I love train graffiti, especially the type painted in letters so fat that I fail to map each to the right letter of the alphabet until it has rolled away. Watching a train pass is sometimes like listening to the tones of a foreign language I wish I knew but do not, and in my unknowing, the conversation sounds more like music than dialogue.
I have dreamed of my mom several times since her passing, and the experience has been a great privilege. One of the best gifts Mom gave me was the capacity to accept dreams on their own terms and to be open to the possibility that they can mean more than the random output of the sleeping brain.
Some of the dreams have happened right after I’ve fallen asleep and seemed more like messages. She told me that I am loved more than I know. She also told me that I know some people who suffer (to use the same phrase) more than I know. The example she gave me of someone I know who suffers privately was so vivid that I actually asked the person involved, who told me, “Yes, it is awful for me. If only you knew.”
The most intense dream was on the subject of suffering. The aforementioned message was a prelude to a longer dream where I found Mom in a hospital, where she was a “den mother” of sorts to a group of a dozen nurses who were caring for Covid patients. Their shifts were so long that they had camp beds set up in a large room at the hospital. My mom was sitting in a high-backed chair with our dog Maggie, who passed away many years ago.
It didn’t take me long to notice that the nurses had something important in common with Mom and Maggie. They had also passed away and were helping to support the Covid patients spiritually. Mom’s favorite was a young, male nurse who knew just the right time to sit with a patient who was in distress.
Last night I had a dream that was absurd but noteworthy. Someone I haven’t seen in years visited with a black and white dog, and I suddenly had the sense that the dog was possessed. It had a distorted UPC-like marking on one of its shoulders that somehow indicated possession to me. I went to my room to pace around and do some problem solving on the matter, and Mom emerged from my closet. I told her, “We need to perform an exorcism on this dog before it goes ballistic and someone kills it and the evil spirit enters a person.”
She quietly replied, “I can’t. I’m expecting.”
I walked away, worried most about what a pregnancy could do to Mom, as if she were still alive, 71 years old with late stage congestive heart failure and pregnant!
This is not the first time I’ve had a dream where a woman I’ve known who’s passed away is alive again and pregnant. The first time I had such a dream, the woman I knew gave birth to her infant self.
Have you had any dreams of loved ones you lost?
I’ve taken very few photos during the pandemic, as if I could dampen the strength of my memories of this time by avoiding my camera. Of course, this strategy did not succeed in its goal. Instead, I missed taking photos of people and places that I can no longer see physically in the present tense. A few buildings I meant to capture burned down or were demolished. Wind storms knocked over some trees or pruned them ruthless abandon. I also lost someone most dear to me, my mother.
I regret that I took hardly any pictures of family during the past year. If you are blessed to have still-living parents or grandparents, I recommend the habit of taking pictures of each of them on a regular basis. Better yet, record video and audio of them. I wish I had videos and audio of my mom. What I would give to have audio of her colorful commentary when she’d hate-watch her least favorite politicians!
While the pandemic is by no means over, I am ready to venture forth with camera in hand again. Today I took a few photos near downtown Lima, but my camera had lain idle for so long that its battery lost its charge early in the walk.
Speaking of the pandemic itself, I don’t have a job that can be done effectively from home, so I’ve been reporting to work as usual. During height my state’s stay-at-home order a year ago, there was the weirdness of near-empty streets on my way to work. Then we had a motley crew of workers who came and went, some who decided to take a gap year from college, others who seemed to have emerged from cocoons after unknown seasons of dormancy. My husband once told me that the greatest unused band name of all time is Scrotum. I think all of the future members of Scrotum were working around me last summer, including a young fellow who looked like a corn-fed Adam Clayton circa the October album. There was also a guy who looked like an equal fusion of Sammy Hagar and Gallagher, but he evaporated from the scene too quickly to acquaint himself with the future band members.
I will close this post with “Gloria” by U2:
It’s been too long since I wrote a blog post. Since the last time I posted, a few things have happened that I did not feel inclined to share online in the present tense. My husband broke his ankle, and my daughter started her last year of high school. While I haven’t felt overwhelmed by either of these events, I’ve definitely had some bittersweet, melancholy days because both are proof that the past is slipping away.
My daughter will soon turn 18, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about which path she’ll take in the transition to adulthood. For those of you who don’t know me in real life or are new to this blog, I will add that my daughter has autism. She was not diagnosed until age 14, despite inquiries on my part to mental health professionals, speech therapists and the like that began when my daughter was two.
I think there’s a strong bias against the diagnosis of autism in girls and women. Perhaps this is the case because it is possible that autism is defined by how it manifests itself in males. Has anyone taken the time to study females with autism to see if they share symptoms in common that aren’t seen as often in males?
As time passes since her diagnosis, I have a growing confidence I myself am one of the uncounted women on the autism spectrum. This is not a case of a mother’s desperation to empathize with her daughter. I can think of several individuals in my family tree who likely lived their whole lives unknowingly on the spectrum. My daughter and I are just the latest ones who carry this unique way of perceiving and relating to reality and the people we encounter in it.
I will close this post with a picture I took of my daughter while she waited for the bus on the first day of this school year. Notice the smile. When she was two and was in speech therapy because she hadn’t spoken a two-word sentence, the staff told me that it was unlikely that she had autism because she could smile at me and hold my gaze. Maybe this is a another example of a gender bias in how autism is defined. My daughter has been able to mirror the gaze and facial expressions of a few people during relatively brief encounters. I’ve experienced the same thing myself. I can enjoy the company of a particular person for a limited amount of time, and then I’ll need solitude to recover.
Autism in girls and women is still an undiscovered country.