Friday, October 31, 2008

Little Gifts from the Night

I feel very connected to my past. I hope I'm not so connected that it's unhealthy, but in any case, I suspect a lot of creative people mine the past frequently.

Sometimes, I'll have dreams about something that happened with Dylan or Rhonda, almost like a video replay. They're almost always about happy times, and they usually happen when I'm away at work, sleeping alone.

Those dreams are usually brief, and they're like little gifts. When I have them, I wake up feeling happy. I've had dreams about the day Rhonda and I got married, or about when we met again after seventeen years apart, or about just walking in the woods, holding hands.

Our wedding day, 1994.

This last hitch at work, I had a replay dream about Dylan. He was three, and we'd just driven back from the park. I picked him up out of his car seat, held him close, and kissed his head. "Thank you Daddy," he said. "Will you still kiss me when I'm thirteen?" I laughed, surprised by the question. I answered, "Yeah, Punkin', but you know, some kids don't want to be kissed by Daddy anymore when they're thirteen. I might have to chase you down, tackle you and wrestle you before I can kiss you." Dylan giggled. "That sounds like fun."

I had to pick Dylan up from school yesterday because he came down with a mild fever. I carried him to our bed early to watch TV, and he ended up sleeping with us through the night. I woke up at four, like I often do. I watched Dylan and Rhonda sleep for a while, and I thought right then that if I have to wrestle him to the ground to kiss his head when he's thirteen, then I'll do just that. I guess I'd best keep working out.

Last night I had a dream about a particular day in the first grade. I was walking down the hallway when a group of older boys ran by. One of them intentionally swept my lunch box from my hands. It fell to the floor, and the contents spilled out. The boys stood laughing at me as I tried not to cry. I began to gather my lunch when a pair of girls' shoes appeared on the floor. A tall sixth-grade girl bent down and gathered my lunch for me, then carefully, almost tenderly, put in back in the lunchbox. "Your lunch is okay. Don't pay attention to those boys; they're just mean. Enjoy your lunch and stay away from those boys." She had a face like an angel. She patted me on the shoulder, then walked away.

I hadn't thought of that episode in many years. This morning, I sat in the dark sipping tea, wondering about how that sixth grade girl's life turned out. Had she kept her kindness? Had she had a happy life? Where is she now?

Forty-six years ago, she helped me gather the contents of my lunchbox. She comforted me, and helped me feel better about the day. Forty-six years after that morning, I sat in the dark, sipping tea, petting a dog and a cat. "Thank you," I said aloud, softly, and wondered if somehow, in some way, she could hear me.


Bob said...

I have recurring dreams about both of my parents. Mom died in 1996 and Dad in 2006. I've had dreams about them the last two nights and I swear it's just like they are right here with me. And you know, I think they are. As you say, these dreams are gifts.

My boys are now 22 and 16 and each will still walk up, throw his arms around me and, at times, wrestle me to the ground. I kissed my dad on his forehead right before he died and I was so thankful I had never stopped doing it.

May it ever be so with you and Dylan, Hal. I strongly suspect it will.

Hal Johnson said...

Thanks for that, Bob. I strongly suspect that it will too, but that doesn't keep me from saying a prayer now and then to ask that that avenue never be shut down.

Redlefty said...

Acts of kindness, and their impact, have no statute of limitations.

Kelly said...

I envy your "gifts from the night". Although I dream vividly most nights, they're seldom "good" dreams. Not nightmares by any means, but never the kind where I wake up wanting to hang on.

From what little I know of you and Dylan, I don't think you'll ever have problems getting the affection you want. I know I admitted I wasn't a "touchy feely" person in an earlier comment, but I've always given my kids lots of hugs and kisses and love (and still do at times even though the youngest is now 19!).

Thanks for sharing the picture!

Pam said...

I totally agree with Redlefty!

I also think that you and Dylan will always be close in every way.

As for the night gifts..I have them almost every night. Sometimes they are achingly real and poignant and good. Other times they are convoluted, combine past and present and are hauntingly sad or frightening.

I visit the past frequently in my poetry. Perhaps I do so more the older I get.

Debby said...

You know what, Hal? I've been thinking about this post all night. No matter what, no matter what, in the end, what matters is your kindness. Thank you.

quid said...

I would love to have the capability to dream...and if I do, I would wish to be able, at least once, to remember a dream.

That said, perhaps because I cannot, I turn to past memories, and to poetry.

I think that showing affection is a part of your nature, Hal. How wonderful it will be when Dylan is grown and you realize that he has inherited that gift.