The other night I dreamed of my brother Stephen. Now that he’s gone, that seems only appropriate. It made me smile to see him again.
Initially, in my dream, I found myself in a cute little cottage on a cliff overlooking the sea. The air smelled of sea salt and honeysuckle; the porch railing had rose bushes running the length of it. The place, although old and rustic was neat and tidy, adorned with gingerbread in a rainbow of colours.
At first, I thought maybe I was just dreaming of Martha’s Vineyard. After all, it is the place my soul is linked. Then I heard a voice call to me, “Hey, Andrew, in here!”
Stepping up the wide low steps, which creaked under me, I crossed the narrow porch and opened the screen door. Inside was quite the nice snug little living room. It made me think of our old cottage on New York Ave, in Oak Bluffs, just without the constant drum of cars zipping by.
That’s where I found Stephen, happily bopping about the room, dancing to ‘The Curly Shuffle’ and singing along with it. I rolled my eyes. Yeah, that was Steve for you.
I felt a jab to my soul. He wasn’t gone, there was still time to tell him all the things I wanted to, and we were together. We hugged, that wonderful activity he had introduced to the family, and I didn’t want to let go.
We sat in some nice white wicker chairs near the brick fireplace and fell into chatting. Oh, he had some big deals lined up. It seemed someone named Grant was coming to the Island and Steve was going to play host to him.
Stephen even had a bowling alley lined up for him to try. There was also dad; he wanted to paint the cottage down in the Campgrounds. Steve was going to help and change the wooden shingles to asphalt.
I told Steve to be sure to go with white, not black. That way the master bedroom wouldn’t get too hot in summer. Of course, they were also going to go sailing; be sure to visit the Yellow Submarine in Edgartown before seeing the Fourth of July parade and fireworks.
Then Steve pulled out the dominoes and we started a game of Mexican Train; he asked me about my life. How was Jo Ann, how was Alexa, and so on. He was always like interested, he wanted to know how people were doing.
As we played dominoes, a memory stirred me, a memory of loss and pain. Steve saw the grief in my face. I’m not the sort of person who can easily hide my emotions; as my wife says, I carry my heart on my sleeve.
Steve asked what was wrong. I told him. I had this vague memory of him passing away.
Sitting back in his chair, Steve thought for a minute and slowly nodded. Yes, he remembered having cancer, being in pain and confined to his sick bed. Mom and Greg and David, and his grandson, Thurston, had come to visit. There’d been Nick and Heidi, too, our niece and nephew.
Looking around, he admitted he thought it had all been a bad dream. After all, here he was, whole and hearty, living in paradise. Why would he suspect for a moment that he was dead?
I smiled, the tears running down my cheeks, and said, “Stephen, that’s to be expected. You lived on the Island, which is just about the closest thing to Heaven on Earth. Why would you notice the difference?”
Steve laughed his wonderful boisterous laugh and nodded in agreement. The dream began to fade. Pushing aside the small table between us, I lunged for him, intent on getting just one more hug. I was too late. Our time was up. I awoke. Tears were all that remained.
I hope to dream that dream, again, soon. I have a few hundred other things left unsaid.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.