Dearest Rachel –
The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms
But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head and I cried.Johnny Cash, “You Are My Sunshine”
Such an appropriate tune to wake up to, sweetheart, on this third straight April day of overcast cold. After all, you have been taken away from me for lo these past three months.
I always hated this song, even when my grandmother would sing it as a sort of lullaby so long ago. The idea of missing someone such that you found yourself weeping upon waking up seemed so (not to belabor the obvious) terribly sad. And, like Riley from Inside Out, the idea of Sadness being an integral part of one’s emotions during childhood was anathema.
[A quick aside on that movie, if I may. I’ve seen and heard theories that Joy was something of a dictator, however benevolent, throughout much of the movie – and her character develops as she realizes that Sadness does play an integral part of our emotional makeup. But I would submit that there’s a time for Sadness to make herself known, and it’s not right away. There are many sadnesses we shield our children from, saying ‘they’re not ready to deal with that yet,’ and I think that exists on an internal basis, too. Joy dominates at the beginning of one’s life almost because she has to. As the sole positive emotion – and yes, I challenge you or anyone else to tell me that the others, while necessary, are anything but negative – Joy is reductive, whereas the others are cumulative. They all build and build until a line is crossed, at which point Riley – and, by extension, each of us – experiences a reaction of some sort, be it disgust, panic, tears, or even literal eruption of anger. And the worst of those emotions become permanent parts of our emotional baggage – they literally color our core memories, if you will.
[Joy, on the other hand, is reductive. Everything else chips away at her over time. Pixar didn’t use this analogy – they had enough going on in the movie as it was, so I’m not about to complain – but one might compare it to an enormous block of stone. Each of the other, negative emotions chip away at it over time. In an ideal situation, a truly rounded, emotionally healthy person might well be a masterpiece of sculpture, a David or Venus de Milo (with or without arms, as you prefer – oddly enough, it’s the deformity that makes her famous. Take what you will from that). But far too often, those negative emotions seem to be like jackhammers, or (at the most charitable) that ‘one more tap’ that splits the statue of our emotional well-being, shattering it and reducing it to rubble. All of this is what Joy is seeking to prevent, although clearly in the movie, she’s resisting even the first tap of the chisel if she can help it. It’s not her fault – she can’t see what Riley’s meant to be sculpted into – and, since the movie ends before she even hits puberty, let alone grows up – neither do we, the audience. But I’ve gotten myself waaay sidetracked, here.]
Anyway, the reason the song is particularly appropriate is that, yes, I finally saw you in a dream last night. Credit the fact that I’ve been going through hours of vacation footage over the past couple of days, so I can finally, clearly hear your voice and see your face. I’m sure my subconscious was assembling this simulacrum from everything it had absorbed recently, and presented this rebuilt vision of you to my inner mind.
If only it had been a pleasant memory or something.
I didn’t recognize where we were; I told us to be – naturally – on vacation, so the unfamiliar surroundings were most likely that of a hotel room. I want to say that Daniel was in the scene, but he wasn’t visible – I’m going to say he was possibly taking a bath. To be honest, for a dreamscape, this one was surprisingly logical in its structure. It probably made it feel all that more real.
You were calling out to me, “Sweetheart, where’s my…” and then, you were either inaudible or unintelligible, because I didn’t catch specifically what you were looking for. And now that I think about it, I wonder why you would ever be asking me as to where anything was, as you were always the one who knew where to find anything in the house. And I do mean anything – if you couldn’t find it, we were stuck shrugging our shoulders and concluding, “well, it can’t have gone far on foot. It’s in the house here, someplace. Maybe someday, when we clean this place, it’ll turn up.” And some of them have, albeit too late for you to appreciate.
But somehow, I knew you were asking for a dress or some other article of clothing. All of which, by now, I’ve taken to the folks to prepare for donation. “Ah… about that…”
And the look on your face…
It was upset, but it wasn’t anger. It was… disappointment, maybe? I couldn’t say. Somehow, I had failed you by not keeping something around for you to wear. And I immediately jumped on the defensive.
“But honey… you were dead! I held onto you as you…” I couldn’t even get the words out about you breathing your last. Your face still held a ‘do I look dead to you?’ quality to it.
I half expected you to quote The Princess Bride at me: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it a little” before once again asking for me to find you something to wear. But you didn’t say anything more, and the dream – and my sleep – evaporated at that moment.
And I had to write this down, even as I have another letter prepared that I’ll send to you a little later today.
Sweetheart, I do appreciate your returning to me, even in these little vignettes. But I do hope you understand what I’m doing, and how it needs to be done. I know you’d acknowledged as much, and while we wouldn’t have have been able to be this thorough had you still been here (after all, you couldn’t get rid of all your clothes if you were still here to wear them), you’d admit it was something that needed to be done.
Would that your dream self had understood.
But you know, you weren’t the only one to be disappointed. Just like with the song, to wake up after hearing your voice, and seeing your face, to a room that was dark aside from Chompers’ night light, and empty aside from Chompers himself, well. I may not have hung my head and cried, but I found myself missing you once again.
As if I ever stopped doing so.