I dream. Often. And mostly wake with a vague recollection of nebulous snatches.
Sometimes all I remember is that I dreamt. The actual dream gone before I woke.
MY MOTHER PASSED AWAY IN 1971.
On the eight of June, at midday, to be exact.
I sat with her that last Tuesday morning. Along with my siblings. As the baby in the family, I was the one that held on. She was lying on her side. Facing the window. Away from us.
I held her foot. Then her calf. Then her bony fragile hip. Her arm.
I heard her death rattle. Watched as the last puff of air left her body. A soft hiss.
I got up. Leaned over so I could see her face. Her eyes stared straight ahead. Funny how I remember that. Until then I’d always thought a person’s eyes closed as they died.
I tried to close her eyes. Couldn’t. A nurse came in. Closed her eyelids.
Cancer had claimed another victim.
We piled out. I don’t remember much after that. Only her funeral.
My grandmother came in a wheelchair. She never got up again. My mother had been an only child.
Grandmother passed away three months later. Grandchildren all over the country not enough reason to carry on living.
Was I close to my mother growing up?
I guess as close as was possible under the circumstances.
Coming from farming stock, the nearest school was twenty plus miles away on a dirt road. No school buses. Not at that time!
I went off to boarding school at age six, maybe seven. It was a grand adventure. There were at least five other little girls from similar circumstances.
I never went home again in the true sense. There were long weekends and school vacations. Followed by breaks from university and eventually, vacation time from work.
Then my dad died, and mom got sick. She spent the final years of her life visiting her offspring in turn. Her favorite place remained the family farm.
Where my youngest brother and his wife took the brunt of her care in her final years.
I can’t say I’ve been aware of her presence in my own dark times. If anything, I was grateful that she didn’t live to see my struggles and heartbreak.
But last night I dreamt of her. And she wasn’t sick.
I was driving through Pennsylvania. Mom right next to me. Miles and miles of farmland. Fertile and rich. Covered with tall yellow flowers.
I have no idea whether anything like this exists in Pennsylvania. But in my dream, it did.
The road narrowed. Twisting and turning. Leaving the fields of flowers behind, it wound up a mountainside.
It ended abruptly. On the edge of a high cliff.
I sat. Terrified. Frozen in place. Clutching that danged steering wheel.
I closed my eyes. As if it would help.
Ahead was a sheer drop. Hundreds and hundreds of feet straight down. No way would we survive the plunge.
The road curved away to my left. Snaking down to safety in the valley below.
I couldn’t do it.
I JUST COULD NOT!
I turned to my mother. “Would you please drive down the mountain,” I asked.
She smiled and reached over, placing her hand on the steering wheel next to mine.
“It’s too dangerous to try and change places,” she said.
“But don’t be scared. I’ll keep my hand right next to yours and help guide you down.”
I did it! Or rather, WE DID IT.
And when we got down into the valley and I turned to speak to her,
SHE WAS GONE!
How many times in the years since she passed away has she been there, one hand on the steering wheel that is my life?