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Mac and Cheese

dick and mary at fountainEarlier this week I toured one of the long-term care homes in Kitchener. My time there included a visit to the day program for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. We didn’t interrupt the activities that were underway, but stood off to the side watching and listening for a little while. I also saw the rooms where overnight accommodation is provided for respite care. In one room there are two beds, one for the person with Alzheimer’s, the other for his or her caregiver.

The two-bed room sparked for me the memory of how, in the months before he passed away, my mother could not bring herself to leave my father for any length of time. She eventually accepted help in their home so that she could be in a different room and sleep, or try to, for a short time. But she had to be nearby always. I don’t know if she would have taken advantage of overnight respite care had it been available at the time, but I am glad the option exists now.

I was thinking about this visit last night when I decided to look through my journals for the basis of today’s Author Note.  (I had been planning an update about the importance of finding the right material, but since I still haven’t decided whether to go with the red or gray fabric I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, that update would have been premature). In any case, I wasn’t looking for anything related to my parents, but that’s actually what I found. It’s a story that made mother and daughter smile on a morning in 2004. And it did the same for me yesterday:

I smiled as my eyes opened and greeted the day. January 25th. My parents’ wedding anniversary, their 51st if my father had been alive. But he wasn’t. In fact he had died almost ten years before, and indeed, had been disappearing for many years before that. So my mother had not had happy anniversaries for 15, maybe even 20 years.

I knew this all too well, having lived through most of them with her. But on this anniversary I was smiling, because just moments before I’d opened my eyes, my father and I had been in the kitchen of my childhood home. Standing with empty bowls in our hands. Waiting for my mother to fill them with macaroni and cheese.

It was one of those dreams where the feeling is vivid, the recognition complete. It was one of those dreams where there’s no doubt that more than your own subconscious is at work. It was one of those dreams that is more real than reality.

I awoke smiling because my dad had visited on this special day. And for some unknown reason, we were eating macaroni and cheese.

When I called my mother a short time later to see how she was coping with the day and told her about the dream, I smiled again.

“Macaroni and cheese?” she said. “What do you mean macaroni and cheese? Your father loved my macaroni and cheese because he knew it was the only dish I ever cooked that would always taste the way it was supposed to… and  just the way he liked it.”

I hadn’t known that. Didn’t have a clue he’d teased her for years about loving her consistent macaroni and cheese. But my mother knew his visit was real… because I was the messenger, and because there was mac and cheese.

Miles were nothing that morning. Distance across space and times and lives was nothing, as we each heard the other’s smiles… and talked about mac and cheese.

Some dreams, I’ve come to realize, are not dreams at all. Some dreams are so much more.