E.R. posted the other day about a dream he had about his father not being around.
I think such dreams are very common among those of us who have lost family members or other loved ones. I had one myself last night, one that came bearing messages and lessons left to learn.
A review of my family history: My dad died Aug. 23, 1976, the day I was supposed to head back to OU for my final semester of school. I had just finished my internship the Friday before and was enjoying the weekend at home. During our last conversation, I had a profound sense that we were finally relating as two adults instead of as angry father-submissive child.
My brother died at age 43 on Nov. 17, 1997. He had cerebral palsy and lived his entire life under my mother's care. They were totally inseperable after his schooling ended at age 12. Bob would never have been able to function on his own without a caretaker.
Momma died on Christmas Eve, 1999. Her reason for living died in 1997 with Bob. Once he was at peace, she was able to start letting go of this life.
So last night's dream was puzzling at first, but then the message was crystal clear. I'm writing it here to remind myself later, in case I forget. But I don't normally forget the dreams of this type because the symbolism is so clear and absolutely addresses whatever issue I need to deal with in reality.
I was in a home that clearly belonged to me. It had some similarities to homes I've owned -- features cobbled together. A bedroom from one home, a bath from a different one. Odd hallways and storage areas kind of pasted in here and there.
I was somewhat disturbed by the lack of tidiness -- not because I'm a neat freak (y'all know I am not.) What bothered me was that the messes I saw were not of my own making.
I turned down one hallway and saw my dad going into a room. Although he was 55 when he died, he was old and somewhat frail in the dream. He never contributed to the household chores in any form, so I knew that he was not cleaning up after himself. He couldn't even wash dishes if asked. Rather, wouldn't.
The next person I saw was Momma. I saw her hands, so crippled by arthritis that they were non-functioning, exactly as they were during her final years. The fingers literally hung from her hands, the joints so damaged that they had become disconnected. I felt the hot tears on my face even as I slept. She was sitting in her chair asking me for something to drink -- a grape soda, I believe.
On my way to the kitchen I passed a bathroom. Bob was in there, struggling to take care of himself. Wet towels were on the floor and the bathtub was in need of a good scrubbing. I admit my temper was often very short with Bob, something I regret every day of my life. I wish now I could have been infinitely more patient and loving.
I returned with the grape soda and a straw, and held the can so Momma could sip it. I can see her smile as she let out an "Ahhhhh!" followed by a loud belch. She smiled again as she would have in real life -- yeah, she got her kicks from being anti-social and belching was one of her favorite things.
I think she noticed me looking around the messy house with a sense of despair. I know I was wondering why no one else was lifting a finger.
And now, the moment of clarity:
In my dream thoughts, I said to myself:
"Of the four people living in this house, I am the only one who CAN clean it. That's why it has to be my job."
Immediately, I started scrubbing the bathtub, picked up the laundry and started washing it, ran the dishwasher and vacuumed.
I stopped feeling so put-upon once I realized I was the only one who COULD do it. Housekeeping started feeling like an honor instead of a burden.
Now, the second lesson:
Try as much as I might, I can't isolate myself as a single unit. Even if I wanted to leave these family members behind, I cannot, because they are each a part of me. I've learned that each of them appears in my dreams when there are particular things for them to teach me.
My dad shows up in my dreams when I need to understand that I am in control. Just as he controlled every aspect of life up until the moment he died, I am now in charge. Usually he shows up in dreams in which I am driving to a strange location. (Most particularly Dallas, but I haven't figured that out.) I wind up getting lost at a highway cloverleaf as day starts turning to night. That's when I notice that it is my dad driving the car and I am in the back seat. When I'm really lost, he is driving from the front seat, but from the passenger's side. I learned a long time ago that I have to be the one driving my car, NOT him. Now I make him pull over and give me the keys. He's welcome to ride along in the back seat if he wants. So far, he'd rather stay at the side of the road. Maybe that's where he needs to stay.
Momma shows up when I need to be more patient and compassionate, and when I need to figure out that some things have to be accepted and dealt with, instead of being fought against. She accepted an awful lot in her life and saved her precious energy knowing how to choose her battles. She epitomized the expression "Put on your big girl panties and deal with it." (Subtext: And enjoy a good belch while you do it!")
Bob shows up when I need to remember that we are who we ARE and not what we DO. BEING is the essence of living, not DOING.
Put them all together and the total lesson is: I am in charge. I am the only one who can clean up the messes -- all of the messes caused by the different parts of myself. No one else is going to help clean up because they cannot. This one is not their job. They did theirs.
If the house is full of dirty dishes, a skanky bathtub and bugs on the carpet, I need to take care of it. I need to take charge and be in control. Having this life and all of its problems to solve is my blessing. I just have to realize I am well equipped to do it, after all.