I wake up before the alarm goes off, and the last bit of dream sits here, on my pillow. I've dreamed it almost every night for the last month, in some way or other. Dreamed it for the few weeks before I flew to California and I've been dreaming it since I came home. Always the way with one of these California visits. In the dream, it's my last night there and I'm going to have to leave again.
It's weird to me how hard I grieve for that part of my life that's far away. Not weird that I miss my family, but how much. With how good I have it here. A good and interesting man as my husband, a good job, my friends, my endless, beloved projects. My doggie. It's not like before, when every time I left my family in California, I was heading off to an existence that felt crushingly boring and distinctly not mine. But no matter what I have here in this lovely Portland life-after, there's that one deep hole I can't fill.
A week and a half ago, the Saturday of Noni's memorial, stepping up to Mom and Dad's door, me with my good shoes in one hand, Frank and I were talking about death. Partly because of Noni, yes, but also, I think, partly because Frank has a daughter now, and children are the markers of the swift and endless passage of time.
"I think about how I won't exist," he said, "and I think about how I won't exist forever. All that time going on forever and ever..."
He was freaking himself out just thinking about thinking about it.
Though I believe, like my brother, that after I die, my consciousness won't continue, won't go to some heaven or into some new body, death isn't the forever that obsesses me. Walking up to Mom and Dad's house with my good shoes in my hand, I was thinking about my life - all that time - how little of it will be spent with this handful of the people I love most.
The other night, back here in Portland, Stephen and I sat up in bed doing what we love to do, watching an old movie. It was The Merry Widow, with Jeanette MacDonald shrouded in black tulle and Maurice Chevalier singing, "Girls! Girls! Girls!"
Late, ten thirty at least, and I started to doze, just a moment. Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier were embracing, and then my eyes closed and I started to dream. Dreaming about that same hug, but instead of MacDonald and Chevalier, it was Mom and me.