Archive for April, 2012


April 16, 2012

Some dreams are more than dreams—they are visitations. Numerous times, I asked Howard to visit me after he died. That request was sometimes made in jest, but even then, I had no doubt he knew I really wanted him to make an attempt to contact me once he crossed over.

Just a little less than six weeks after he died, he visited me using a dream as the vehicle. This was certainly not the first time I’d dreamed of him since his death, but his appearance in the dream was so vivid, so real, that once I drifted up from sleep, I knew he had contacted me. And it was more than contact; he gave me a sweet and wise piece of advice in the form of a question.

In the dream, I am trying to find a man’s telephone number. We had met and been attracted to one another. He’d suggested we get together and we’d made plans. It is now the day we’d arranged to meet. But I don’t know what time we are to meet or any other details. So I want to contact him. My friend Cindy has taken a call from him but hasn’t given me his number. I realize that it is too early to call her for it, so I am online, trying to find contact information on the man.

As I sit at the computer, I sense that someone is in the room, to my left. I look up and to the left, and I see Howard standing nearby. We just look at one another for a moment.

“Do you always wake up smiling?” he finally says.

The question gives me pause. I cock my head to the right and think. Have I done that? Did I do it that morning when I awoke? I decide I like the idea and realize that I usually do wake up happy.

“I guess I do,” I reply.

I turn back to the computer. Some part of me feels guilty about looking for the telephone number of another man, especially with Howard right there, but I realize that Howard is dead and it is actually okay for me to be doing this. I turn to look at him again and he is gone.

When I drift up from sleep, I realize that this is no ordinary dream, but a visitation from Howard. I also realize that his question is really not so much a question as a statement: Wake up with a smile on your face. Be happy. Carry on with your life. I suspect he is also encouraging me to wake up and accept the possibility of romance at some point when I’m ready.

His fundamental message is simple, but very important to me. It becomes a kind of mantra: Wake up smiling.

Later in the year, in October, I have another visitation during a dream.

In the dream, I have been sleeping and awaken. I’m troubled by something that happened before I went to bed and get up, deciding I won’t be able to return to sleep immediately. I walk through the house, noticing that some things are out of place, not put away by me before I’d gone to bed. Worse, I see that I have inadvertently left the front door open with my keys in the lock. I pull out the keys, shut the door, and return to bed, admonishing myself for my carelessness. Someone could have walked right in. I return to sleep.

I awaken (in the dream) and realize that I’d actually been dreaming earlier and hadn’t really gotten up. I can sense that someone is in the house. I get up and go into the guest bedroom. The light is dim, but I can see a form on the bed. I walk over to the bed and realize that it is Howard lying there. I lightly touch his chest and realize that he is solid, not ghost-like. He rouses.

“What are you doing here?” I ask. Then I bend down and kiss him on the lips.

“Soon I’ll be going into stasis,” he replies.

Without his saying anything else, I realize that he is telling me that when he goes into stasis, he won’t be able to contact me again. Somehow, I also know that “stasis” means that he is transitioning into a new form and will be going somewhere new.

When I drift up from the dream, the sense of how physically close I have just been to him is still palpable. I consider the word “stasis” and realize that the meaning of the word in the dream visitation is not any definition with which I am familiar, so I pad down to my office, pull out the dictionary, and look up the word. Sure enough, I see a definition that is consistent with this concept of being between one form and another.

But . . .

Time passes. I have recounted the dream to a few people—including Howard’s sister, who has a BS in nursing and, therefore, understands the concept of stasis. No one has ever heard of the definition from the dream. I find it all curious, so I eventually return to the dictionary and look up the word again. The definition I’d seen that morning in October is simply not there. I know I was fully awake when I looked for the word. I know what I saw. But now it is not there.

I laugh and shake my head. It seems that Howard was very clear about what he meant when he used the word. And he was not going to let the mere fact of a waking reality definition get in the way of his dream visitation definition. So when I looked up the word that morning after the dream, I saw what he wanted me to see in the dictionary.

It was so Howard, so like him. I knew he’d managed to hover nearby for just a bit that morning, even after I awoke.

He may be off somewhere, in another form, but he still manages to whisper words of encouragement now and then and he still gives me his opinion when I ask for it. But . . . there have been no more dream visitations.

Copyright 2012 by Melanie Mulhall

The Things I Missed

April 2, 2012

By fall, I had grown accustomed to the word “widow” and to the fact of widowhood. I found myself referring to Howard as “my late husband,” a term I was sure would make him double over in laughter on the other side. In his best Jack Benny imitation, his left hand cupping his jaw and his right hand supporting his left elbow, I imagined him saying, “Well!” in mock frustration, then arguing that his timing had always been impeccable.

I missed “my late husband” in many ways, and not the least of them was his goofy humor. He didn’t pull out the Jack Benny often. More often it was his East Indian guru—an irreverent imitation of Deepak Chopra—or his Transylvanian vampire version of the song, “You Do Something to Me.” I may or may not have had the power to mystify him, but he had the power to make me laugh every time, without fail, with his Transylvanian vampire rendition of that song. He’d done a little standup comedy in his youth and he not only chose to look at life with humor, he chose to take the events and happenings of our everyday lives and use them as material. My job was to roll my eyes and fight to keep from cracking a smile. A tiny drawing of an egret would be accompanied by “Egrets? I’ve had a few.” He was willing to do slapstick but preferred taking the ordinary and putting a little twist on it. If all else failed, his answer to practically everything was, “Let’s all get naked.”

I missed our conversations. He was erudite, smart, and philosophical. We agreed on many things and disagreed on many others, but we never lacked for interesting talk. His head for facts and my head for concepts gave us one nicely balanced mind between us, and he was one of the few men I’d ever been close to who could keep up with me intellectually. The fact that I didn’t want to talk politics and he didn’t want to talk metaphysics didn’t hamper us. There was always something to ponder aloud and roll around so we could get a good look at its many sides. And we were always as happy talking about the birds at the feeder or the flowers coming up in the garden as we were talking about the meaning of life. In fact, it could be argued that we viewed the birds and flowers as inherently meaningful components of life.

I missed having a companion who was at much at home at the opera as at a Rockies game. I missed dinners on the lower deck, under the flowering crab. I missed trips with him to bookstores and antiques stores, and I missed having a beer or glass of mead with him at Wynkoop Brewing Company.

I missed his unique stride, which was just a tiny bit bow-legged and always taken with the kind of casual confidence that made him look as if he owned the turf on which he tread.

I missed our morning ritual. As I put on makeup and styled my hair, he would stop outside the bathroom or dressing room door and wait until I paused what I was doing to turn to him. Then he would say, “You’re gonna look pretty today, aren’t you?” or “Are you putting on your fascinators?”

I missed his calling me “Little One,” sometimes emphasizing the word “One,” as if to say, “Forget the first three wives, you’ve always been the one.”

I missed that particular brand of loyalty and integrity he shared with a few other remarkable men I’d known, a commitment to what was right and true, with no apologies for loving America or staying true to his friends or being just a tad bit conservative. Well, okay, maybe more than a tad bit conservative.

I missed the fact that he knew as many lyrics as me and I even missed his annoying habit of playing fast and loose with lyrics, changing them at will if he couldn’t quite remember all of them or if he just wanted to be perverse.

I missed his native view of the world, a way of seeing things so different from mine that it was sometimes startling to me.

Often, something would flit by on the screen of my consciousness, something that caught my attention because of its absence, or caught my attention because it called up a fond memory, or caught my attention because a sight or sound or smell or internal sensation reminded me of that particular uniqueness that was him . . . and was gone.

That the particular uniqueness of any human cannot be replaced became something I came to understand in the same way we come to understand the uniqueness of a sunset or a spring day. That uniqueness is there and then it is gone. Nothing can replace it. It, and everything else, is fleeting and gorgeous and just a little sad . . . because it is fleeting and gorgeous.

Copyright 2012 by Melanie Mulhall