Tuesday, April 26, 2005

walking with a ghost

do you still think about the people who've died? i do, sometimes. they come and go, like the phantoms that they are. sometimes unbidden, like hauntings but not. i will wake up from a dream about someone who's gone, and wonder why they popped back into my head. i don't believe in ghosts, not the kind that rattle chains and restlessly wander the earth, but i do believe that people's spirits stay with you. they become a part of you, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

after my mother died in 1999 (OMG, already almost six years ago?), i saw her in my dreams a few times. the whole ordeal of her dying and the funeral and everything was pure awfulness, to be honest more b/c my father, my grandmother, and some of my siblings suffered much more than i did. for i had a difficult relationship with my mother -- we were not very much alike, and she could be horrible. she also gave me my first journal at age 12 and told me it was a place where i could write about things that happened to me or my private thoughts. little did she know she handed me the tool i needed to survive her random bursts of extreme parenting. on the other hand, i was lucky enough to come to terms with her and be at peace with our disagreements before she passed on. that helped free me from the more bitter memories.

in the first dream i had, i rounded a corner and crashed into her by accident. she looked at me, and i thought she was annoyed, as she would have been in life. but when she spoke it was about my dad: "i killed him," she said. in the dream i didn't understand, and i argued with her, since he was still alive. but when i woke up, i knew where that had come from: dad was understandably depressed and in that phase where nothing seems worth doing; his life seemed to be shrinking, and he didn't even seem to care. i was worried about him but couldn't really begin to figure out how to talk to him about it. when mom said that in the dream (and please understand, i'm not saying my dead mother was actually speaking to me in a dream; i am well aware that dreams are one's messages to oneself), i hastened to keep her from blaming herself -- something i likely wouldn't have done in life, since i felt she had a talent for bringing on misery. but when i woke up i didn't feel angry toward her; it was more like i'd let myself see a simple truth. i felt sad that dad was going through her loss, but i also realized he would get better. which he did.

tori amos again figures into this rumination, incredibly enough. her song "the beekeeper," from the selfsame album i keep talking about, has been much on my mind. it seems to be something about loss, averted. there is a line, however, "in your gown with a breathing mask/plugged into a heart machine," that sorta seals it in terms of making me think about my mom. b/c the song seems to be a reassurance that death will be kept at bay, but maybe the vow made in the song -- "don't be afraid/i promise that she will awake/tomorrow somewhere" -- is not that.

my mother's death was not exactly expected, but she was ill and had lived long and well, in her own way. parents aren't supposed to outlive their children, but i am not at the point in my life yet where news of my peers dying is routine. recently an old friend died of cancer. the story of his demise was terribly sad, but very human. it's the human parts of us that are the hardest to deal with. we want to think we have so many choices, an infinite gallery of possibilities, but these are slowly narrowed down until ultimately there's just one path. some of us take it sooner than others, and nobody knows for sure where it goes. but we all go. (although i'm still holding out hope for meeting that vampire in the alley.) anyway, this man was greatly loved; people traveled a long way to attend his funeral. my friend who told me about it was obviously in pain. but the news was fresh. you get used to it, even when it's unexpected.

and my friend jenn and i were talking last night at tori amos about the last harry potter book, in which our poor titular hero loses yet another loved one; during a crucial battle, his godfather is pushed through a magical archway covered by a black veil, entering the realm of the dead and thus dying. the loss is sudden and irrevocable, for all the magic at their command. and, as there has been in each of j.k. rowling's books so far, that is the thing that stayed with me after i closed it.

anyway, for me the news of my old friend's passing was kind of surreal, bringing back memories of fun old times inevitably tinged with his loss ... making them suddenly sadder and sweeter. i didn't know he had been ill and hadn't even seen him in so long, maybe 10 years or more? he was a musician, a bassist; my friend who gave me the news recalled how the girls would be drawn in by the band's pretty-boy frontman but would end up hanging around the bass player by gig's end. "he knew how to be a rock star," said my friend. indeed, with his geeky posturing. but in person he was fun to talk to and very sweet. once we got really drunk at a record-release party for iggy pop at chapman market. i think it was for the album after instinct. iggy played a set, with slash on guitar, and my friend and i stood side by side. he was so psyched. hah, so was i. b/c it was so damn cool. it was a gorgeous warm l.a. night, the market was a picturesque old-school plaza, with little fountains and greenery and whatnot, and people were just hanging around, drinking and being mellow and social. iggy sat on the edge of one of these fountains and dunked himself backward into the water to cool off after he performed. he looked like an albino fish coming out of the water with those pale blue eyes and graying hair ... but mainly just the eyes, the only spot of color in his face, his lashes all clumped up and kinda spiky as he blinked away the droplets.

it got late, and my friend walked me to my car. we were blathering on to each other about whatever -- god, we both loved to talk -- and suddenly we were kissing. and just as suddenly we were both so ... embarrassed. it was like, "oh, uhm, yeah ... g'night then." we never talked about it again.

i have not dreamed about him. but i wish i would.

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