For as long as I can remember, I have had this recurring dream where I am fishing with my grandpa. I can smell grass, pungent lake water, and his old spice. The birds are singing and gnats are buzzing by my ear. I am sitting cross-legged on the bank, holding a fishing pole and mindlessly drawing in the dirt with small sticks as I wait to feel the tell-tale jerk signaling that I have a fish on the end of my line. It is my safe place, my happiness.
But the serene bliss doesn’t last long. I start to get antsy.
The glaring sun makes me sweat and as it evaporates, I start to notice how my skin feels scaly and dry. The heat penetrates my thick hair becoming trapped in my pony tail, so I keep loosening the hair tie, hoping it will help vent it off. The grass doesn’t feel cool any more and it starts to itch my legs. Tiny pebbles and sticks are sticking to my thighs, leaving craters in my skin. I begin to scratch and fidget. I am parched and hungry and tired. I want to go home. So I turn to ask my Grandpa if we can leave.
He isn’t there.
I see his fishing pole. I see his empty lawn chair. I see his truck, his tackle box, his jug of ice water. All are signs that he is close, and that he should be there. But he isn’t. I panic.
My stomach violently lurches. My vision is compromised my white pricks dancing in the peripheral. My breathing is forced and erratic. My lips, and then my face, start to tingle. My heart begins to pound a rapid cadence that my feet fall into as I take flight, running down the lake shore calling for him.
The sky turns dark. The winds start whipping, lashing at me from all directions. The grass and gravel that once comprised the shore is replaced by slivers of glass. Rocks turn into giant shards that are painfully sharp. The shore begins to get steeper and I start to slip into the lake. I look in the water and I can see monstrous fish lurking just beneath the surface. They are hideous creatures that sometimes glide up out of the water and brush against my legs. Their skin is abrasive, like sandpaper. They don’t bite me, but I just know that their teeth are like razors and they will devour me as soon as I fall in. When I fall in. Because I know I am going to.
I desperately try to maintain my foot or find a suitable hold on something, but the glass is cutting my flesh like ribbons, and the shards are no better. I am faced with being cut by the glass on the shore, or devoured by the monsters in the lake.
I begin to slip and I start screaming for my grandpa. I am so scared of being alone and not knowing how to rescue myself.
He used to run in my room and tell me that everything was fine and that he was right there, and that he would never leave me alone for big fish to gobble up, and that he would hook any fish who tried and mount him to his wall.
And I just knew he would. I believed that with all my being.
As I got older, I stopped screaming for Grandpa. He didn’t need to come running into my room, because I knew he was there. He was waiting with an extra tight hug in the morning when I woke up, or always at the other end of the phone when I needed to call.
He has just always been there. He always rescues me.
I don’t know how to live without him. I am terrified.
I am just beginning to see that he is the only person I have ever completely trusted.
Just knowing he is there. It is enough. He is enough. He is everything.
And he is dying. I know his days are numbered, and as each one ticks off, I feel like the same transformation from my dream is happening in my life.
I can feel the winds of change pick up momentum. I hear them whispering of their impending fury.
Those memories that once brought me so much comfort and joy now slice my soul and leave me bleeding.
Things that seemed manageable are turning into monsters that I can’t defeat or tame. I feel anxious, like they are lurking under the surface waiting to feast on my weakness.
It is hard to separate the dreaming from the waking – the fear from the truth.
And the worst is: I have precious little time to learn.
Too soon, he won’t be here to help me.