Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Reality of Dreaming

"Photo by Chalmers Butterfield"

A few years ago I had a dream that has stuck with me over the years, more like a memory than a dream. It felt so real that when I woke up, I wrote it down. Not to make sure I remembered, but to have a record to compare against when the day came that it did happen.

It was a dream about the future. Not anything surreal like flying cars or anything like that. No. It was me living a day in the life of being old. 

I couldn’t tell you my exact age in the dream, all I know is that I was old. My eyesight had faded to mere pinpricks because most of my peripheral vision was gone or completely blurry. I had to concentrate to focus on any one thing. My hips hurt like nothing else I have experienced when I tried to walk, not even the pain I had when pregnant. This was old cartilage grinding on old bone, and it hurt.

One of my grandkids had asked to see some of my digital art, and as I knew they were coming to visit, I headed down into the basement to find the old files. I hoped that the current technology would read my old digital art files. 

Getting down into the basement was a trial all unto itself. My sense of balance was not what it should be, and I held on to the railings for dear life, not sure of my footing because the feeling in my feet was not always reliable.

When I finally got to my old office in the basement, I booted up an old computer, fumbled around with my gnarled old hands and the ancient mouse to put the files on some kind of drive – I don’t know what kind, I couldn’t see it, I just hoped it would work. I wanted him to see that there was a time grandma had done more than sit around a house all day not hearing things. I wanted him to know I had lived. Then I took it back upstairs, hoping I wouldn't trip and fall on the way back up. 

I was excited to see my daughter and my grandkids, but I was dreading it as well. While I loved those sweet young things, I couldn’t hear them and I could barely see them. They would babble at me and tell me stories, and I couldn’t understand one word of it. My daughter would try to interpret, but my hearing aid wasn’t reliable on some sounds, so most words just sounded like mush. I handed her the thing with the files on it, told her I hoped her son got some use or enjoyment from it -- if it even worked -- and hurried them out of the house, feeling more frustrated and overwhelmed by my body's lack of function. 

I had turned into a grumpy old woman. I just wanted to cry, I felt so cut off from the world, from any human understanding. I felt trapped in a body that refused to do what it should, that didn’t work properly, and that wouldn’t die soon enough.

And then I woke up. 

Not one of the funnest dreams ever, but definitely an enlightening one.

Today I was helping one of my sweet neighbors clean her house. She can’t do it herself, because her body just won’t let her. She’s one of my favorite people that I’ve gotten to know, and my son loves her, too. He understands her much better than I do, but I do try. Sometimes I have to ask her to repeat herself a few times before I make out the words. I feel bad when that happens, but my ears kind of suck.

Today she was having a day. You know those days where you just feel useless and overwhelmed and frustrated? She was having one of those. And it's very humbling, because I feel that way a lot, but my reasons aren't nearly as good as hers. I may feel blind, but I'm not. My legs and hands work.

She looked so sad when I was getting ready to go, I asked her if she was ok. She said No, and then smiled. So I asked her what was wrong, and she said, “I can’t do a damned thing. I’m blind, I can’t talk, I can’t do anything. I’m worthless.” –and yes, I understood those words perfectly.

All I could think to do was hug her and let her cry. I love her so much, but I can't just snap my fingers and fix her body to make it function. I'm glad she's here, and she makes my life so much richer by being in it and letting me help her.

I did not tell her about my dream. It would have been demeaning at best to do so. I told her I loved her and that she wasn’t worthless. When I got home, I thought maybe I did know a little bit about how she was feeling, even though it wasn’t for real.  Maybe that dream gives me the ability to empathize with those around me who feel alone and misunderstood and hopeless. I’m not really sure. But I know I love her. I know I wish that I had the words to say to her that would make it all better. All I could offer was a shoulder to cry on, and hopefully that was enough.

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