Last night I went to bed like any other night, but then I had a dream. I walked through the back garden of my family home, lush with summer, and into the house. My parents were hosting a party. I entered the living room and saw my family members seated around the room in their usual places at such family gatherings.
And then I saw someone else. My grandfather was seated on a chair in the corner behind the piano. His hands were outstretched on the arms of the chair, his back straight – the perfect posture of a former dancer. His hair was pure white and full but soft, combed gently to the side. He was wearing cream trousers and a pale gray top. Our eyes met and he smiled his smile.
I have not seen him for over two years. The last time he was in the ICU. I had gone to see him for what I did not know would be the last time. I had taken a collection of short stories to read to him as he dozed. He was too weak to chat as we had always done. Our hands intwined and resting on the bed, I read slowly and carefully, hoping that the story and my voice could carry him away for a few minutes into his happy imagination. I was pregnant at the time. And although sometimes he did not know where he was or who we were, he always remembered that he was to become a great grandfather. “How’s baby?” he would ask quietly.
He rose from his chair slowly and carefully and we embraced. Weighing in at just 90 pounds he was as thin and bony as I remember him, and yet his hug felt strong and secure, as it always did. My cheek felt the softness of his skin; I felt the texture of his shirt, his hands on my back. I inhaled deeply, taking in the smell of him that I know so well. I held on tightly, suddenly realising that this was a dream, and not wanting it to end. But when the realisation comes, the dream is over. I awake suddenly and he slips away from me. My stomach is tight with loss and my heart is full with longing; my cheeks wet with tears.
Today, I feel a little closer to you. I felt like I have had one more hug. I hope one day you visit Sienna in a dream and teach her as you taught me. Show her how to eat her soup, wrap her in soft towels after bubble baths, bestow gifts of carefully-made fudge on her birthday. Show her the value of silence when words are not needed and that it is better to be kind than right. Play the harp for her and make sure she stands up straight. Show her the beauty of life and the importance of elegance and grace. Hug her longer than anyone else and let your love wash over her. As you always did with me.