I dreamed about Joseph again last night...probably not surprising given that I thought about him all day yesterday. In my dream I was trying to get to the airport. My struggles to go wherever it was I had to go were complicated by a world that seemed to be an odd and jumbled combination of a cruise ship, a shopping mall, an airport and a hospital. I kept getting lost. I finally turned down one corridor and something in me thought it was familiar. A nurse smiled at me and pointed me toward a room at the end of the hall. I hurried into the room and Joseph was there beneath a red blanket, sleeping. I touched his head and in my mind said to myself that he would never wake again. I had a sensation in me that I needed to hurry and find the airport. I kissed him and I turned to go. Again I found myself in this crowded, bizarre place trying to figure out where the airport was at. After what felt like a very long time, I again found myself at Joseph's door. This time others were there, family members, and I tried to explain to them that Joseph was not going to wake up. But then he turned over, opened his eyes and he did. I was stunned, then overjoyed. I hugged him as he started weakly getting out of bed and he said he wanted something to eat. I brought him outside and the nurses all smiled like this happened all the time, and suddenly it hit me that I had been staying away from the hospital for too long, that he had been there all along and that the nurses were taking care of him. I marveld at that because Joseph absolutely hated the nurses and was just awful to them the vast majority of the time. I remembered thinking that maybe it was a good thing, that he had been forced to learn to accept having to communicate with them...And now here he was, awake, tall, walking down the corridor with me in search of food, smiling, not robust but certainly not dead. And I chastized myself for having ever thought such a thing and what kind of mother was I, that I could imagine my son dead and then abandon him to a hospital room while I dashed off to do other things? I could not stop hugging him.
Yesterday was a good day. Joseph is buried at DFW National Cemetery and I went out there to "see" Joseph and decorate his grave for his birthday. As it was Memorial Day, the cemetery was all decked out itself, with every roadway lined by large American flags and many to most of the graves sporting flags and flowers in red, white and blue. I have never seen that many people there. I brought Joseph flowers, a Happy Birthday balloon, a Spongebob Squarepants balloon, a couple of patriotic pics to stick in the ground around his headstone. As I kneeled in the Texas heat, decorating my son's grave rather than his birthday cake, military planes flew over in formation. A Harley Davidson club circled the graveyard waving at people with flags trailing in the wind on the back of thier bikes. People were taking pictures everywhere. There were old men in uniforms. It was really something to behold. I sat at Joseph's grave for a long time and watched the wind play with his balloons. Stewart had brought Nick and Alex out there the day before and they had put sunflowers, a large pinwheel and a teddy bear on Joseph's grave as well. With the wind blowing as it was, Joseph's headstone was having quite a party. It is a bizarre feeling, to sit there as if straddling some strange emotional line, one foot planted in complete devastation and bereavement, the other planted in a place of inner peace. But that is how it was. When I started to get sunburned I leaned in and kissed his headstone, my lips smooth on the warm granite. It smelled of earth and air, just like Joseph did and I lingered there a while. When I got up, people approached me. Perhaps kissing his headstone that way seemed odd? They wanted to know if I was okay. A toothless veteran assured me Joseph is in a better place as he took my hand in his own gnarled and calloused one. A warm, comforting Hispanic woman took me in her arms and held me as I started to cry and she told me her son made it back. I chokingly tried to explain that my son was in a different kind of war, that he died of cancer. She just held me as I started to cry from the compassionate outreach of these strangers. I do not know why they were there that day nor what about me made them react and reach out. They were not together. Two separate groups of people. It was a blessing, one I was ready for.
The dream last night has left me with lingering thoughts of him. I didn't get the memorial garden planted yesterday. It was very hot and after the cemetery my limbs felt like 80 pound weights. I had a quiet day with Joe, "cocooning" as he called it. I am glad I dreamed of Joseph last night. I got to see his smile.