IN DREAMS I WALK WITH YOU

Grandma Sutherland (1889-1961) I adored her.

Grandma Sutherland (1889-1961) I adored her.

Sometimes life is a sleepwalk in which we see everything clearly and deny it.

My walk began when I was 14, five weeks before the Fourth of July in 1961.

I had a recurring dream. It was dark and raining. I saw myself asleep on my grandma’s couch. Something stirred me. I got up and walked to the kitchen. There, lying curled up on the floor, was my grandma – my mom’s mom. I knelt down and reached for her hand. Only then would I realize my eyes were open and staring at the ceiling.

Every night, for five weeks, the same dream.

The morning after the first time, I told my sister, Sue. She said I was being dramatic. The second time I told my brother, Kit, who told my mother I was being weird. After that I went on dreaming — but never spoke of it again.

The weather forecasters warned of rain for the extended holiday weekend, but promised clear skies for fireworks.

I had a job selling 45s at the only record store in town. By closing time Saturday, I knew they’d been right about the rain. My brother forgot to pick me up, forcing me to walk the half-mile home in a dismal drizzle. I remember hoping my mom was working the vigil shift at a hospice home by then, unaware of my whereabouts. All I wanted was to crawl into bed and sleep through the holiday.

And I might have. But Mom and Kit were in the living room arguing over my grandmother when I sneaked in.

“I wouldn’t ask. But I must work,” she was saying. Frantic and sorrow straining her voice. “Go? Just for tonight?”

“Nothing doing,” said Kit. “I’ve got plans for early morning. Besides, David’s living with her. He’s the one who should be there, not me.”

“Your brother  won’t be there tonight and she’s not well,” Mom pleaded. “She needs you.” He ignored her. “Please?”

“I’ll go,” I said, disarming them. Without time for questions or concern, Mom gazed her gratitude and Kit drove me to where I’d never go again.

It wasn’t magnanimous of me. I idolized my grandma. Had circumstances demanded I live with her for good, I’d have gone as willingly. It’s not that I didn’t adore my mom. I did. But Mom loved six of us, equally. Grams loved me, especially.

My grandma was the scent of boiled coffee, fried doughnuts, and brown soap wrapped in the warmth of a summer day. A stern, determined woman who lived alone on an empty road, in a plain house, without television or telephone. Though her isolation required Mom’s visiting every day, she clung to her privacy and possessions as if they were gold. They weren’t – not even gold-tone.

By 11 the rain turned fierce, with roaring thunder swallowing the sky. I had to pound hard on her raised-paneled door before Grandma would let me in. She immediately demanded to know the whereabouts of my brothers.

“They couldn’t come,” I lied. “I came instead.”

“I don’t want you,” she said. “I want Kit. Where’s David? I want David.”

She sounded slurred, as if the storm had scrambled her senses.

“Well you got me, Grams,” I said. “So let’s get you to bed. I’ll sleep in the parlor on the couch.”

It took some fussing before she shuffled back to the bedroom. I sat with her in the dark a while, making certain she was settled before gently kissing her good night. Then I returned to the parlor and lay down damp, intent on sleeping fast.

When a silent streak of lightning crept by the window, I realized my eyes were open. There was no thunder. No rain. No noise. Only that bright white transient light marking the moment and where I was.

I rose as if by habit. I headed toward the kitchen, coming to an abrupt halt at the sight of a radium dial clock on the counter top. The hands read 10 past 3.

Looking down, I saw the outline of my grandma curled and lying on the floor. I knelt. I reached. I took her hand. Remaining there. Motionless. Frozen to the touch.

Slowly I stood, backing my way to the couch. I lay down and feigned sleep. I opened my eyes, focusing on the ceiling. Then I got up and retraced my steps. Approach, kneel, touch, return, sleep, refocus.

I did this over, and over, and over, and over, until the clock’s face was fixed at 6. The sun was filtering through the window, bathing her by then. I knelt one final time before walking to the bedroom to check her bed. Finding it empty, I searched for life of her in dresser drawers.

Eventually I returned to the kitchen carrying a pillow to comfort her head, and a sheet to warm her. Three separate shades of white.

And there I sat until I heard the doorknob rattle and the zest of my mother’s voice calling “Momma! Momma!”

Death wakes us up in ways that never let us sleep so soundly again.

#    #    #

This freshly edited, updated essay was first published in 2003 in the St. Petersburg Times. Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2003 & 2013.

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Do you have a memorable dream? Have any of your dreams come true?
Please share your thoughts, here, by selecting REPLY.

I’m all eyes and heart.

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19 thoughts on “IN DREAMS I WALK WITH YOU

  1. margueritequantaine

    You’re always so generous and I’m always so humbled by your reaction to my words, Kieran. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. imcrazycute

    Beautiful. Touching. Tearful. Enlightening. Personal. Thank you for sharing your heart, your soul, and your words with us. You, once again, inspire us all.

    Reply
  3. Lisa Hurt

    I love this story. I was so absorbed and could relate completely to your experience of the dream, and the moving scene in the kitchen. To have a premonition or a vision and then to experience it is very amazing. I love your description of your behavior upon finding Grandma Sutherland on the floor. The confusion, denial, compassion. So real and heartfelt.
    Thank you for sharing it.. Not everyone thinks that “dreamers” are dramatic, weird or crazy.

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      I often wish dreams on others, Lisa, especially when someone tells me she never dreams. I hope you do. I’m not certain I could have endured the actual loss without the trial runs.

      Reply
  4. dykewriter

    Reblogged this on dyke writer and commented:
    I had the experience of 2 dreams coming true.

    the first was a conversation with a girl at school and it happened the next day. I think it was about a celebrity who’s name I don’t recall.

    the other was – My Dad had gone on a driving vacation with the dog and wasn’t due back for another week,

    I dreamt that I was walking down the front path to the gate, when my dog jumped the fence and my Dad was right behind him.

    the next day, I went out to go across the street to play with a pal and then the dog jumped the fence.

    My Dad had come home early.

    they weren’t events of any significance

    Reply
    1. margueritequantaine Post author

      I think all dreams have significance. What if it was your belief your dad would return that set off a yearning in his mind, turning him back, sooner, taking you both out of harms way? We may not know the reason, but I bet there always is one.

      Reply
      1. dykewriter

        He would have been on his way back before my dream

        I haven’t been able to dream for some years

        my brain has been supressing them, becuase it’s been nothing but nightmares for too long

        dreams are critical to mental health and well being

        not to mention, keeping our brains entertained while we sleep

        usually problem solving, coping, fantasies and dress rehearsals for anticipated events

  5. Inspirational Muse

    Heartfelt story, Marguerite. You always capture my attention with your gift of story telling, placing me in your memory of vivid characters and situations. Interesting that you dreamt of her death and then “coincidentally” was the one who was with her when she died. I’m sure your tender kiss and gentleness putting her to bed helped her pass more peacefully. ~Michelle

    Reply
  6. breeghnwhittier

    Your shared experience is beautiful and powerful. I am always touched by your words, Marguerite.
    I once had a dream that my son was kidnapped at the mall as I was looking at a certain shoe rack and his father had him in his stroller but hadn’t been paying attention. Some time later I was at the mall with my husband, my son, and my husband’s cousin. She and I were looking at shoes and my husband took my son in his stroller to another store. As I stared at the shoe rack with our cousin all of the sudden the dream came rushing back to me and I ran through the mall for my son. He was sitting in his stroller alone outside of a store that my husband had stepped into “for a minute”.
    I truly believe the dream had forewarned me of a tragedy that might have happened. I’ve had other dreams of insignificance that later came true so I make a point of never ignoring my dreams.
    Personally, I believe dreams are God’s way of preparing us for situations or just letting us know he’s listening.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
  7. Carol Schofield

    The first emotion I felt was sadness…..I so enjoy reading whatever you write….whether your blog or pieces on facebook……you are a very talented person…….

    Reply
  8. margueritequantaine

    I would be so much less without people like you, Carol, willing to both take the time to read my words, and spend the time to tell me that those words resonated in a positive way. Thank you.

    Reply

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