Monday, November 07, 2005

Shredded telephone books and barbecue dreams

My brother Johnny is tearing a phonebook in half, his face twisted in a mock grimace of effort. He sets both halves down and winks. "The trick," he says, "is to start with just a few pages and then don't stop." He drains his beer can and sets it on the floor in preparation for his next parlor trick. He plants one foot atop the can. Wobbling with careful balance, he stands precariously, slightly bent with his arms outstreched and his free foot floating behind him until he gets stability. Then slowly, slowly, slowly, he bends over and taps the side of the can with his finger. It collapses instantaneously.

Johnny triumphantly holds up the result of his effort--a perfect solid aluminum disc.

"If you're going to write," says my grandfather, "get the seat of your pants in the seat of the chair."

Gram is lighting a huge purple candle that houses ten wicks. She is surrounded by beautiful glowing candles.

Dad is laughing and laughing and splashing whiskey over ice. "Oh, Christ," he says, smashing out a cigarette. "Those are one-cigarette steaks. I've got to go flip them right this minute or your mother is going to kill me." The barbecue smoke perfumes the air.

My strapping red-headed cousin asks, "Come on, now, who wants to arm wrestle?"

Twinkling Christmas lights.

"It's okay, honey," says my other grandma, smiling.

"It's all just fine," says my other grandpa.

Hidden Easter Eggs.

And we are all laughing and laughing and laughing.

Then I drift out of my slumber and my reverie floats just above me, a delicate, glistening cloud.

Smiling, I reach out, but at once, the dream has faded to a dull fog and then it disintegrates all together.

I am in bed, in the darkness. No barbecue tempts. No Christmas lights promise. No laughter blooms.

Instead I am left with the business of correcting the tricks of my own mind. It is a task to which I am accustomed.

(They're all dead, Erin. Your grandparents are dead and your brother is dead and your cousin is dead and your dad is dead. Dead. You're the last O'Brien. Remember? All the others are gone. They died.)

Grief, my familiar companion, constricts around my heart.

I place my hand on my husband's back and verify the warmth of his flesh.

I inhale.

9 comments:

Shelli said...

Moving. I have felt this and dreamed similar things before. It was about a year after my Dad died and I so wanted to be in his world while remaining in my own. I guess the only way to do that was to dream about it. But when you wake it is so sad that you can't touch them, hold them. You grieve anew.

Nikki said...

Touching Erin. It's good to remember.

Flubberwinkle said...

I, too, have had dreams of my lost loved ones. With time, sleep has become less of an enemy and doesn't wake my grief as often as it did.

jennifer starfall said...

what a wonderful remembering. yay for husband backs. i use mine, too.

lula said...

That was so beautiful. How can you do it? When I try to write like that I feel like I am on the end of a rocking diving board for the first time and am paralyzed with fear to take the plunge. But you are so graceful. So much like magic or something mystic. It takes my breath. I end up writing something really stupid to cover up my gut wrenching fear. You are blessed with a true gift and have developed it so well. Thank you for posting and I am sorry I have to act so silly and stupid. *bow*

Karen Rani said...

That was amazing. Especially the last line. Wow.

bon said...

Thank You.

Sherpa said...

touching. that feeling of grief splashed with memory and happiness is bittersweet.

Dancing Crow said...

wow