Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Just One Little House

I was in my early twenties when I first recall having the dream. In the dream, I drive to my parent's house, and come to a stop abeam it. It's the house I spent my growing-up years in, between the ages of two and eighteen. But now, although the color of the house is the same, it looks darker. Now, the lawn and the tree outside haven't changed, except they look less alive.

My Mom and Dad aren't there. They're gone.

I would usually wake up from the dream with a feeling of dread. Underlying the dread was a sort of low-grade horror. My parents should always be there.

When my employer offered me a position in California in 1982, I moved back to my home town in southern California. It was wonderful to spend time with my Mom, Dad, and sister again. The dreams became less frequent, but they still came.

My dad died, suddenly, in 1991, nine years before my son was born. I had a dream one night that Dad was still alive, and that Rhonda, Dylan, and I were visiting. In the dream, Dylan was twelve instead of five, and I watched from the kitchen window as my dad and he bent over the engine of a 1959 Chevy pickup.

My mom did live to meet her grandson. She held him and talked to him and marveled over his development. When I would tell Mom about some new thing that her baby grandson had done, she would often accuse me, jokingly, of making it up. "Oh Honey, he's too young for that," she'd commonly reply. Then, as I learned later, she'd almost immediately call one of her sisters to brag about how well her precious grandson was doing in the Milestone Derby.

My Mom died in 2001, of complications from lung cancer. Dylan was fifteen months old. He remembered her until he reached three-and-a-half. Then he didn't.

My sister and I are renting out Mom and Dad's house to a young woman my sister knows. We could have sold it easily, but the young woman has a daughter, and if we sold the house, she'd have no choice to move back into a small apartment. Also, my sister and I aren't ready to let the house slip from our grasps.

In April of last year, I drove a car from home in northern California to Louisiana, where it would serve as my "airport car." I stopped for the night in Ventura, where I met an old girlfriend and her daughter for dinner. As I drove away the next morning, I made the short detour to Oxnard, and Mom and Dad's house.

It was early, and the street was quiet. I stopped across the street from the house, got out of the car, and leaned on the hood. There was the house I'd grown up in, with other people now living there. There was no sign of stirring yet from the house, nor from the entire street. I looked at the house for ten minutes or so. It looked pretty much the same, and yet it didn't. I wanted to walk up on the lawn, and perhaps pinch a leaf from the tree, but I didn't.

I got back in the car, then headed for the Pacific Coast Highway, where I passed Point Mugu, Malibu, and Santa Monica, enroute to join Interstate 10 eastbound.

I remember thinking, "I need to walk into the house, someday."

I will. Someday.

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