Tyler's math teacher called last night, but I didn't pick up in time, so I decided to let the answering machine get it. My immediate thought was, Ugh - what trouble is Tyler in now, or what is he the victim of this time?? Imagine my immense, pleasant surprise when the teacher announced that out of two 6th grade classes at his school, Tyler was the only student to score perfectly on their math final - including 6 extra credit logic problems which were meant to stretch the most limber of reasoning skills. I walked into the front office where Tyler was sitting at his mom's old workstation, grabbed him up in a huge hug and (with tears welling up) whispered in his ear, "I'm SO proud of you... and your mom is proud of you too."
Earlier in the day, an email came in from a friend of mine from high school. JS was born with a congenital heart defect, and spent much of his childhood frail, small and purple. I don't think he'd begrudge me the description - it's pretty accurate. Sam had been a big sister to him, as she had been to MH, who had lost a leg to cancer at 14. It occurs to me that this might be why she thought she wasn't popular at school, at least with the "in-crowd", because she hung with the kids outside the mainstream. The girl with "no maternal instinct" was already everyone's mama bear.
In any case, Jason wasn't supposed to see 20. At about 36 now, he's beaten the odds, recently married a great gal, and they hoped to eventually start a family. Unfortunately, his cardiologist dumped a great, steaming pile of shit on his morning oatmeal, explaining that his current heart is likely going to start degrading very quickly over the next few years, and that he's not a good candidate for replacement (and all heart replacement can buy is about ten very painful years of isolation and procedures). He might see 50, but nobody knows for sure. He hit the figurative emotional wall and had a meltdown. Not that any of this was a huge surprise, JS says. "I've always known I won't live as long as the average Joe, but it's hard having it stuck in your face."
So he had a dream about his mom's house in Palo Alto. I was standing in the kitchen, evidently examining a frying pan (perhaps occupied with providing for my family?). Sam was there too, and JS described her in her later years, post-chemo: the short cropped hair, the bruising on her arms from IV needles, her weight, her post-chemo smell. JS has not seen or spoken to Sam in over 20 years, and hadn't seen any pics of her early chemo state.
I won't post the entire missive out of respect for JS' privacy, but the section that kicked me in the gut was this:
She crooked a finger at me and said, "Come here."
I followed her out the back door onto the porch. It was cold, and I could smell woodsmoke.
"I heard about this," she said, tapping my chest with a finger.
I stared at her for a moment, then said, "I don't want to die."
She shrugged and quirked her brow. "Neither did I, kiddo."
It was then in my dream that I started to cry, and Sam held me in her arms. I've never been there in the past, I assure you--but I could just tell it was *her*. I cried and cried, and she just held me...
After a while I felt empty, sort of cried-out.
"Better?" she asked.
"Yeah," I said. Then I looked at her. "You're dead."
"Yeah," she said. "And you still have no tact."
"It's okay. We all go sometime." She hugged me again. "Just make the best of the time you have."
"Okay," I said. I knew it was a dream but it felt different somehow. Once I knew it was a dream, I started waking up. "I think I'm waking up," I told her.
"Take care then. Tell Todd I love him."
Jason is a writer by trade, with a gifted imagination. However, he will be the first to disavow belief in the woo-woo side of things. He's not a believer in ghosts or the supernatural. His mind is like a scientist's dissection tray and scalpel. Sharp and inquisitive. We've never been particularly close. In high school, he was surviving and I was goofing off. We got reconnected through work in the adventure game biz, and, while there is a certain level of Old Paly Dog cameraderie, we're not on the daily (or even weekly or monthly) email/phonecall/whatever schedule. So I find his dream extremely interesting, just from a Jungian-Collective-Unconscious angle.
I thought it was a pretty amazing message, whether it came from Sam's persistent spirit out there somewhere, or from Jason's own intuitive subconscious mind.
And of course, as I was reading his email, David Bowie's cover of God Only Knows came up on my '80s playlist...
If you should ever leave me
My life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me?
God only knows what I’d be without you