My mother and I left Haight Ashbury on a grey, cold morning in January of 1973. We took the Amtrak train across the country headed for Indiana with not much more than the clothes we were wearing. We left in desperation, only intending to stay for the winter while my mother re-grouped. I was almost 6, and at almost 53 we’re still here. Ah, that belongs as part of much a larger narrative. Here is the story I mean to tell about dream visits:
Once we left California, I rarely saw my paternal grandmother- a month in the summer when I was 8, an afternoon visit at 14, another day when I was 20, and then a yearly visit at 31, 32, 33. Each facilitated by visits to other relatives; we had no bond strong enough to be at the forefront of cross country travel, or even for letter writing or phone calls. “When your mother moved back to Indiana, it broke my heart and I needed to cut the tie to you both” she informed me as we sat on the sunny deck of my cousin’s house. It was acknowledgement of fact with no hint of apology or regret. She’d come out from the kitchen where my 3- year- old daughter had just been sitting on the counter in a tie-dyed t-shirt witnessing the preparation of butter laden buchta (bukta, buchty), a traditional Czechoslovakian family recipe. My cousin and aunt surreptitiously attempted to cut the butter by melting only half, to no avail. Midway through Granny Adela requested another 2 sticks. I felt like an anthropologist participant observer. Not part of this culture, yet wishing I had been, as I was enjoying their traditions.
Our 7th, and final, visit occurred a couple years later, 2 nights before Granny Adela died.
I dreamt I was trying to find her in her nursing care facility, walking the halls searching for her room without being able to locate it. I asked at the desk and the charge nurse stated, “I can’t direct you to her, you have to know how to find her.” I stood pondering for a moment, turned around, walked down the hall, around a corner and entered her room, which was filled with many odd people, none of whom I knew. We chatted for a few minutes and then I woke.
That evening, I called my cousin to see how things were with Granny. She said they weren’t well. She had visited that day and Granny was so out of it that she’d even remarked how nice it was that I had come to visit. Teresa replied, “Heather didn’t come to visit, she’s in Indiana.” To which Granny Adela replied, “No, she was here last night, we had a nice chat.” Again, my cousin assured her that I had not been there. Teresa was emphatically informed that I had indeed come for a visit the previous night. Granny Adela died the next day.
A few days later, my husband found our daughter, now 5 ½, standing in the alley behind our garage having what seemed like an animated conversation with no one. When she came back into the house he asked who she had been talking to. “Granny Adela”, was her reply.
My Granny and I had managed to re-tie that which she had cut so long ago, the string that connects one generation to the next.
All things are possible when you make dream visits to the dying.