We all grieve. We grieve things, circumstances, pets, people. It’s a process. It’s long and it’s messy. I hate messy.
Sometimes during the process I realize all over again the finality of the situation. The bus just pulled away from the station without me. The person I love is on the bus. Gone. Just like that. Can’t call him. Can’t go visit. No more last minute Hey-would-you-mind or How’s-your-day-been. The imaginary line just buzzes, or worse, I get that upward ringing tri-tone and the voice that annoys me even though it’s pleasant. “We’re sorry. The person you are trying to reach…”
I know, I know. He’s gone. I get it.
For the last two nights I’ve dreamed about Pop. They’re perfectly normal days and circumstances in the dreams, except that I’m aware Pop is supposed to be dead. I’m glad he’s not, but I’m confused. He awakes from his chair, round faced and wide-eyed. “Hey!” he says as he gets up and walks outside. The family follows. He chats ‘em up. I hear him laughing. That laugh.
I’m staring dumbfounded after him. I turn to my sister-in-law. “They embalmed him,” I say. “How is he walking and talking?” She shrugs. And then she smiles.
“Where are the groceries?” Pop asks as he throws his arms around a grandson. Groceries are dinner. Pop’s ready to eat. What in the world is that doing in my dream? I don’t know, but there it is. I hear him laugh again.
I think of cooking, and suddenly remember that my food-prep knives are dull. Really dull. Pop always sharpened them for me. I’d send them next door and he would bring them back, five deadly weapons wrapped neatly in newspaper. “Wash those before you use them,” he would advise. Hey, maybe Pop can sharpen my knives while he’s here. I’ll ask him after dinner.
Pop moves to stand beside me and I examine his profile. His hair is not the white I expected. It’s black, peppered with a little grey, I notice. He’s younger than when I last saw him. How is that possible? I reach to touch him and he moves away. If he’s aware of my confusion, he doesn’t let on. I let it go. Food. Pop was hungry. I need to get food made. I turn toward a kitchen I do not recognize and wonder why my legs are bound. I can’t move as freely as I should. I look down into nothing.
My eyes open and I’m staring at my bedroom ceiling. My legs are bound by the sheets, comforter, and a Siberian Retriever. Move over, Max. I gotta go help fix dinner.
Except that I don’t. There’s no dinner to fix. No Pop to eat it. The realization brings back the heaviness. Ding, dinng, dinnng… “The person you are trying to reach…”