It’s not something I do very often.
I remember every one. Some more clearly than my memories of him.
He was there, playing with his vroom vrooms, smiling that ornery smile. I went to touch his wispy hair, but he ducked and giggled.
He was there, lying under the table, and still that smile. I kneeled down to reach for him, but he rolled away and giggled.
And so the dream went on. With him happy and full of life and always just out of reach.
But it was different than my other dreams of him. In every other dream, I have been acutely aware of the fact that he is dead.
Some are strange and dark. Where he shows up and I know it can’t be him but it is. And I don’t know what to do because if I tell anyone, I know he’ll be taken from me because no one will believe it is him and that he is my son. And so I hide him in the basement, but I don’t even know how to tell my husband and how long can you hide a toddler in the basement, anyway?
Some carry such relief. I wake up and realize I just forgot him at the hospital. And there’s this mad rush to get everyone ready and I’m stressed and trying to figure out how to explain that I just forgot him there, but really I’m not a bad mother and can I take him home now?
But usually, I know I’m dreaming. Like the first one. The day he died. I fell asleep and was there in the hospital, sitting in the room the nurse had told us he’d be moved to, looking at him in the incubator I imagined he’d be in, listening to the ventilator they told us would be breathing for him. Holding his hand. And waiting. But then I started to wake up and I panicked, because I knew that Tiggy was only there in that dream and if I woke up, I wouldn’t be able to sit with him anymore.
Or the time I sat holding him in a chair in the center of the front room. The house was a mess. Toys and clothes and dishes everywhere. My husband came home and was upset, yelling at everyone. He started to clean and I just ignored him. “You’re not even going to help?” he accused. But I didn’t care. “I only get to hold him until I wake up,” I answered and laid my cheek back against his head where I could smell him for a little while longer.
But this time, I didn’t know. At least not fully. So I just followed, partly amused by the antics of this sweet little boy so full of joy but becoming increasingly distressed that he was always just out of reach. Until I suddenly woke up, staring into the darkness and knowing too well why I couldn’t quite reach him.