In My Dreams

I’m always jealous when I read about the dreams that Rock Chef and Wreggie have. Rock Chef recently dreamed that he had two wives. They were clones of each other and I think he rather enjoyed having two women in his life, even though it was a bit much to manage both of them. Wreggie has vivid dreams of travelling to places that don’t exist in reality but are very exciting. Generally speaking, I either don’t dream, or I sleep so hard that I don’t remember my dreams. It’s a rare occasion that I do remember what went on inside my imagination at night. So on Saturday night when I awoke from a dream, I made a conscious effort (as conscious an effort as possible when awakening in the dead of night) to commit the details to memory.

In my dream, I was walking down a local frontage road. It’s a road that exists in reality. I lived near it when growing up and still live fairly close. It is situated between a local lake and a section of I94. For as long as I can remember, there has been a mobile home community which is accessible from the road and there’s also a boat and marine business. Various other businesses have come and gone from this stretch.  I most recently drove this road last Friday while dropping off a coworker at a repair shop to pick up her car. I noticed how much the businesses located along this stretch had changed. Right now, Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles are the high profile businesses located there. Over the past several months, the road has been under construction and on Friday, I realized between the reconstruction and the addition of new businesses, the area seems to have received a nice makeover.

In my dream, the road was in shabby condition, the way it was before the recent reconstruction. It was lined with old, abandoned brick office buildings. As I walked along the road, I could see there were demolition crews working on the destruction of all of the buildings. I stopped to watch the demolition of one of the smaller ones. There was a crew of several men and one woman working on top of the building and they were destroying it by hand, working their way down with sledgehammers. I was surprised that what they were doing was acceptable…you know… by OSHA or whatever powers are in charge of safely destroying buildings.

Just as I was marveling at all of this, I saw the woman swing her sledgehammer taking out a section of brick. Just as she did so, the structure began to give way beneath her. Only part of the building gave way while the rest remained intact. The rest of the demolition crew and I could only watch in horror as the bricks disintegrated beneath her and the woman tumbled to her death. It seemed to take forever while she crashed through weakened sections of the building, finally crumbling to a stop among a pile of brick and dust. It was at this point that I startled awake.

Seriously? I finally have a dream and this is what I get? I wonder what this means? I wonder if I could do it again – dream – and remember what I dreamed? And if the dream gods are paying attention, I’d like to request a happy dream for next time, thank you. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to go back to my dull and uneventful rest.

A Visit

A few days ago, I placed a photo order online and the prints have now arrived. Two of them I had made specially for my mom. One is a picture of Tigger, her cat. He has lived with me for two years now, but he’ll always be hers. I had emailed her a close-up that I had taken of Tigger lying on my bed and she had mentioned she would like a print. The other photo is one of all eleven of her grandkids. I took the picture on Thanksgiving Day last year when the whole family was celebrating at my house. My sister and I managed to gather all of the kids at once. It was an unusually warm day for November and we led the whole group outside to the deck. We got the little ones to sit still long enough to pose for a picture with their bigger cousins on the back steps. This picture, she already has an 8 x10 framed copy, which I mailed to Arizona last year as part of my parents’ Christmas gift. She left that copy in Arizona and hinted she’d like another print for at home. It’s a warm Friday evening and I’ve got little motivation to do anything productive after a long day at work, so I decide to walk the pictures over to my parents’ house on the next block.

There’s a cool breeze blowing as I stroll through the neighborhood, my sandals flip-flopping against my heels. Rounding the corner onto their street, their house becomes visible. It’s the second one from the corner and I see my brother’s white pick-up truck parked in front. I wonder if it’s just him stopping by for a quick minute, or if the whole family is there. When I approach the house, before I can even open the front door, my eleven year-old nephew, Zach bursts through it and wraps an arm around me.  Soon eight year old Hannah and five year old Josh are bouncing and chattering in front of me, waiting on hugs too. I ask where their brother, Alec is, but I’m not sure anyone hears me and an answer never comes. Seeing my brother, Craig standing by himself in the kitchen, it’s clear to me that Alec and his mom are not here.

While I try to disengage the tangle of little arms and legs from around me, my mom’s face lights up and she welcomes me inside. I’m still wearing the casual skirt and short-sleeved v-neck t-shirt that I wore to work and she comments on how nice I look. After all of my tom-boy years, it’s probably still a pleasant surprise for her to see me in a skirt.

My dad and Craig greet me, somewhat absently as they are wrapped up in conversation. They continue as I hand my mom the shipping envelope in which the pictures were packaged.

“What’s this,” she asks? She’s obviously forgotten her requests and in all honesty, it’s been a while since she made them and she most likely thought I forgot all about them.

Before I can answer her, she pulls them from the envelope and a pleased, “Oh!” escapes her lips. “You didn’t have to do that,” she scolds, but I tell her I was ordering a bunch of other prints anyway and it was no big deal. The pictures make her happy, and that makes me happy. She’s busy offering them to my dad and Craig so they can see too.

“Oh, yes! Very nice,” my dad is saying and Craig nods in approval. Before long, though, they wander outside to do who-knows-what. Maybe look at the garden or tinker with the lawn mower. My dad loves to be outside, especially now that he’s got his strength back and I’m glad Craig is there to keep him company.

The kitchen is quieter now and it gives my mom and me a chance to talk. Josh has settled in the living room. He’s laying on the couch, absorbed in some t.v. show. When I glance over my shoulder, I can see the arm of the couch, but not his head. All I can see is his little leg swinging outward in time to some rhythm only he can hear.

My mom is telling me about what’s going on with her neighbors and Zach is standing near the table where we sit. He is listening quietly and I notice there is writing on his arm. There’s a heart next to the name, “Emily.”

I ask him, “Zach, why is there writing on your arm?”

He smiles, embarrassed and just shrugs. But Hannah is quick to answer. “He has a girlfriend,” she says, dragging out the word girl and looking at him with a taunting smile.

“So what,” he says, trying to look cool. “You have a boyfriend.

“I do have a boyfriend,” she admits proudly. “I have a boyfriend and Zach has a girlfriend.”

“You can’t have a boyfriend yet,” my mom teases her.

“Yeah. You’re too young for a boyfriend,” I add.

“That’s what Mom and Dad say too,” Zach throws in for good measure.

Hannah smiles, shrugs and bounces back to the living room where she flops herself into the over-sized recliner to join Josh in front of the t.v. Zach decides he’s had enough of the adult conversation and he too goes to join his siblings.

“I’m so glad you stopped by tonight,” my mom tells me. Why does that make me feel guilty? It’s probably because even though I stop by fairly regularly, it’s not often for more than a few minutes. My visits tend to get squeezed in between other obligations.

Before long, Dad and Craig come back in the house and Dad joins Mom and me at the kitchen table. Craig chooses to stand, leaning against the kitchen counter and finishing the bottle of beer he started earlier. He’s telling us stories about his neighbors who “don’t take care of their stuff.” They don’t fix things, they just replace them when they quit working. Everything that’s fallen into disrepair ends up underneath the neighbors’ deck to rot away.

As I listen to Craig talk, I realize it’s still quiet in the living room and glance in there to see Josh’s leg still swinging and the other two kids still absorbed in the program. Craig talks on, telling us that the neighbor’s most recent replacement was a new lawn mower. Craig tried to convince his neighbor that he could probably just repair the old one and he’d be willing to help, but the neighbor wasn’t interested. He gave Craig the old mower and told him to have at it. We laugh as Craig describes how he replaced one part of the mower and found another one that didn’t work. Then he’d replace that part and would find something else that needed repair. After two days of tinkering with the mower, the last straw came when he pulled on the starter cord and gas sprayed out across his garage. We all laugh when he says that after that episode, he pushed the mower back to the neighbors’ yard and parked it under the deck to rot with the rest of the junk.

Craig’s phone rings and he answers it, wandering into the living room to talk briefly with his wife. When he hangs up, he tells the kids to get ready to go and tells Mom and Dad that they need to head home. The kids are protesting. They don’t want to leave. Craig continues chatting to all of us while trying in vain to round up the kids. They seem to keep slipping away from the door and back into the living room. Finally in frustration, he shouts, “Let’s GO!” They know he means business and they all scramble for hugs goodbye. I get two from Josh because he’s making the rounds and forgets who he’s already hugged. I don’t complain.

Craig and the kids finally make their exit and my mom goes to stir something on the stove. I hadn’t noticed the pot sitting there before and didn’t realize that she and Dad hadn’t had their dinner yet. I take this as my cue to get going too, and say so.

“Don’t go yet,” my mom says. “You don’t have to leave just because we’re eating. Do you want to join us? We’re having stew.”

I tell my mom I’m not hungry and have already eaten, but I’ll help myself to a bottle of water from the fridge and agree to stay a while longer, sitting myself back down in the chair I had just left. I bow my head as Mom and Dad make the sign of the cross before their food and recite the prayer I grew up saying before meals.

The conversation continues as they eat their dinner and they listen as I talk about what’s going on in my life. I talk about the kids – how old they are getting; how much they’ve grown. I mention that in a recent picture, I realize Jake is now every bit as tall as Brad. I talk about the fact that the boys have jobs and how we’ve had to juggle cars to get everyone where they need to be since there are more drivers than cars. I talk about how Kacey is ready to be done with school for the summer and is eternally busy with her sports.

We talk on and on, I’m not even sure about what, but I feel this appreciation for simply being there with them and having them to myself. I find myself thinking, “This is good. This has been really nice.” I think how this is probably one of those moments in time that I will look back on and be glad that I set aside other obligations just to be here. I think about the fact that there aren’t enough times like this and I remind myself that the time we are given to enjoy moments like this isn’t unlimited.

I look at the Norman Rockwell clock on the wall, the one that has adorned the kitchen wall for as long as I can remember, and realize that a couple of hours have passed. It is nearly nine o’clock and with reluctance, I tell them that I need to go home.

“I’m so glad you came tonight,” my mom tells me again.

“Me too,” I tell her in reply.

Me too.

Life is Good – June 4, 2009

Jake Graduating by you.His demeanor on graduation day was nothing short of joyous. I know that’s to be expected for most high school graduates, but even his sister noticed it. And siblings aren’t generally prone to caring enough to notice each other’s emotional well-being.

I volunteered for a couple of hours at his Senior All Night party and caught a glimpse of him here and there. Most of the time he was surrounded by girls and the smile never left his face! Maybe it was the girls. Maybe it was his new found freedom. It didn’t matter. It occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time Jake seemed so completely relaxed and utterly happy. It’s as if he has finally broken free of his educational chains. I remember feeling that way after graduation. I didn’t struggle with my studies the way he did, but throughout my high school years, I felt the weight of conformity and a  lack of self-confidence hanging over my head. I remember feeling like I had grown wings when I graduated. I was free to be whomever I wanted and to do whatever I chose. I can only guess that he is experiencing similar feelings of having a weight lifted. It makes my heart happy to see him this way. He hasn’t made a decision yet on what comes next, but considering all that he’s been through to reach this point, I’m not pushing yet.

Jake’s graduation would have been plenty to keep me on cloud nine, but it gets even better. My sister and her family arrived back in Minnesota this week and are getting settled in their new house, a mere ten minutes away from me. I am ecstatic! After having to settle for being approximately seven hours away from each other for the past several years, this seems almost too good to be true.

Ironically, she and I harbored a pretty good hatred of each other all the years we were growing up. Then the minute we became actual grown ups, it was as if a light had been switched on. We began to realize we had a lot in common and that we were lucky to have each other. Having my sister gone so far away the past few years made me feel as if a piece of me was missing.

I used to spend much of my free time with her and her family. The phone used to ring and it would be my sister, asking me to drop what I was doing and come over or go shopping. And I would. I took for granted that she would always be there for me when I needed her. When she moved to Illinois, I felt as if I were suffering from withdrawals. I would drive down the road near her old house and for a moment, think about swinging by before I’d remember they were no longer there. Now they are back, and like it or not, I’m afraid they’re going to have to get used to me dropping in again when I happen to be in the neighborhood.

Amidst such huge blessings this week, you might think the simple pleasures would escape me, but they haven’t. Each day that I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin; each day that I have the chance to feel the soft, green grass against my bare feet; I feel such contentment. The gardens are blossoming, some with home-grown vegetables and others with colorful flowers. The sun arrives early and hangs around until well into the evening. I feel as if the outdoors are beckoning me out of the house. The beauty and warmth of the spring fills me with such a sense of calm and peace, I can’t help but be happy.

Once again, it is clear to me, life is good.

It's the BIG day!

JakeHat2I am happy to report that Jake has recuperated and he’s ready to graduate from high school tonight! He’ll also be able to attend the Senior All-Night party. I’m so glad. I hated the thought of him missing out on these final celebrations. If anyone deserves to celebrate, it is Jake.

I am so proud of this kid I am just ready to burst. School was never easy for Jake. From the time he was in kindergarten, it became clear that there were going to be obstacles for Jake to overcome. But he struggled and fought and put in extra time making sure he earned the grades and the credits he needed to pass. Last year, he decided he was not going to spend one more summer in summer school. He worked his butt off and passed all of his classes. For the first time in four years, his summer was free and clear.

This year, Jake knew he was on the home stretch. It became clear to me that he had grown up immensely. He took charge of his studies and did what he had to do to achieve his goals. The year wasn’t without its roadblocks and on more than one occasion, words of anger and frustration erupted in our house over school issues. In his final trimester, he struggled with a Physics course that was a requirement for graduation. I think we all worried every day about him earning this particular credit. And it was tough, but he did it!

This morning, I was thinking about the significance of this day for Jake. For some kids, school is a walk in the park. For others, like Jake, it’s a battlefield. He’s such an intelligent kid. He just couldn’t function as easily in a traditional classroom as so many others. There are two very special teachers who made a significant and positive impact on my son over the past four years. I bought thank you cards and a small gift for each of them, as if such a small token can ever convey the appreciation I feel for them for making my son feel important and capable. Some teachers are angels and these two definitely qualify. I wasn’t surprised to have received an email from one of them today, saying, “Today is the BIG day! Are you ready??” She went on to mention that she had a little something for Jake and would try to catch up with him at the graduation ceremony tonight so she could give it to him. I wonder if she’ll ever know just how very wrong Jake’s course could have gone if not for teachers like her.

It’s true.  Today is a  very BIG day. Jake is graduating!!!

Poor Jake

We were supposed to go to Jake’s track team banquet tonight. I was looking forward to the food as it was to be held at a local restaurant with a good reputation. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting through several hours of recognition of kids we may or may not know. But I wanted to be there to celebrate my boy’s success and I’m sure he was going to be awarded another letter.

Near noon, Jake called me at work to ask if I could call home and try to awaken his dad from a dead sleep after working the midnight shift. Poor Jake had a bad, bad headache and was asking if Dad could bring him some Ibuprofen and a sweatshirt. He said he was freezing. (It was 75 degrees today!)

I asked Jake if he didn’t want to come home. It sounded like he was coming down with something. He insisted he didn’t want to come home. He just wanted some pain reliever and a sweatshirt. After about six calls home, Mark finally woke up and called me back and I explained what was happening. He was a little groggy, asking if he should bring Imitrex (the medication Jake used to take for migraines but hasn’t needed in years.) I reminded Mark we haven’t had a supply of that since about 2004. Just bring the Ibuprofen and a sweatshirt and see if he thought Jake should come home. He seemed to grasp what was being asked. He made the quick trip and called me again to inform me that the mission was accomplished, although he couldn’t convince Jake to come home.

When I came home from work, I found Jake sleeping in his bedroom. I placed my hand on his forehead and found he was burning with fever. I couldn’t believe he wanted to stay in school feeling so miserable, but there are only two days left in his high school career. He wanted to attend the banquet. There are finals to take and yearbooks to sign. And the poor kid was miserable.

So we never made it to the banquet. Jake slept and I spent my time using my mad mildly creative skills to make up some grad party invites for Jake to pass out to his friends at school, because the 150 or so people we are already formally inviting are not nearly enough. (God help me.)



(You’re all invited to come to the big a$$ party if you can find the place!)

Hopefully Jake will feel better in the morning so he can enjoy the last days of his senior year.