Letters to Nanny
So, the other night I had a dream.
My grandmother (who died when I was about 10) was sitting in a wheelchair. My grandfather (also dead) was standing next to her, and my mother (their daughter) was seated on a couch to the right of my grandmother. I called my grandmother “Nanny” when I was a kid, and my grandfather “Pop-Pops.” (Side note: Funny how a toddler is assigned the role of naming grandma and grandpa. One of us kids eeked out “nanny” when we were learning how to speak, and that’s what stuck. Don’t know much about the etymology of “pop-pops”, but we still refer to the stern, proud, 6′-something guy as “pop-pops”.)
There was some subplot to the dream- something about me driving around with a boyfriend and being pissed off… i think we actually drove the car through a wall and into the living room where my family was sitting. No one seemed upset about the hole in the sheetrock. My grandmother motioned for me to lean down close to her head because she had something to tell me and couldn’t speak very loudly. I did, but i couldn’t hear what she said. She had something for me – a bag. Her feet were bound in bandages- and the shape indicated that maybe her toes were amputated (?). I knew she would never walk again- and I got the impression that the bandages represented a slow chiseling away at her existence, starting with the feet. Pop-Pops hands me a gift bag. Inside is stationary- all different colors and sizes, mostly pastels. There is a ziploc bag inside. I open it. It is filled with an assortment of stamps, all different denominations. I get the impression my grandmother was cleaning out a writing desk- some of the stamps are for strange amounts, and this tells me they came from a time when it cost less than it does now to mail a letter. I understand what is being asked of me. My grandmother wants me to write her a letter a day. I look in the bottom of the bag, and I see a glue stick and some Scotch tape, and one other object I cannot remember. The sight of this all brings me to tears. I don’t just cry, either. I weep. I am overcome by the feeling of deep, deep gratitude, and a deep sadness. It felt like what it would feel like to have a starving child share his few grains of rice with you. This woman was dying- and she was giving away her last few possessions. I cannot describe how alive those objects were. I felt my grandmother’s presence in the tape, especially. I could see that it had only briefly been used- there was quite a bit left on the roll. And it was the shiny kind- the cheap kind. It told me that she was used to a life of second-best, but what little she had, she was proud of, and it made her proud to give it to me. I took on the energy of that tape. There was shame, and there was pride, and there was so much love, so much wanting to share, to make someone feel special. I wept and wept. I understood that I was supposed to mail her a letter every day. It didn’t matter what I wrote. I just had to write her. To keep her company as she was dying. She knew I was a writer, and she wanted to encourage my gift with the few things she had. By accepting the items, i was agreeing. I was crying still as the boyfriend and I drive off.
I thought I might wake up crying, but I didn’t. I just sat in bed for a long time and tried to sort the dream out. I dream about my family quite a bit. (When I first moved here, I dreamt every day for 365 days about them- all the dreams were violent nightmares… it was a rough year). I can’t remember the last time I dreamt about my grandmother so vividly. In fact, I can’t remember if I’ve dreamt about her at all. There was no question about what I was supposed to do. Nanny wanted me to write SOMEthing every day. She wanted me to write her. I take my dreams fairly seriously. They are too vivid not to. This one especially.
I’ve been struggling with posting stuff here lately. I think my grandmother was trying to tell me to write SOMETHING, anything. Just to get my hands moving. Now that I am back in school (more on that later), I am finding the floodgates have opened. I am just having a hard time focusing on what to write about. There is SO much data coming into my brain… and I am taking lots of time to process it all… and as I do, the emotion about it all changes. I kinda feel schizophrenic these days. I suppose that’s just how it goes with writing. The trick is to make time to write at least some of it down.
I saw David Sedaris speak the other day. What a brilliant, brilliant man. He said he carries around a notepad so he can jot things down to write about later. I do that too… though the “later” part doesn’t seem to materialize for me like it used to.
Here’s the weirdest part about the dream. And i admit this is really weird. I spoke to a psychic a few years back. I did this on some advice from a friend. And I swear she got everything right. Everything. She said the spirit of my grandmother is always over my right shoulder, encouraging me to write. The psychic said my grandmother was saying that “You should write. I don’t know how to help you with the writing because my English is no good. But you should write. I support you”. My grandmother was born in Germany. I don’t know if the psychic knew this exactly, but she interpreted what my grandmother was saying into something like “i don’t have the technical know-how to get you published, or to even understand some of the words you are using, but i know you should keep going.” Ever since then, every once in a while, I think about that image. My grandmother gently pushing me to write more. I think she knew she had to make an appearance. I think she sensed me teetering out on the edge there, and she wanted to draw me back, encourage me to keep writing. I think she knew that my mind implodes daily with all that’s in there that needs airing, and she was trying to tell me to go slow. Take a little at a time. Write a letter a day.
Thanks, Nanny. This one’s for you.