Yesterday my son dreamed of God. He told me this morning, and asked why, in his dream, he dragged himself on his knees from his father's Mexican home to his home here, weeping, when he believes that the dream could only be a revelation of good. I couldn't interpret his dreams; I have seen God, too, in dreams--and I'm the daughter of an atheist who forbade belief. God in dreams, I think now, is an absolute, just as God--the spiritual God--is an abstract. But why he should dream of God concerns me, because he and I have such different paths to the same truth. I didn't always understand that, though--I learned it on a day of inner torment and depression, when a bid for sympathy went awry.
Growing up, there was God--an Episcopalian God--who was present at birth and death and took little girls' nightmares away, at least sometimes. God was the reason that people sawed in two looked like neat hams, not messy corpses from horror films. Death was an unseen event that never happened to the rich, the famous, or those who loved God.
Then, when I was five, my father's infatuation with Ayn Rand and things "scientific"--he was an engineer, after all--convinced him that his children no longer believed. He explained why the idea of God was ridiculous, and how death was simply a physical state in which parts of the body quit working. Later, when I married an illegal alien, my father threatened us both with death--for awhile, I suppose, he became that pale horse's rider. I know once, in San Antonio, when I dreamed that he shot me, I felt the bullet pierce my skull. The next day, I saw my grandmother standing at a bus stop, and the eeriness didn't leave me for months.
My oldest son, ironically, was born on my father's birthday--June 29th, just four days after my own birthday. In spite of my alienation from family and isolation from anyone known to me, that was my easiest pregnancy and delivery. Months after my son was born, my husband was deported, and I moved to the border region, living in Nuevo Laredo for a time and then moving, as so many do, to Laredo.
My earliest exposure to Mexican cultural icons came through programs like Siempre en Domingo and Jorge Negrete/Pedro Infante movies. A popular personaje in "golden era" movies was la muerte--a comical character more often than not, it seemed to me then. Later I would learn about altares and Day of the Dead celebrations--but initially, I filed away the idea of death incarnate.
My first daughter was in intensive care for 11 days; both she and I almost died. Then I became pregnant with my second son; I was working in Laredo, crossing the river each day either on foot or in a second-hand car, with no medical care and marital problems that had escalated during the pregnancy. I had been advised against another pregnancy when I had my daughter; almost immediately I began to suffer from swelling extremities, fatigue, dizziness and a sense of impending doom. It was not until one night when I heard la muerte calling me--insistently and by name--that I recognized how absolute the unexplainable can be. I knew it was la muerte; it wasn't a dream, or fear, just undisputable knowledge, deep inside, telling me that this was death, and that she had a face and form and knew who I was. That night I turned on the light; during my pregnancy, I never turned the light off if I was alone. To do so would have signaled surrender to la muerte; I knew that.
Years later, bemoaning another betrayal and ungrateful children, I mentioned that I had nearly given my life for some of them, especially Gregory. Expecting sympathy--or at least derision--I told them how near death I had been. My oldest son looked at me, with tears not quite falling from his eyes. "I know," he said, matter-of-factly. "I heard her, too. You turned on the light. Then she called me to open the door." He looked away. "I started to go because she kept calling. But then I got scared and went back." He finally looked at me, trying to make light of what he'd admitted. "Do you think she would have taken you or me?"
I had goose bumps and was fighting a sense of disbelief. Somewhere, there must have been doubt I hadn't acknowledged--how could he have heard, too? I asked whose name she had called.
"Yours," he said. "Over and over."
Years later, fragments of that time--inspired maybe by remembering--come back to me. I was unconscious for about twelve hours after Gregory was born, and he was sick and I didn't see him for a whole day. Soon after I woke up, a Catholic priest paused in the doorway. "I saw you were Episcopalian," he said. "But I just thought. . .do you mind if I bless you anyway?" He did, and I thanked him--and forgot until recently that he had come from nowhere, and that his blessing had both relieved and frightened me.
Now, my son sees God in a dream. . .absolutes and abstracts. La muerte and God are not connected, as God and death are. . . he buys a lottery ticket. I pray.
Leslie P. Garcia