“almost four months to the day”
After we moved from Hawaii to Seattle in 1997-98 – then kept on moving to three different apartment complexes (never rent below people) until we lucked into a three-bedroom, A-frame house in the middle of Lynnwood before the change of the millennium – I kept having recurring dreams about packing in a hurry, different houses, other people’s stuff, sometimes my own, a discovery I wanted to pocket, and did.
Just generally typical fear of moving within a year, without any notice, subconscious reflection kinda stuff. At some point in those dreams, Eddie also began buying a ton of real estate, from a boathouse in Venice and overlooking Seattle’s Elliot Bay, to several brick suburbans in the heart of Boston, Connecticut and Indiana. There was even this one wacky but gigantic maze of a tri-level brick mansion that had elevators going sideways, as well as up and down. Towards the end of these recurring dreams – and yes, they did finally end with a real-life occurrence – Eddie gave up collecting residential property in favor of hotels, one in Maui, one in pre-James Cook era Molokai, another in the Midwest with those torrential snow storms that keep you from returning home in a hurry.
I also always chalked up these recurring dreams to Eddie’s interest in touring model homes, finding his childhood ideal, a two-story brick house with a huge backyard in Long Island, and living out a middle-class suburban life (without having to mow and weed the lawn, fix the roof and assorted other hazards of upkeep)... with a heavy dose of my inherent fear and fascination of the change that comes about with continuous, wanderlust-driven, aimless travel.
As a former Army brat and product of a dysfunctional family, I did my share of traveling as an unwitting and unwilling child, force to uproot myself and my spare belongings at a moment’s notice. Maybe because my mom couldn’t pay the rent and my dad just happened to be incommunicado somewhere else doing his Army thing, maybe because my mom couldn’t find lodgings, temporary or permanent, for her two young children because she couldn’t speak fluent English, she had no working skills and she was surprised to be saddled with a useless screw-up of a husband who took off for Vietnam, leaving her virtually penniless and clueless.
I’m a Sagittarius. I’m supposed to love living out of my suitcase, airplane food and room service. And, well, I really do. The rest of me, however, the parts that have IBS-D, has to urinate a lot whenever I’m trying to walk around a new place enjoying the sights, and the grown-up who yearns for her final resting place, a home to call her own, would rather stay put.
The packing can be a pain too, worse than daily workout regimens at the gym on another ‘bout of Atkins. No matter how late I stay up, occasionally fretting about a lack of cushy, free bubble material and clean, sturdy boxes, with which to store the more fragile items, there’s always more debris, hidden in nooks and crannies, possessions I’ve forgotten. And when the door finally closes, I’m certain I’ve forgotten more. The second to the last move we made in Washington, we left behind a birthday gift to me from my best friend Jon, a large poster of Bruce Lee, my hero.
Transfer these fears, the pain of packing, the fascination and the yearning to my dream state day in and night out, well, it’s logical for me to assume the after-effects of so much moving and only when we bought a house, moving into a home with an actual bed instead of a beat-up futon or the floor, are replaying when I fall asleep.
I began doubting the certainty of such logic right around the time 9/11 happened. Actually, post-9/11, when I accidentally discovered during a Google search out of boredom one night that a childhood crush had perished in the Pentagon during those terrorist attacks. Before and since, I’d dream about his house, the one paralleling Maple and Juniper Streets.
Three times, in those dreams, I went searching for signs of him long before I ever knew he’d gone into the Navy and come out a decorated officer, married, with a daughter, based in upstate New York, working in D.C., way long before, back to and since the summer of 1977 when I moved away from Ft. Dix where we spent some of our growing years to about 1980 when I found a boyfriend. I never got over Bobby, ever. My dreams wouldn’t let me, either. A couple times, I’d dream of being in Washington, D.C., having just missed him by a few minutes. Bingo.
But usually, I’d be at his old single-story military tract house, a house I’d never gone inside myself, in his kitchen to be specific. It always seemed then that they’d moved and left behind some items, forgotten items. After 9/11, before I Googled his obit, I dreamt of being in the kitchen again, rummaging through his cabinets, in desperate hopes of being left a sign, a present, something significant to remind me he existed in my life, he cared about me, he’d lived. All I found were tiny plastic and glass bottles and jars of spices, herbs.
I found them when my subconscious knew for sure, before I did, that he’d died, some cosmic signal.
Only now, one day after the news of my father-in-law’s death hit me, did I realize the significance, as a flood of recurring dreams, borrowed from waking reality, returned to my conscious mind.
When my father died in December of 1982, we had to clean out his rented house in Halawa Heights, Aiea, Hawaii, my mother mostly. And all I could grasp at the moment was how many spices and herbs he’d left behind, spices and herbs he’ll never use again. Nobody else in the land of the living wanted ‘em, they aren’t as potent after a few months anyway.
The dead leave behind much more than just spices and herbs, of course. But the living can only remember so much, with such a shocking, uprooting and natural event.
When my mother-in-law passed away last February, we had the occasion to go through her and her husband’s house, to assess what we’d have to pack up, give away, throw away, possibly sell. I couldn’t believe how many useless plastic containers, recycled plastic bags and Goodwill-bought trinkets she kept overflowing in bins in closets and drawers and cabinets. A good 3/4ths of the kitchen storage capacity held nothing but plastic junk.
Her refrigerator nearly brought me to my knees, the full impact that she will never be around ever finally showing itself in the carefully packaged leftovers, two years back, the half-full jars of condiments, a half-eaten sandwich.
The spices and herbs took up two full cabinets, my mother-in-law loved to cook from scratch, everything from Swedish meatballs to sauerbraten.
And then, thinking back to those two weeks almost four full months ago, my dreams invaded my reality with the mega-ton force of a psychic lightbulb.
I’d been dreaming of this day, the day Eddie’s father would finally give up the ghost and the two cars, the rotting rusted pool outside and the yellowed cavernous secondhand smoke inside, and all his post-Depression era hoarding of every red cent for a rainy day that could only come when he went away.
The packing, the moving, the sitting around swamped with boxes and boxes, only to find more, while a ticking time bomb called deadlines kept me going until every last bauble, shirt, doll, jewelry and trinket had been put away, remnants of my childhood, their treasures... foretold of an eventuality that had finally come.
Another instance of synchronicity, too, in response to my seasonal whining about being stuck at home while everybody else was off on summer vacation and the TV droned in the background with boring unrelatable teen summer filler: the universe gave me a two-for-one deal, an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida, combining heavy-duty mental, emotional and physical work with human contact rest, relaxation, and play.
And behind one more curtain, the rest of my lifetime in reward for waiting this long.
I’m sad for my father-in-law’s death. He died in the middle of a conversation with an attending nurse, following a successful surgical procedure to clean up a carotid artery in his neck four days before Eddie managed to contact another nurse to find out what happened. His last words were, “I think I’m dying,” and then he did.
On Sunday night, two days before we knew, I prayed for him to live another 20 years, despite his terrible treatment of me in the past, as a repulsive interloper, and his inhuman lack of compassion for my husband, his own flesh and blood, during the tough financial times. By the end, George Kurt Weber had made peace with everybody, with me on our last visit, and realized a little too late that money never really meant as much as he thought it should have.
At least, I’d like to think so.
... This morning, this 9:30 a.m., June 2nd, I woke up remembering my last dream, a first for me. I flew home, literally, this is a dream, mind you, after my last class in college, just down the street. James was playing with his Matchbox cars on the front porch of our brick house, inside, straight away into the brightly lit kitchen, Eddie stood over a pot of Manhattan clam chowder, saw me, then asked, “You think I should add cream? It looks too thin.”
Every spice and herb was on the counter, being used.
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