The old lady in my dream

I dreamt of an old lady. It was a warm and happy dream. She was very old, maybe she was dying, but if so, she was ready. She was ready for whatever was to come and she was happy.

She was lying down and I stood at the head of the bed she lay on, so that I saw her face from above and upside down. 

“What is your name?” I asked, and she answered with my own. I laughed with delight. Never have a met anyone with the same name as me. She smiled a smile of absolute contentment and I moved to take her hand, and hold it, light and fragile, in my much bigger hand.  

“I have been looking for you,” she gave a contented sigh, studying my face, “looking for you all my life.” I felt tears in my eyes, and I knew it was true. I knew that she was happy just because I was there, just as I was absolutely content in that place, in that time, in her company.

I woke with a smile on my lips and the dream still fresh and clear. I wanted to hold onto the feeling and tried to tie down the details, and then I started wondering where it came from. There are not so many old ladies in my life. Who or what did the lady in my dream represent?

 My name came from my great-grand mother. A mythical figure, who married beneath her to save her reputation  and give her unborn child a father and a family, a woman who held up her head and raised the standing of her family through hard work and the ability to accept and adapt.

“My grandmother was a heavy woman with a will of steel and no complaints although life was not always kind to her,” my own mother told me long ago.  In my imagination, supported by a few black and white photographs, my name-sake was a dark woman, with thick, dark grey hair, even in old age. Not the white-haired, light-spirited woman of my dream.

Because I grew up far from my home country I did not know either of my grandmothers well. Both were small, unlike the large, loud men who dominated that generation of my family and very unlike the large, loud women who demand their place in my own generation. My mother’s mother took up as little space as possible and lived with cross-word puzzles, ladies magazines, knitting and television in a small apartment. A small life in a small room with windows looking out only at the view of her daughters lives.

 My father’s mother was small and hard, and pecked angrily at my charming, clever grandfather, who was also her cousin. She could be cruel to her daughter, but was a loving mother to her sons and a generous grandmother.  She had long hair dyed brown until she was very old, always worn in a respectable bun, low on the back of her head. She made black-current jam to die for, but I do not think she would visit me in my dreams.

My mother and aunts are growing old, but as I grow older too, they do not seem really old. Rather, they seem to be at the long end of a never-ending middle age.  I know them too well; have seen them in too many different stages of their lives, so none of them seem likely candidates for the dream lady.

“Inge Haxen, Inge Haxen, and we all know Inge Haxen,” the old song we kids invented and  sang  when going to visit our adopted  grandmother comes to mind, and although it is a long time since I have thought of Inge, she seems a promising candidate. A clever positive lady, full of fun and not too interfering, but always interested in everything we had to say. Her wonderful garden, filled with all sorts of sculptures and busts had a dream like quality about it which has not grown less with time and distance. She was an artist, and her and her much older husband, Olaf, had a bend for the philosophical which introduced new topics into conversations and helped widen our horizons.

Thinking of Inge I realize that I am being far too literal. I need to be more open-minded, more philosophical. I remember that I recently read an article about embracing your age, and that with a positive life-view and a healthy lifestyle you can grow happier with age. That miserable old people is a myth with no basis in the kind of lives we live today.

So maybe the old lady was me. I hope so.

Dhaka 2013

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