Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There's No Place Like Home: Dream Time

During the month or so following my release from the horse-pistal I took prescription sleeping pills so that there would be no ifs, buts or how-some-have-its about sleeping through the night. My doctor wisely made the prescription non-refillable, so when they were gone I was on my own. Can't tell whether or not this would have been a problem: fortunately, I guess, we have entered one of our busiest times at the college and the extra hours ensure that I've been tired enough to pack it in at the end of the day with no worries about whether or not the Sandman will choose to kaboosh me in the face with whatever his Magic Formula consists of.

The side effect of sleeping naturally for the first time in years (remember that I was drinking myself to sleep for approximately the previous decade) is that I remember my dreams.

Or is that what's happening? I'm not sure. The last few mornings have been like something out of Doctor Strange.

It follows a pattern. I wake about 20 minutes before I actually have to get up, feeling alert (as alert as I ever am before eleven AM) and aware of my surroundings; only to drop off again for what seems like hours, days, as I sink into a dream state that's too deep and distant for comfort. Inevitably when I wake, only a few minutes have passed, and I emerge disoriented as to time and place, feeling woolly and cocooned, blinking at my own bedroom as if the real world is somehow behind me and I've just been shoved through a curtain onto a painted canvas set.

The dreams that come to me in that state are not a romp in Disneyland. Work is being done and business is being transacted. This morning I found myself in the Old House.

We arrived home to find it outwardly calm and unchanged. But somehow the back door had been locked on the inside and we had to around to the front, the door under the two maple trees.

As soon as we passed through, we found that the center of gravity had changed and everything was on a slant. There are details here that I'm already forgetting. There may have been a stranger there inside the house, a young man. My mother went to speak to him, and I maneuvered my way into the sitting room so that I could head downwards towards the kitchen.

Everything was on end, everything was a jumble. It was just like The Poseidon Adventure, but I was moving in the opposite direction from the filmic survivors of that disaster. Most all of the furniture appeared to have been secured to the floor, so I was able to use the tables and sofas for support in my descent.

I went down through the living and dining room and through the little hall into the kitchen. There I found my maternal grandmother Mel, sitting in a rocking chair, knitting, smiling to herself as she sometimes did, serenely ignorant of the world shift that had gone on around her.

She looked up at me and said, quite calmly, "There was an Earthquake."

That was all. That was where I woke up.

The night before was worse. Again I was in the kitchen of the old house. It was in the middle state that I had lived in for a couple of months: the auctioneers had been through and ruined the place, practically dismantled it, taken what they wanted, and I had done my best to make something livable out of the space with what I had left, not knowing yet where I was headed.

So I knew that I was in a dream, because I knew that the past year and a half had actually happened, that I was visiting the old house after having been away for some time.

My mother was there, in her nightshirt, moving between her bedroom and the kitchen as she did for the last year or two of her life, the only walking she did at all other than to get out to my car and back on our weekly errands run, or to walk into the doctor's office. Except that her right leg had not been amputated, or had miraculously grown back.

She had been drinking heavily, much more heavily than was normal for her, and was stumbling about in a state of disorientation and disconnectedness, the likes of which I actually saw once in real life when I found her one morning flopping about in her bed. I thought that she had had a stroke. Instead, her blood sugar had dropped into the 20-30 range.

In the last year or so of her life, her sense of engagement with the Real World sometimes came and went. She could be very sharp and focussed, much sharper than I am at my best; and other times she seemed not to have a clue, to have shifted into a regressive state in which she had poor short-term memory and sometimes looked at me with the eyes of a child.

It was in this latter state that I found her, alone in the kitchen, not even a cat or a television to keep her company.

Instead of feeling empathy, I was angry that she would drink in front of me, that she had reached that childlike stage in her mind which forced me into the position of responsibility that I did not want. I growled at her and cast about looking for the vodka bottle so that I could start drinking, too.

She paid me no mind, answering me only vaguely is if the conversation was in her head, not mine.

It seemed to me that she was facing, for the first time, the physical consequences brought down upon the house by her own death, that she had mentally removed herself from the kitchen so that she did not have to see it in that state. I could not make her focus. In my frustration, and trying to learn why I'd been brought to this point, I walked away, out into the front yard.

Things were happening there. People were taking it all apart. Striking the set? For many years now I have had a recurring nightmare of Suddenly Remembering that the barn animals, the horse, pony, goat and sheep who are long gone now, have not been fed in years. Because of course they haven't.

But in a dream it doesn't matter if someone is dead. The animals would still need to be fed. I felt the familiar horror that this nightmare always carries, of having neglected the animals. This part of the dream ended the way it always does: I rushed through the barn and out the back only to find them all grazing contentedly in the far field, in the sun, down by the pond.

But this time there were workers in the near field. What were they doing? Planting something? I could not tell.

Day became night. I moved aimlessly in an alien location. There were corners. I came upon a black man who said to me, "You had to [something something] first. Now you can go."

(Welcome to my life. Whenever people talk at or around me, especially in groups, what I hear is "Something something] on the [something something] and you'd better [something something something.]" I now know that my lifelong auditory comprehension is a symptom of my Asperger's, but imagine having this trouble and never knowing why until you're 53 years old.)

I went back to the house, back into the kitchen. It was still daytime inside there; the afternoon light had filled up the room. My mother was sitting there, although not in hr favorite chair, which did not get left behind. She had started to come out of the spell that had taken hold of her. She could not speak, but for the first time she looked me in the eye and I could see that her intelligence had returned.

I took both of her hands in mine. I said, "Is it you? Is it really you?"

She blinked once at me, and nodded.

-- Freder.

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