Some dreams tantalize us with the prospect of their reality before violently shoving us back into the real world, leaving us dazed and bewildered in a sea of disillusionment and reflection. Last night was one such night. I had another one of my recurring dreams where my family discovers that my grandfather is still alive. He passed away in 2014 and ever since then, I have these dreams of him coming back every few months and they always batter me like a storm of emotion and reminiscence. In this latest one we were all sitting around the dining room table at their old house, which was sold last year. My parents, aunts, uncle, and cousins were all present. We were all casually talking and carrying on when we suddenly heard a peculiar shuffling in the garage. We each paused, shifting our heads towards the garage door in quiet anticipation. The garage door slowly and dramatically creaked opened within all of our sights, and there he was!
My grandfather stood there in the doorway for a minute, his eyes focused intently on each of us. He was slouched a bit but the aura around him was of a tall, strong, fatherly essence, reminding me almost of the returning of a battle-hardened knight. Paradoxically, he was wearing his famous white t-shirt, flannel pajama pants, and loafers for when he was lounging around the house and didn’t expect any company other than family. He looked a little older and weak, but he was still alive! Apparently, the multiple myeloma which we thought had killed him had gone into remission after all of these years. We rejoiced at the miracle and spectacle before our eyes and we stumbled over each other to be the first to behold his warm embrace. He hugged and addressed us one by one and then we all sat around the table for a countless amount of time talking, laughing, crying, and sharing stories new and old.
This dream had an added bonus because during the middle of our musing reunion, my grandmother walked in through the front door to greet us! (She passed away in 2020). We all shouted praises, reminisced with glee, and caught them up on all they had missed throughout the months and years. The feelings of love, nostalgia, and gratitude were overwhelming. After a while, we gently settled into more casual, sparse conversations, with each family member retiring from the table after a time, seeming to vanish into the ether, this being a dream after all.
Everyone had said their goodbyes and left until it was just myself and my grandfather at the table. Back when he was actually alive, he inspired my imagination and intellect like no one else had. We used to sit on their back porch and talk about politics, philosophy, and theology, and he would often share life lessons through old stories of his memories and lived experience. He opened my mind and my heart to so many wonderful things. It was so easy to get lost in his world. The sparks of curiosity he lite within me and the paths of imagination he laid before my feet were paramount to my growth. But in that time together in the midst of my dream, I remember just sitting there and staring at him. He was like a beautiful painting. I just wanted to comb over every detail of his face and profile, relishing his every feature like I was carving a sculpture in my mind just in case he was to up and vanish as quickly as he had appeared. It seemed like there were a thousand things I wanted to say to him in that moment, but no words would come. I had hoped we would pick up right where we left off and talk about everything happening in the world and trying to make sense of it all, but nothing. I was speechless, like my mouth was sealed by some ancient curse. Our eyes met. His eyes were warm and soft and I noticed the slightest of grins on his face. His cheeks slowly raised as his eyes seemed to fill with light. This was all followed by a gentle sigh as he looked into my eyes. He didn’t have to say a word. In that moment, I knew that he was proud of me and the family he had helped raise. I knew that we were passing on the torch of example and love we received through him and my grandmother, the torch which was ignited long ago in the countless eons. I smiled back as I exhaled, nodding slightly in acknowledgement of the simple yet profound message in his gesture, tears filling my eyes.
And then I woke up.
I laid in my bedroom, my brain like a dizzying fog. The immediate, dismaying realization that all had been a dream washed over me like a cold air. It was just past six in the morning and the dim light from the morning sun was just peeking through the curtains. I sat there and contemplated my dream, a whirlpool of emotions spinning through my body. After a minute the swirling thoughts gave way to the undercurrent of pure emotion. It felt like I was being pulled undertow, the muffled sounds of my dissipating thoughts were stifled by the tide of my feelings, and then, all seemed to disappear. I was left in some innocuous void. In the quiet, endless space of my mind, beyond time and reason, I quietly whispered out to both of my grandparents….“I miss you”. These words seemed to echo and reverberate throughout the chasm of space in my mind, but I knew it had been received, by someone or something, somewhere, out there.
The dream felt so real. It always does. I have had this dream several times and it leaves me spinning in a cyclone of nostalgia, comfort, sadness, loss, gratitude, and hope. I know they are gone. They are never ever coming back, at least not in the forms I was familiar with, and I have accepted that. Nothing is permanent. That is the nature of the universe. But they do live on, in one way or another. My mind, funny enough, draws back to my favorite childhood movie, The Lion King. Now, as an adult I can appreciate that movie on a whole other level. I think about that one scene where Simba is mourning the loss of his father and the misdirection of his life and Rafiki the monkey appears and shows Simba that his father is not dead and reminds Simba that his father lives on within himself through his reflection in the water.
I like to remind myself that my grandfather and grandmother are reincarnated through us and we are living out their influence every day. The depth of the love I am capable of giving to myself and others now, comes from them. They helped build an endless fountain in my heart that they had the wisdom to know would flow long after their physical forms had vanished. They were planting seeds under my feet all of my life. I know that I have moved on in my heart with their passing but I keep having these dreams of twisted fantasy, wanting to resurrect the past and I can’t help but to get lost in them sometimes. I wish so much that they could be here in these most chaotic and confusing times. I wonder what they would say about today, and the lessons they would bestow. Or maybe we would all just have a good, hearty laugh at the absurdity of it all. Or cry. I don’t know, but it does nothing for the present to dwell on the what ifs.
The past and the ones who filled it should be reflected upon with care. It’s important to see the flow of your life’s journey, to look back at fond memories and draw appreciation, and to give historical context to your current state. There is nothing wrong with good old nostalgia from time to time, but I find that the past has a gravity about it and if I’m not careful, it can drag me down and keep me within its confines, in the safe and the familiar, never changing or evolving. Dwelling within the past and longing for its return for too long can make me stagnant and cause me to lose out on the moment right in front of me. I look back at the influence of my grandparents with an eternal appreciation and understanding, but I cannot forget that there are also people all around me, right now, who can teach and inspire me as well. Life is constantly in motion and we can’t stop too long or we risk being left behind and closing our minds to the life yet to live. It’s never too late to grow and be impacted by people and experiences.
Those conversations I fantasize about having with my grandparents now will never happen, and that is okay. There is only today and this moment and the shining beckon of light and hope within us to carry forward. I surely miss them but they are surely gone in their old forms. But we move forward anyways, into the unknown. We are geared with the gifts and the tools of the past as we step bravely into our futures to build our own fountains and to plant our own seeds of sorts. Even through the pain and the loss, this beautiful journey must continue….
Thank you for walking with me, for a time, on this adventure of life ❤