A Meaningless Reply

At about two o’clock this morning, I awoke from a strange dream — or was awakened, because I could hear my mother talking in her sleep in her room across the hall. In my dream there was someone I was trying to avoid — a stranger I never did see — and while I was avoiding him, or her, I noticed a battered leather-bound book sitting on a table. The book looked like a bible, and it contained funny little jokes arranged in the form of bible verses.

Finally, remembering I should be careful, I closed the book, quietly left the room, and entered another. I found my father lying on a couch. He looked up at me, and in a pleasant voice he said, “I just took a couple of aspirin.” Then I awoke and heard my mother’s voice, and immediately began to wonder if my father was in her dream too. Was he visiting us to see how we were?

I stayed awake for several minutes — until my mother stopped talking and I was sure my dream wouldn’t resume, because it seemed just disturbing enough to become a nightmare if allowed to develop.

My mother’s light was on. Quite often, she’ll fall asleep while reading and then wake up hours later with her glasses on. I woke up again at four. The light was still on. I dozed until four-thirty. This time the light was off.

I stayed in bed until five-thirty, dozing, thinking, dreaming, still tired yet eager to work — eager to go, to stay, to begin.

And then, suddenly, it was seven-thirty, and I had already been sitting here for almost two hours when I heard the light switch click in the living room. When I went to investigate, I found my mother standing there in her old blue robe, smiling but not quite awake. When she realized it was still early, she decided to go back to bed. I followed her down the hall and into her room. Before I closed her door again, she said, “I hope I didn’t miss anything.”

Then came my meaningless reply: “If you did, then so did I.” And she was satisfied.

October 6, 2006

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