Every now and then, I have a dream so vivid, so complete in every detail, that I feel more like waking is an affront to the alternate reality of my dream world. When I dream of Stephanie, it is particularly hard to wake up. I fight it and pull the covers up, I try--usually without much success--to slip back into the dream where I will see her and speak to her, where she is alive and whole, not a mass of ashes in an urn.
When I dream like I did last night, however, it is all the more frustrating. I dreamed around her. A young male friend of hers was talking to me about all of the time they'd spent talking and chatting online, about how he had saved tapes of her and had saved transcripts of all they had said. It was a rare find, like the femur of a Tyrannosaurus Rex on a paleontological dig. I felt like I had just found an untapped resource full of Stephanie. This young man promised me he would sanitize the material, taking out anything that was uncomplimentary to the family (mostly to me--because when Stephanie was angry, it was me she was most angry with--I was supposed to be able to fix everything for her and wasn't ever supposed to be the disciplinarian). He promised he would get me copies.
Meanwhile, outside a wood and glass door, people from her childhood filed past, characters in books, characters from Sesame Street, talking animals she had made up. I was alternately looking at this odd procession while talking to this young man and flipping through pictures of her I'd never seen. I was remembering the different houses we'd lived in as I looked at those pictures, and I found myself thinking, what if we'd stayed there? Would she still be alive? Why did we move from there when things were going great for her? So many memories flooded my dream world, and still I couldn't get close to her. She was still gone.
When I told Paul about the dream, he said that something odd had happened to him right around the 3rd of the month, when I was broken apart and could not have handled talking about this. He said her username popped up on Yahoo Messenger. It's an unusual name, so it's not like someone might have accidentally been reassigned the name. Perhaps one of her friends hijacked it. We don't know. But he said it popped up intermittently. He tried to say "hello" to see who might be using her name, but they never responded. Of course, we want to think it is her, trying to say something to us from the other world, trying to keep herself in our memories - as if she'd ever be gone from them. It was a strange occurrence, and I'm sure it was unsettling to him.
Monday will be one year since some dear friends of ours lost their son, almost the same age, almost the same cause. I am feeling all of this for them, too, knowing that awful sense of inevitability that hits you as the anniversary approaches. It's like being sucked down a drain or pulled under a rogue wave. There is nothing you can do to stop it, and it feels like the one-year mark is the point of no return. I remember being an absolute wreck during that 52nd week of the worst year of my life. Every part of my body hurt. My mind was in utter chaos. I was unable to concentrate on the simplest task. Like Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking, for that entire year, I was unable to truly believe that the clock could not be turned back, that she wouldn't call me, that she wouldn't ring the doorbell.
When the anniversary day came, Paul, Sean, and I were at a tattoo studio (always one of Stephanie's favorite places) to be with our son as he got his first tattoo as a memorial to his sister. It's the first time I've ever been in a tattoo studio. It had the usual suspects there - bikers, their girlfriends, hangers-on - but there was also a little family in there. Dad was getting a new tattoo and Mom had quite a few of her own. Their little girl was there, flipping through books full of pink and blue tattoos. She asked me to come sit with her and pick out the tattoos I liked. All of the ones she liked were pink. I'll never forget having her companionship while I got through that day.
My friends will get through their anniversary, too. It's not easy, but for me it was anticlimactic. I'm hoping they feel a similar relief and acceptance as they go through that day, remembering their dear son.
Today I will think about Stephanie all day. That's how it goes when I dream of her. She's so close, I feel I should be able to reach out and hug her like I did so many times in her life. Every time one of my children is near me, they will get hugged. Sean still can't go to bed without his hug and kiss from Momma. Last night I was watching a movie online and didn't go down to say goodnight (not realizing the time). He came all the way upstairs and scolded me, because all of the dogs and cats had come to say goodnight, and even Dad had said goodnight, but Momma was MIA. I had to smile at that. I'm never far from him, whether I'm here or elsewhere. And I'm never far from Stephanie either. The thing now is, she is in my heart and is always everywhere with me.
Peace - D