Tuesday, November 21, 2006

even as the world was turning

In 1971, I was in first grade. In the spring of that year, I was 7 years old and huge, life-altering events took place. My baby sister arrived and my Papaw died. The audible clicking of the artificial valves put in his heart to replace the damaged fearfully and wonderfully made originals, ceased sufficiency, and stopped clicking.
I know my mom felt the greatest gift and the greatest theft in the span of a week. Spring brings life and Jodi was the first blossom of 1971, sent to bring color to the dark moments for the broken daughter who bore her. She told me the terrible news first thing next morning. It was a terrible loss. An enormous part of my young life was gone.
The previous fall, when it had gotten too cold to do all the outside things for which he’d let me tag along, he’d assured that warm weather would come again. On that April morning, I realized I’d never ride on his shoulders again, I’d never again ride on the flat bed of his truck and grip the cab and peer in through the rectangle to see him driving. But I didn’t cry. I, who to this day shed tears as easily as sipping coffee, don’t remember crying. In fact, I remember not crying.
What I did was dream about him every night. Every night. Every night the dreams were nothing more or less than was the norm when I was around him. He’d ride me on his shoulders, or perc coffee while he made cornbread or burnt toast. These dreams went on for many nights and then grew less frequent and stopped.
Those are two things that I’ve pondered many times in my life, those dreams and my dry eyes. I believe those dreams kept my eyes dry with joyful memories in my heart.
Often, someone will say something that brings those dreams to mind. Most recently, we were driving along listening to music and Jack said he thought his favorite lyric was this James Taylor verse:

I came out of a dream last night
Thought I was back in my old home
Mom and Dad were both still alive
And the babies not yet born, no
Felt like a festival
Felt like a Christmas morning
Felt the darkness fall away
Even as the world was turning
Immediately, my mind went back to 1971. And I re-dreamt specific dreams from those months. I don’t think I’ve dreamt about Papaw since then. Until this morning.
I was standing in the kitchen that is now Jodi’s, but the formica-top table with the chrome trim was still there. I was looking out through the screen door when Papaw and uncle Bub pulled up in a pick-up truck. He and Uncle Bub were both the same age, about 50, and I was the age I am now. They’d pulled all the way up in the yard, and beside the kitchen door, and were unloading turnips from the back of the truck. The back of the truck also held countless widgets and gadgets he’d just acquired and that he couldn’t wait to show me. “This one peels, this one slices, this one…” I said what are you doing with all those turnips?, it’s November!. He said, “are you kidding? Look how big these things are!”
He cut a turnip in half and we we’re eating it together when my alarm went off.
Sometimes, good dreams leave you feeling remorse at waking when you realize that they aren’t real. Reality becomes clear and the dream fades, and things are the way they are. Other times, dreams provide for a moment, what can’t be, and upon waking, reality is brightened by a memory or a hope and the day is lightened by the wearing of a blessing.
Such was this dream and this waking. It felt like a festival, a turnip festival, it felt like Christmas morning. I felt the darkness fall away even as the world was turning.
Even as the world was turning.

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