Wearier than I ever thought that I could again be, I typed the words, ‘The End,’ saved my work then shut down the computer. Here you are, Mom. I’m done with Adventures in Mother-Sitting, a final gift to you, I mumbled sadly to myself. Pushing the chair back from the desk, I got up tiredly and made my way over to the couch. Plopping down and stretching out, I thought, What now?Little Evie jumped up, kneaded a bit on my belly then settled her head on my shoulder, taking advantage of my away-from-the-desk moment, wanting some cat time. Uh oh, I thought then steeled myself for what came next as Max landed his bigger body onto my stomach, breathed his kitty breath into my face and finally settled on my chest next to little Evie. So much for ‘me’ time, I thought, spitting out a few cat hairs that had fallen near my mouth.
Oh dang! I forgot to count the words. Authors are supposed to check their word count, aren’t they? I asked no one in particular. This is just nuts! Who would want to read a memoir about taking care of a mother for the last 3 years? It’s too depressing. What do I do next? Everything seems empty. My time here is done. I’ve finished the final purpose I was meant to do. These thoughts and more tumbled about in the stream of my mind. Sighing heavily, a few fat tears escaped my eyes, precluding the flood of tears that had been dammed up in my tired, weary old soul. Where is the Kleenex when you need one? I thought, wiping my eyes on my old familiar t-shirt. The cats settled down after my crying jag, began their peaceful purr and then, blessedly, a rare thing happened: I fell into a deep sleep.
It was dusk. I was paddling in a familiar kayak on a canal that was heavily wooded on each side. A few wood storks were standing in the shallows, fishing for minnows or perhaps, for frogs. They paid scant attention to a nearby family of raccoons, busily dipping into the water what I imagined to be some bit of raccoon delight. As I tuned in to the sounds of evening, the raucous squawks of a variety of larger birds caused me to pause and look up. The canopy above had become a night-time rush hour super highway. Swooping white egrets, big blue herons and fish-hawk ospreys were barely missing each other as each headed for one of the nests that sat atop the magnificent cypress trees bordering the canal. I was the guest in this neck of the woods.As the cacophonous sounds of their settling down began to dissipate, an old friend from a previous dream emerged quietly from the deep and gave a gentle slap of his tail, sprinkling me with water. Stunned initially at the sight of those monstrous-looking sharp teeth, I began to relax as the gator’s thoughts connected with my own. “How do you like my grin?” he said. “You’re out late again. You must be ready to go on another adventure. I’ve been expecting you and, as your guide, will lead you into the back water branching off from this main canal. You ready?” Instead of answering outright, I blurted out a question that I had never asked before, “What is your name? What do I call you?” He gave a shake of his massive head, rocking the kayak a bit before speaking. “You two-legged creatures give us names! We have no need of them. If you want, call me Andy, a name I pulled from your thoughts while you were paddling into this part of the canal. Now, grab the knob at the back of my head; relax and enjoy the scenery. I’ll do all the paddling.” At least I don’t have to ride on top of those bumps like last time, I thought as I grabbed hold of the largest knob.
As we glided deeper into the woodsy swamp, the moon rose and cast a shimmering glow on the many cypress knees that poked up from the shallow water. They seemed almost like little people, with their varying shapes and sizes. Andy guided us smoothly through this little yet crowded village. I became mesmerized by the ghostly beauty of this watery bit of space so was jolted back to reality as something rather large though not long in length landed on my head. ‘Spider! Huge Spider!’ I yelled knowing it couldn’t be a snake, about to slap it off. Andy quickly swung his gator body around, slapped his tail on the water and said, “Don’t!” I had to grab both sides of the rocking kayak to keep from flipping over. A familiar trill of laughter-like sound echoed around as the heaviness lifted from my head. Mouth agape, I sat in stunned silence as an iridescently colored green heron fluttered down onto the tip of Andy’s snout.
“I promised you an adventure,” Andy said, “and here she is! This lovely creature is one of your favorites yet, in this dream, acts as a reflection of the muse in your mind. As you’ve already ascertained, I am the guide in your dreams and as such, shall leave you now since the destination has been reached. Until next time.” With a final slap of his tail, Andy disappeared into the inky blackness of the swamp and the green heron flew over, settling herself onto the hull of my kayak.
Still a bit flummoxed, I sat and stared at this beautiful bird that I had so long admired, though mostly from a distance. Finally, she spoke. “Every time you see one of my kind, you always say, ‘what a beauty!,’ so call me Beauty. When you released the dam that had held back those sad, angry tears, it was a way to honor the sad despair that comes when it feels as if one has been abandoned. I act as a reflection of the life that still dwells within you, one that has been difficult for you to acknowledge. Now is the time for the revelation of your future. It is not bleak or dim and more so, you are not done with your time here on Earth.” I sucked in my breath at her words and learned that, even in dreams, tears can fall.
Shifting a bit in the kayak and hanging on to a nearby cypress knee, I said, “Why does it feel as if I have lived my life, finished all that I was here to do?” In a splash of color, Beauty flew from the kayak onto the branch of a tree, closer to me. “This is important; here me well,” she said. “That is despair talking. Your deeper feelings of despair were held off a bit by the focus that you had towards completing your memoir. As it came closer to being completed, your despair began to emerge and became the only voice that you were able to hear, until now. The death of a loved one usually portends a time of despair, of feeling abandoned, especially for the person who was main caregiver like you were for your mom. For those 3 years, your life was entirely wrapped around the needs of your mother. At her death, your focus became the completion of a final gift for her, writing a book. Now that this is done, a huge void seems to stare at you with no answers to the question, ‘What do I do next?’ Now here is the grace inherent in a journey through grief. The voice of despair gathers together all the depressive emotions contained within an experience of death and loss; it is the bottom step to be reached in a journey through grief that, once experienced, becomes the springboard for your spirit to find its way back into the world. Life is not yet done with you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked with a bit more conviction in my voice. Beauty ruffled up a bit, settling her feathers before saying, “It is not for me to give you specifics as to what your future holds. I can tell you this. Your way forward will present itself in ways that you have not yet experienced. Listen to your head but temper it by pausing and then, follow your heart. Adventures in Mother-Sitting will be read by those who can benefit from your experience. Doors of interesting connections with people from around the world are in your future, as is a very different yet nourishing kind of teaching situation. Live your life as you always have, open-mindedly and with a willingness to go out on a limb, to try new things.
I sat quietly for awhile, taking in the meaning of Beauty’s words. Nodding my head in understanding, I reached out and gently stroked her beautiful feathers saying, “Thank you.”
Thinking that I was still in my dream and that Andy had returned to rock my kayak about, I woke up to realize that the rocking motion came from Max giving a vigorous cleaning to Evie’s head. Laughing out loud, I scooted the cats off my chest and walked over to the computer. Time for a new story and a new chapter in my life, I thought, bringing up Word on my PC. What does come next?