Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Why do I dream so much?

If ever you want to construct a fathomable definition of a ghost you need only tap on my catalogue of nightly visitors: family, in all combinations, coming back to remind me of all that we were (or, in some instances, were not). My (long deceased) grandmother was here last night – we were showing her places she’d never seen. I take her on just one more outing, and now she’s leaving... Where to? Ghosts don’t talk about future destinations.

My sister, mother, my daughters, their dad – alive, all of them and still they visit me at night. Why? What’s my id up to anyway? It’s confusing to sort out. Thanks, superego. No, wait. Freud is so yesterday.

I’ve always had at least one foot stuck in the past. Maybe I run through life too quickly and so I have to replay it in my mind – during daylight hours, but since there aren’t enough of those – at night, too.

Sometimes I wake Ed and tell him loudly the details of the scene that is now fading as I struggle with wakefulness, alternating with drowsiness. He listens and says the ever helpful – go back to sleep. And so often, this puts me right back into the dream I left behind. Even if I don’t like it – I can’t help it. The ghosts need one last parting shot before they scamper off leaving me regretful and, well, lonely without their irksome but interesting presence.

What truly surprises me is how often I am, in my dreams, shepherding my grandma along, even as she refuses to recognize her frailty. I never did that in real life. She had crossed the ocean (returning to Poland from America) just before my birth, to help care for me, but when I became an adult and arguably needed her less, I crossed it right back, leaving her behind. Until eventually, in her very last decades of life, she returned to America. (That’s my family for you: some here, some there, and some in constant motion.)

But let me say this very important thing about my grandparents: there isn’t anyone in my entire family who will not admit that they were saintly. We all have faltered (I have a colorful clan), but they did not. They worked harder than anyone I know (especially my grandma) and they were chock full of optimism, spunk and rock-solid love (my grandma mostly for her family, my grandpa - for the world).

So I write this because of the dreamy misty skies out there. It’s raining, the air is cool, I’m working on my classes and my mind is drifting to the night’s dream and my grandma’s visit. Hi, Babciu (Polish for grandma), meet Ed.

My great longing to reconsider her life is pushing me north this week-end. I don’t know that I’ve mentioned here, on Ocean, that Dziadek, my grandfather, was a labor union organizer in America (the Depression blew his job in auto manufacturing right out the door). He worked hard and suffered ill health as a result. Eventually, chased out by the “anti” forces of his time (anti-communist, anti-socialist, anti-labor), he moved back to Poland. But in between his work in New York and Detroit and his (and Babcia’s) journey back to Poland, he built a house (he was skilled in all aspects of construction and engineering) up north, in Cross Village. There, in the healing air of northern Michigan, he and Babcia ran a guest house for Polish workers and their families. My mother tells me they charged $25 per week – room and meals included. It was a hoppin’ place.

So I want to see it – the house that my grandfather built on this side of the ocean. I’m off to Cross Village this week-end.

But in the meantime, I have the wet skies outside my condo and the ghosts inside my bedroom and really, this is one hell of a dreary week.