Communion of saints
It had been a full day of cross-country skiing -- marathon proportions, by our recent standards -- and when the kids went to bed, I crashed too. It was one of those rare fatigues that wasn't so much drowsiness as physical exhaustion. My legs and arms were pretty well played out, and so feeling the effects of a couple of celebratory ales and a great dinner, I conked out.
After a while, I dreamed that I was lounging in front of a video screen and explaining to a dark-haired woman what a big day I had had on the mountain. And then she was before me -- my father's sister, the one who had died so early. She was young and full of life. I couldn't believe my eyes, and so I opened them really wide and took her in with every bit of concentration I could muster. It was her, all right.
"She didn't die!" I said to myself. "Gosh, I'm going to be so embarrassed in front of the Mrs. I told her that this aunt had died." But I knew that that part of it was going to be all right, because the Mrs. is so good with anything having to do with family, and with all the other things that I can't keep straight.
The aunt and I talked about the fire that had recently destroyed several houses in the old neighborhood. "I know," she told me, "I stood on Mary Ann's back porch." "Did they knock the house down?" I asked, but the two of us got distracted by something else and that part of the conversation petered out.
I gave her a big, long hug. I couldn't get over how beautiful she looked, and how good she felt.
Now, I have been listening to a bunch of Bruce Springsteen's music this week, much of which seems to be about mortality lately, and so it wasn't too surprising that he was in the room, too. I get rock stars in my dreams sometimes. He and my aunt made some conversation while I was busy doing other stuff.
When I joined back into talking with her, I wanted to catch up on so many things, none of which Springsteen would be interested in. When he saw our talk resuming, he made himself busy looking at some art on the wall. By way of apology for turning the subject back to family matters, I told him, "This is an appearance," I told him, "that never comes, no matter how much you want it to."
And with that, the dream got too big for me to keep it going. The light, the buzz were overwhelming. I awoke with a start and found myself crying.
It was not possible to get right back to sleep after this sort of visitation. After a while, our five-year-old made a bathroom stop, and the light from the bathroom shone in on me. I opened my eyes, leaned over to where I could see her, and gave her a wave and a smile, which she returned.
It was at that point that I realized that what I had said to Springsteen wasn't really true. My aunt and the rest of the family do appear to me, every day, in our children. Lucky me.