A Dream. Perhaps about Belonging.

Last night I had a dream that left me unsettled. It was the dream I woke from this morning with no resolution.

The Dream:
I was 17 and 32 at the same time. My mom dropped me off at what I can only describe as a group home, and as she was leaving, she told the person she left me with that she would send the paperwork tomorrow. I spent a few days there, completely isolated from everyone and everything. It wasn't a good place.

When I was able to go outside for the first time, I was in the middle of a parking lot in a strip mall. My Volvo was sitting in the lot; I ran to it, opened the backdoor, and I found my phone. I picked it up to call my mom, but there were no contacts in it. I panicked because I don't have any phone numbers memorized anymore. I sat for a minute trying to recall my mom's phone number, and I finally did. I called her, she answered, and I asked her if she had relinquished her parental rights. She said she had. I burst into tears and begged her to figure out how to change it so she could come and get me. She said she wasn't sure she could because she had already submitted everything.

I hung up the phone and thought of all of the people I could call. I thought of my grandpa, a few friends, and then I knew that I was going to call my biological father, Lance. I went to dial, but I realized my phone screen was broken and covered in shards of glass. [My screen cracked in real life last night on the kitchen floor at Jake's grandparents.] I found something to go over the phone so I could use it without cutting my fingers. The phone was dialing, and my heart sank when I remembered that his name wasn't on my birth certificate - the space marked "father" on my birth certificate is blank, so I wasn't sure if he would actually have any legal clout to come and get me.

He answered the phone, and I couldn't speak. I was just crying. And I sat there in my car with my broken phone and no other numbers in my mind weeping until I woke up.

The Aftermath:
When I told Jake about it this morning, he thought it was connected to anxiety I might feel about who I belong to now that Grammy is dead. I think he's right.

I don't talk about it much, and it's certainly something I'm still in the middle of unpacking, but I have always struggled with a sense of belonging. And it's true that I've never questioned whether I belonged to Grammy because I've always just known that I was hers and she was mine. This life without her feels a bit bewildering. After she died, I kept my hand on her arm, and I slowly moved it up to her shoulder and neck, following her warmth before it left her completely. I needed to soak it all in. In the midst of all of my questions of belonging, I remind myself that my girls are mine, and I am theirs. That always makes me feel better in some ways. But there are still so many questions of belonging. Where do I belong in Oklahoma? Belonging in specific, close relationships. Belonging outside of Mormonism. Belonging when some of my Dearest Ones are so far away from me because I keep leaving them. Belonging is comfort, and I'm missing that right now.

Lessons from Grammy, Part II: Her Voice

My Grammy is dying in front of my eyes. I'm on the night shift, laying across three chairs I put together for a makeshift bed. My aunt and mom are sharing a twin bed in the room. I'm laying parallel to a body that is making noises I've never heard it make before, and I've spent many, many nights next to Grammy. 

She's to the stage where air is passing across her vocal cords in the midst of deep shallow coughs and that death rattle that is so very real. There are extended periods of time where she isn't breathing at all. 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds. Earlier today (well, yesterday now), she went almost two minutes before taking a full breath. When that happened, we were watching for the vein in her neck that shows her pulse so well. It kept on. Her heart just keeps keeping on. She has a McInnes heart; they don't give up.

I'm trying to decide if I would recognize her if I didn't know this body before me housed the woman I love so deeply. I recognize features. That nose, the square jawline, the crooked pinkies that match my own, that top lip, well, lack of top lip - also a McInnes thing, though certainly more of a Maxwell or Brown trait if you trace the genetic makeup.

So many parts of this are so hard. This. Is. Hard. But she is mine, and there is nowhere I would rather be than right here seeing her through this transition. 

Even though so much is unfamiliar, so much new territory for our relationship; it feels good to be seeing her through. I don't know how much longer this part will last - this part that will fade away into the next phase where I will practice speaking between worlds to hear her.

And in the midst of all of these unknowns we are walking through, there is something comforting. I know she's not trying to speak, but the little glimpses of her voice that come through every now and again, that combination of air moving across vocal cords that are uniquely hers - I will never hear that sound again. Not in realtime. (I do have a pretty ridiculous amount of voice messages from her saved on my phone.) No, not words, nor phrases, or even thoughts are coming through, but I'm translating those sounds into words I've heard so often:

"I love you"
"Treasure of my heart"
"Mama and Daddy"

Lessons from Grammy, Part I: Leo

When Jake and I came to see Grammy at her new assisted living home in Arizona, she mentioned Leo. Leo is another resident at this home, and she talked about how they would make eyes at each other, and then one day he kissed her on the forehead. 

As she's telling me about Leo, I'm sitting on the end of her bed blushing and giggling like I'm the one experiencing this fresh new romance right along with her.

She wondered if she was being too bold in her flirtation and what people would think of her. I told her that at 93, she should take what she could get. Her eyes were so bright and her voice animated while talking about him. This was in June.

Just a few months earlier, in February, we thought she was a goner. It wasn't the first time we thought she was on her way out, but it was the time everyone gathered. After that health scare and the decline in her mobility, she was moved from California with my aunts to her current home in Arizona where more people could help care for her 24/7. 

I was so nervous for her making the move and not knowing the people she would be with, but being here gave her a renewed sense of purpose, not only as a friend and loving on other people, but being loved by Leo too.

Her health has been in rapid decline since Saturday. I came yesterday. She can't speak, but will occasionally get a few words out. Yesterday Leo came in held her hand and stroked her arm while telling her sweet nothings in Spanish. She responded with smiles and bright eyes. He left in tears. There is something so powerful about knowing what you mean to someone - knowing you are loved.

That is part of the magic and power of Grammy for me: I have never once doubted how she feels about me and what I mean to her. It has always been love. 

Hallelujah Anyway: To the Listeners

I've been reading Anne Lamott's Hallelujah Anyway. Listening to it, actually. I've been enjoying it so much that I picked up a copy from the library so I could go back and reread passages. This morning I listened to chapter six on my way to work. Much was said on the mercy found in listening. I wanted to write some of it here.

Mr. Einstein said everything is moving and we're all connected, and maybe never more so than when we listen [...] Everything slows down when we listen and stop trying to fix the unfixable. We end up looking into other people's eyes, and see the desperation, or let them see ours. This connection slips past the armor like water past stones. Being slow and softened, even for a few minutes or seconds, gives sneaky grace the chance to enter. There won't be something waiting that you can put on a bumper sticker, and it will not just be one cute thing, although I would very much prefer this.
There is such a depth to listening, and an exchange, like an echo from inside a canyon, when friends have listened to me at my most hopeless. They heard. Someone heard, heard what was happening, what was true and painful, when the center would not hold. They sat, listened, and breathed with me like doulas.
Breath is a koan: both a resting place and enlivening. To take a deep breath is a thirsty person sipping water, both ease and nourishment. The person said, 'I hear you, it completely sucks. I'm here for you, and will be, no matter what.' You sat together breathing. Maybe the friend trotted out the excruciating absurdity of the situation, laid it on the table so we could observe it together, with amazement and eventual amusement. The friend let us go again to every place we have ever wallowed, and helped make it funny. The friend just got it. We felt like a failure, but we were helped to see that we were doing everything we could, as well as we could. Maybe we won't step in that same hole again now. (Maybe we will.) No one, not even God, has a magic wand so what awaits is probably still going to be hard sledding, but at least we're out of the ditch and on the hill in the slush. There had been no hope of this, when we were stuck in me me me, hurt, hurt, hurt. Now, as Rumi said, 'someone opens our wings . . . someone fills the cup.' My pastor puts it: 'God makes a way out of no way.' We will somehow be cared for by that someone - a dear neurotic friend, minister, mullah - or something or a shift that helped release a bit of what tortured you an hour ago, or what you tortured yourself with, a space you've populated with demons, now opening from that trance out to what is really there: a cup of tea, kind eyes, paper whites, orange sand" (112-114).


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