.

  2. Edgar Allan Poe said his famous line 2 ways. In the 1st stanza, it was declarative: "All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream." But in the 2nd stanza, the final line is a question: "Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?"

    Ken looks like a pleasing cross between a young Walter Matthau and a young Robert Mitchum. Like you, the bad-boy streak in a good man is appealing to me. When I met Buck, he told me I had better buckle up, because it was going to be a wild ride. The man didn't lie.

    I don't know much about dream imagery, but eggs are supposedly symbolic of something new and fragile. Cracked eggs can mean alot of things, including giving oneself permission to "come out of the shell" to move in new directions.

    The image of Ken returning in a dream to give you strength and comfort is powerful, and, I think, a gift. I hope this marks a transition from stress dreams to adventure/quest dreams. . .

  3. I forgot to mention -- "nemesia" sure sounds alot like amnesia. Did you know it is a flower? Here's the link to a photo: http://www.sobkowich.com/products/Annual%20Seedling%20Plugs/graphics/nemesia_poetry.jpg

    It looks purple to me. . .

  4. This is one of my favorites of your writings, I guess I'm a sucker for the heart strings. Ken may have had a bad boy streak in him, but I imagine he needed it to keep up with you. It a wonderful gift that you got to see Ken's smile again.

  5. Very touching. Cap and Patti