Friday, June 20, 2014

Dreaming of Cathy

Last night, I saw my sister. Some people may be thinking “So why is that special?”. Why was that special? Because my sister died on 11.12.13 from pancreatic cancer.

It is not unusual for me to see my relatives that have passed on, beginning with my great-grandmother who came to let me know she was leaving me the night she died. From time to time I will reach out across the ether and demand that my grandfather come to visit. I miss him most, plus he's got all my critters rounded up with him on the other side.

My grandmother finally came through several years after she passed, finally in a place she remembered, at my grandfather's orange grove. She was looking for Pop and still a tad confused, but she finally had realized she was dead. She was waiting there for him to come get her, and my dog Kodi was with her, keeping guard until Pop arrived. When Grandma died she was in the early to mid stages of Alzeheimer's. She had more good days than bad, but when she passed she was in an unfamiliar place and confused as to why she was there. It took her sometime to shake off that confusion.

Nearly a month to the day before seeing my sister, Grandma came to me again. She was young, looking like a picture that was taken when she was about 20 – she was gorgeous – and rolling around on my bed with our cat Phred. Grandma didn't tolerate animals in her house, she'd only liked one of my cats who was so smart she got Grandma to follow her to her food bowl and understand she needed food. Grandma fed her because she was so smart. Bomber, the cat, did the same thing to Pop less than an hour later and when Grandma learned of it she laughed at Bomber's brilliance. (No wonder the cat was fat.)

Grandma had come to tell me she'd found Pop and that Cathy was ok, not to worry. I asked her why she was playing with Phred since she didn't like animals. Grandma's response was “I don't have to clean up after them over here.” And she laughed. A wonderful laugh that we didn't hear often growing up, but I had heard after Pop had a massive heart attack and Grandma had slipped into an Alzheimer's fueled regression to their early courtship. I laughed with her as she gave Phred once last pat before popping back to Pop.

Seeing Cathy was more chaotic and a bit confusing. Cathy was in a house, somewhat similar to the first house she and Greg (my brother-in-law) had when they first moved in together. It wasn't decorated like Cathy would have, it was spare, a bit spartan in design and layout and felt very much like a rental house and not a true home. The walls were white, floors a light tan carpet, with boring linoleum in the ktichen and plain bathrooms. Not a lot of windows, but the light was good. There just wasn't much color and whenever I think of Cathy's homes they were always full of color, life and plants; this place had none of that.

Cathy was sitting down in a chair, her arms across her lower abdomen and rocking slowly forward, as if she was having bad cramps. She had a wound she wouldn't let me see, told me to not worry about it, and that I had to go by 6:00. It wasn't clear at the time, but I kept feeling as if she meant early evening, not morning.

She was working on cleaning the house and was repainting when I arrived. Cathy was putting the finishing touches on the place before she moved; she was prepping the house for the next people. It didn't surprise me at all that she looked like she did in college, not like she did the last time I'd seen her – well, except for the tan and lack of glasses. I picked up a roller to help her finish the bedroom walls she was working on. I heard the crackly of the plastic paint cloth beneath our feet as we worked and was a bit surprised at how fast we were done.

In a kitchen, I found my nieces and my sister-in-law. At least that's who I though they were. They had to make cupcakes for a bake sale and the girls were demanding that I make them my famous muffins because they “hadn't had them when they were alive”. That made me do a double take because I knew all three of them were alive and healthy. Confused I suggested we work on the cupcakes first. Sandy, my sister-in-law, insisted that I help with the cupcakes, but said making muffins would mean I'd have to wash more pans. Cathy interrupted to say I couldn't possible bake anything as I had to go by 6 and that would be too many pans for me to be washing in between to leave on time. The girls pouted,, and again I felt a tad confused as they didn't exactly look like my nieces, although they were clearly family. I never got to see Sandy's face, just the back of her head and I had simply assumed it was Sandy I was talking to as the voice was familiar.

I followed Cathy back to bedroom where there was now an adjustable bed, one where the foot and head of the bed could be moved. She sat in a chair next to the bed, her arms across her lower abdomen again and she bent forward as if she had really bad cramps. I could see blood coming from somewhere high up on her thigh and insisted on looking at it. She refused saying it would take me too long and mentioned again that I'd have to go by 6. I continued to insist and she finally let me look at it. But she controlled what I could see, so while I could see the deep wound I couldn't really tell where on her body it was. It was a bad cut, so I stitched it up (I was a vet tech in high school, I was taught to stitch beautifully.) By the time I was done stitching it up, it was well on it's way to being healed over.

My nephews and Greg stopped by, with the nephews arriving later in one group. Greg wanted me to fix an issue with their wireless network. Cathy insisted he not bother me, that I wasn't there to work and had to leave by 6. While I identified the male as Greg, again it didn't look exactly like him. The boys stopped in to ask me to cook for them since Cathy was dead and couldn't do it. Again Cathy told them to not ask me to work and that I had to leave at 6.

I was a bit surprised to hear her telling family to not make me work. That tends to be all I do when I visit family. And when I went to see her in May before she died, I baked and cooked every day I was there. She and I knew in May I would never see her alive again, even if she didn't want to openly admit it and I didn't want to say it because I know that the fight with cancer is 70% spirit and I didn't want her to lose the will to fight. Even if we didn't admit it, we knew.

After the boys left, Cathy told me to lay down on the bed because she knew my back was bothering me and it would make me feel better. (I slipped a disc and while I was visiting had to do exercises that looked funny to help slip it back in place after standing the wrong way.) Before I did though I insisted on checking her wound again to make sure she hadn't popped any stitches while she'd continued to putz around the house when the boys stopped by.

She showed me the wound again, which was now completely healed. I pulled the stitches out for her and she was all smiles and laughter. Making jokes about our work for the local vet (she passed out when watching a surgery, I got too involved in what he was doing). I finally climbed onto the bed and laid down on it. It was soft, comfy and my back felt the best it had in a few years. It was heaven and I wanted to stay there for awhile.

Cathy climbed in next to me and started playing with the controls, first putting the foot up at a comfortable level, then putting the head up a bit. She started moving the controls faster, making me laugh as my legs went straight up in the air, then she folded me in half like in old cartoons. We were laughing and playing around like we did when we were kids (and not annoying each other – for once). She finally turned me into a pretzel of sorts and reminded me again that I had to leave by 6. She straightened the bed up and gave me a hug, whispering goodbye.

That's when I woke up. Right at 6:00 a.m. I was surprised. It was the first time I'd seen her since she passed and none of my other visitors ever mentioned that I needed to leave by a certain time. She had visited a cousin, but none of our immediate family had seen her. I figured she had some things she was working on and wasn't strong enough or ready to visit me yet, but that she'd come when she was ready.

I called my mom to tell her I'd seen Cathy and let mom know she was ok and moving on. I mentioned that I never really got to see Sandy, I'd just assumed she was Sandy, and that the girls didn't really seem to be my nieces although they were clearly family. I told mom what the Big Guy told me when I told him about seeing Cathy, and the girls who may have been my nieces. He had suggested that they were babies Cathy had lost, which really makes more sense as the girls looked more like Cathy than our brother. It wasn't until after talking to my mom though that I realized the woman I thought was Sandy was probably my sister Christina. I never saw Christina, she only survived a few hours after being born early in a facility without the equipment needed to keep her weak lungs going. But it made sense, as Christina would have been just a few years older than brother.

And the man I thought was Greg could have actually been Greg's dad, Richard, who passed away a few years ago. Greg's had a lot of loss in his life, having also lost his first wife unexpectedly. He didn't deserve to lose my sister at the point in their lives when the kids were grown and it would've soon been just the two of them – for the first time.

Now that I have everyone from her visit sorted out, I'm looking forward to seeing them all again. Hopefully next time I see Cathyshe will be in her new place, hopefully with no more wounds. It must have been a wound I created, or one that was created by both of us that had to be healed by both of us before she could move on. Either way, she's moving on and will find all that have gone before her soon enough. I really hope she's moving into the house that I helped create for her that had the aquarium that went throughout the entire house. It really is a spectacular achievement, that is reminscient of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Pop put a lot of work into that place and Dearie (our great-grandmother) had left her a fresh loaf of homemade bread on the kitchen counter.

There's nothing better in this world, and the next, then coming home to freshly made bread, unless it's coming home to Dearie's homemade bread. I hope I get such a homecoming when it's my turn.

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