:You know how sometimes, after the death of your husband, he comes to you in a dream that is soooo intense and sooo real, you can actually feel or hear or touch or smell him, even minutes and hours and days after you wake up? Have you ever felt something so palpable, so organic, that it stayed on your heart indefinately? No? Me neither. At least, not until last night. Last night – my husband was here. I felt him. This was my dream:
I was inside of a Best Buy, and I was in the movie section and picked up “This is Spinal Tap” and slowly started sobbing; because that is one of Don’s absolute favorite movies. I kept thinking of him always quoting from that, and Caddyshack, and Blazing Saddles. As I was sobbing, a large hand touched me on my shoulder and I turned around. It was Don. He was in one of his favorite shirts; a t-shirt we had bought the very first time I took him to the US Open tennis tournament. It said: “You call that a serve? Take that back to New Jersey!” I didn’t think it was that funny, but he found it hilarious and wore it all the time while playing tennis. Anyway, in the dream, I turned around and looked into his beautiful blue eyes and sobbed even harder.“I miss you so much” I cried into his chest.
“I know Boo.” he said, as he lightly ran his fingers through the back of my hair, sort of scratching it the way he used to.
“Why are you here? Are you back? You didn’t really die right?”
“Yes, I did. I’m sorry honey. I didn’t want to. It just happened.”
“But its not fair. You were always outside exercising, trying to stay in shape. You played tennis two days before.”
“I know, and I left this in my tennis bag by mistake. If only I would have moved it into my wallet, they would have been able to call you a lot sooner, while I was still alive. You couldn’t have done anything to save me, but maybe we could have said goodbye.”
He pulled out his drivers license and Emergency Hospital Card. The one where they ask your blood type, and to name someone to call in case of an emergency. It said “Kelley Niemi – Wife” and my phone number.
I looked at the card and kept crying: “When the hospital called me and woke me up, you were already dead.”
“I know Boo. It wasn’t supposed to happen there. I kept those things in my tennis bag whenever I played tennis, just in case. People usually have heart attacks while running, or playing tennis, or doing something strenuous. It just made more sense to put the information in my tennis bag. I just forgot to take it out before work that morning. I feel so badly that the paramedics or Petsmart staff didn’t know your number or how to call you. You know, my dad had his heart attack on the golf course.”
“Yeah – in his 80s!”
“I guess I didn’t get that lucky. I had to die in a freakin’ Petsmart in New Jersey!” he laughed and kissed my forehead.
“You made me so happy. I’m not happy anymore. All I do is cry, and try not to cry.”
“Its going to take a very long time Boo. I was pretty awesome.”
We both laugh.
“Are we really standing here holding each other in the middle of a Best Buy?” I ask him.
“Its just a dream.” he says matter-of-factly, lightly smiling at me. “Its not real. Your heart wants so badly to talk to me again, to hold me again, so your mind is letting you in your dreams.”
“But I have nightmares. And even these dreams that seem nice now, are awful because when I wake up, I realize none of it was real and you’re still gone, and then I feel like shit.”
“I know Boo. Its all part of the grieving process. You’re going to feel like shit for a long time, and I hate that. That’s the crappy thing about dying. Its the people you leave behind that suffer.”
“But you got screwed, just like Ginger. Why didn’t you get more time? You deserved so much more time …” I sob intensely now.
“I wish there was an answer to that question that would comfort you. But there isn’t. It makes no sense.” It feels like his hug isn’t as tight anymore.
“Please please don’t go. You just got here.” I pause, then ask: “Will I see you again?”
“Yeah. Probably for awhile. But eventually, you wont need to.” He wipes my tears away.
“I cant imagine a day where I wont need or want to see you. I love you.”
“I love you too Boo.” He starts to walk away, then turns back. “Oh, I noticed last night that you did some laundry. I never thought Id see the day … Boo doing laundry.” He laughs his awesome laugh.
“They just put in brand new washers and dryers downstairs. They aren’t like the old ones. I had no idea what I was doing. The settings were all different. Too many numbers.”
“Stop being so over dramatic”, he said as he laughed at me. “You’ll figure it out. Here’s a hint. The liquidy stuff … that’s called detergent. It goes inside the machine.” He always loved mocking me.
“I’ll try and remember that.” I said, still sobbing.
He turned around one last time. “Oh, and one last thing” I reached out to take his hand while he talked, but he was too far away now to reach him. “The old washers had settings that went to 10. These new ones go higher. These go to eleven.” He gave me a wink and a smile, knowing that I would catch the Spinal Tap reference. And then he was gone.
I woke up with a massive headache, and my pillow soaking wet from my tears. I looked over to his side of the bed, as I do every morning, and it was still empty. I sobbed and sobbed for what seemed like a half hour but probably wasn’t. Sammy ran up onto the bed and purred; rubbing his face against mine. “Its okay Mommy”, he seemed to be saying. Then he threw up on my arm.