I remembered I had dreamed of my Granddad. He was alive, and there was nothing strange about it. He was alive, but still sick - still dying, still being eaten from the inside by two terminal cancers. Still holding a ticking time bomb in his chest, pulsing at the joining of his rib cage: a abdominal aortic aneurism. The one he refused to have operated on a second time, because dying from a triple-A is much faster, much less painful than dying from cancer.
But something was different. The house was the same: dreamy, yes, but more accurate than most dream settings. The slant of the house built into a hill. The color of the walls. I think it even smelled the same - can you smell in dreams?
What was different was my Granddad. What was different was he looked how I remember him from before - before he was really dying. Before, when he was living on borrowed time, when he was robust and healthy, with that deep voice, the rattle of it. He had a big belly - all the treatments and health problems - he was ashamed of, because he was always so fit and strong and vital. When he was young, he cycled regular with his big German shepherds and Irish wolfhounds. He lifted weights. My mom says she remembers her big, strong daddy holding her when she was tiny, disappearing in his arms.
I looked at him, and his face was full of color. He had more hair - not much, still, but more. His cheeks were full, and he was smiling, laughing. Telling stories.
And Shannon was on his way. Shannon, who never got to meet him, because every time we tried, he was too sick to receive more guests than just family. He was on his way: I don't know from where, and I don't know why we didn't arrive together, but I remember being thrilled, so excited that the love of my life would finally meet my Granddad, and my Granddad would meet him. Tell him stories in that deep voice of his. Make him laugh hysterically from jokes I had heard a hundred times, but never stopped being hilarious.
He collapse to the floor, and I don't know if he was breathing, if his heart was beating, if it was the triple-A, or something else. I remember calling for help, insisting he needed his painkillers, which I knew were in the refrigerator (not because they need to be kept cold, but everyone knew where they were, without hesitation, without confusion, when they were needed) - I called out that he needed his... his... I couldn't think of the word "morphine" and instead said "heroin" insistently.
I woke up to the sound of my alarm, forgetting, only to remember later, sipping water and swallowing a gel pack before my run. I ran into the memory like a wall, and had to remember how to breathe. How not to simply lie on the floor waiting to be rescued. How to keep moving, pick up my feet, one in front of the other. How to walk. How to run.
This September 11th, it will have been two years. I live in denial - in forgetfulness - most of the time.
But the wall of memory sneaks up on me when I vulnerable, sleeping, dreaming. Dreaming of my Granddad alive, healthy. Rosy-cheeked and laughing.
And I remind myself to breathe. To walk. To run. To live.