MY GRANDMA DREAMS
By Christina Reyes
“My Grandma dreams. As she dreams, she talks. Grandma Paul talks in her sleep. I thought it was okay at first. Her stories and tales were unique. I hated to hear some them though, but I had no choice. My mother forced me to take care of Grandma Paul. I didn’t think that Grandma Paul was that old. She was in her late sixties. She could do a lot of things herself, but not always. She did need someone to help her dress, and fix food at times. No one else wanted to do it. I had to do it. Although I was afraid at first, I stayed with her in the house. . . ”
Bria halted her writing. Grandma Paul was coming out of the kitchen. She laid the pancakes in the center of the table. She then laid the bacon beside them. Grandma Paul smiled at Bria as she went back into the kitchen. Bria return to her notebook. She wrote her last note.
“. . . . I was taking care of her every day and every night. After, hearing these stories, I suddenly became obsessed. I don’t know why; it was what it was. My mother came by the house a few times, but I refused to talk with her. I was angry. She made me take care of Grandma Paul by all by myself. When my mother did visit, Grandma Paul made me stay in the same room while she was there. I never told her about Grandma Paul’s dreams, or her stories. I do remember them as clearly as I remember when she whispered them.”
“Eat child. Put that book away.”
Grandma returned to the table with her tea. She put in her cube of sugar and stirred. After taking a sip, she proceeded to fix her plate of eggs, beacon, and pancakes. Grandma ate quietly. I ate likewise. The silence often killed me. I wanted to shout, but what good would that do? I ate along, and in silence.
After finishing breakfast, my tutor knocked on the door. Grandma looked at me. I knew the routine. I stood to get the door. He entered with a smile. I hated his smile. It was crooked, and mockingly. A tall man with a pressed suit, well groomed, and very articulate in his speech waited for me to smile back. I didn’t. He walked in to the sitting room.
“Well now, where’s Mrs. Lipton?”
“In the kitchen, cleaning up.”
“Well now let’s get started shall we?”
After my tutor left, I headed for my room. Grandma Paul was on the sofa, and yes, she was dreaming again. I halted my steps. I sat on the floor close to her. As I twiddled my thumbs, she began to dream. . . .
“Matte, I’m tellin you the truth. . .they aint here. . .they went with Mr. McGill. . . he took’em in his car . . . I don’t know where he took’em. . .we was just walkin along . . . he told them to get in his car. . .he’ll take them the rest of the way . . . sorry Matte . . . I don’t know what to do. . . ”
As I sat and listened, I tried to recall the story. As I remember mama telling me, Matte was Grandma Paul’s mother. I don’t know why she always called her mother by her first name, but her other children were missing, and for a long time. They sent out a search party three times, and they still could not find those twins. Mr. McGill had disappeared too. He was a new resident in Carver. Now he was the longest suspect of kidnapping they ever had. Grandma Paul was only nine years old at the time. She had gone into the woods to feed some stray dog, when the twins were taken. They were only four years old at the time. When she got back to the road, Mr. McGill just looked at her. Grandma Paul told my mama, that he just didn’t take her, and she doesn’t know why.
“Get to your room child!” said Grandma Paul as she woke up.
I did as I was told. I went to my room. As I sat on my bed, I grabbed from underneath my pillow my journal of her stories. Most of them was about what had happen to the twins and about Mr. McGill. After reading my journal, I called my sister Ann. We talked about Grandma Paul. Ann told me how confused Grandma Paul can get. I knew this already, from the day to day occurrences. She told me to be patient with her, and just agree to everything she says. Ann tried to convince me that she was crazy, but I could never believe that. I had to often repeat myself, and remind Grandma Paul of things, but at twelve, I always thought it was because she was getting old. I soon learned that she was confused because she had Alzheimer’s, but I really thought that she was telling the truth about Mr. McGill.
The next morning, it was the weekend. I was supposed to go shopping with my mother and Ann. That day I refused to go. Grandma Paul was more confused than ever. I thought that she may need me. I made breakfast, did all the cooking, and a slew of chores. When I finished I sat with her at the table during lunch. Curiosity overwhelmed me. I had to ask her about these dreams.
“Grandma Paul, where’s Jim and Jeanette?”
“Mr. McGill took’em away, child.”
“He’s a mean man. You stay away from that man, you hear me girl?” Grandma Paul frowned at me angrily.
“Yes mam’. Why did he take the twins for?”
“I think he wanted toys to play with”, she said looking around the room, as if something was missing.
“But there were humans, right?”
“Yea. That’s true .” Grandma Paul nodded as she sipped on a cup of green tea.
“You think that he hurt them?”
“Yea” she responded looking passed my head at something. I turned to look as well. There was nothing there.
“Where do you think they are now Grandma Paul?”
“At the Park.”
“The one we weren’t supposed to play in.”
“How come you can’t play there?”
“Well, there was men working there until the whistle sounded off, and we would get so dirty, that my mother would yell at us. After several whipping, we stop goin.”
Grandma Paul stood up and began wondering about the house. As she walked she mumbled to herself. She did that daily, and for hours. It was my cue to go to my room until dinner. I often wondered, if she did had memory loss, then how she knew how to cook, or do other things by herself. I guess she figured that since I was there, she felt safe. I sat on my bed and again thought about my grandmother’s dreams.
The weeks flew by fast. After the Easter holiday, public school was out for a week. I was happy to see the kids in the neighborhood play in front of the house. Usually, the kids would come out when I was in home being tutored. For the past year during the day, I was always home with Grandma Paul. My mother had a tutor to come and give me lessons after he taught at his school. My tutor finally agreed to follow the public school schedule. It was a good idea. He now had time to rest from coming into the city. He lived in Carver Illinois, where Grandma Paul use to live. My mother brought Grandma Paul here to Davenport, Kentucky so she could see better doctors than in Carver.
As I waited for grandma Paul and my mother to come home from their weekly doctor visit, I sat on the outside steps, I watched the kids play. I laughed at their silly games of tag, and sometimes I would join in. When I saw my mother’s call pull up I rushed to the steps. Ann, my sister was usually with them. This time she was not.
“Where’s Ann?” I said looking for her in the car.
“Not here. She went to Carver with your father.”
“Why did they go to Carver?”
“Family reunion, child” said my mother guiding grandma Paul up the stairs.
“How come I couldn’t go?” I somberly asked with my head down. I followed them into the house.
“Oh, child. You are going. Grandma Paul is going too. We are to have to help her get packed.”
I was suddenly delighted. I was going to Carver. I was packing as fast as I could. When I had finished, I helped my mother with Grandma Paul’s things. My mother and Grandma Paul’s were fussing about the clothes that she would wear. I felt that they both were getting old and right in front of me. When I got agitated, I yelled for them to stop fussing. I filled Grandma Paul’s suitcase, and put it in the front room. My mother followed me.
“What are you doing Bria? She isn’t packed.”
“Mother, I have been here over a year taking care of Grandma Paul. I really think you should not upset her, and trust me, I know what she likes to wear.”
Grandma Paul came over to me and pounded my face with her kisses. My mother threw the clothes she had in her hands on the floor. She went into the bathroom and wept.
“She’ll be alright. Where’s is your Tutor? Aint he late?” said Grandma Paul as she strolled into the kitchen.
“He’s on vacation.”
“Again? I don’t like him goin on vacation. That ain’t right. He left without saying goodbye.” Grandma mumbled.
I was ready to go to Carver. My mother was in the bathroom crying, and my Grandmother confused about a man she forgets that comes every day. I sat at the table and blindly waited for all the drama to cease. It lasted for an hour.
In the car to Carver, my grandmother slept. I waited for the inevitable. She started to dream. My mother kept turning her head to the right watching her. My mother was getting nervous and perspiring. She often looked back at me. I said nothing. When my mother put her head forward to focus on the road, I grabbed my notebook . . . and my grandmother dreamt.
“Matte gonna get mad at us. . .get outta there girl. . .look how dirty. . .I’m goin home. . .come on Jim. . .Jim come on now. . . “
Grandma Paul kept dreaming. I tried to write down all that she had said during the dream. My mother kept nudging grandma Paul as she drove, but she kept on dreaming. We finally arrived in Carver. It was Dark. Grandma Paul finally woke up.
“Thank God we are here” said my mother as she thrust herself out of the car.
Grandma Paul got off the car. I slowly followed. As we walked up to the family house, people came out of the house in droves. Everyone was hugging each other as if they haven’t seen each other in a long time. My sister Ann came next to me, and introduced me to cousins that I haven’t seen. After hours of conversation, we all finally went to bed. I had to sleep in the room where Grandma Paul was. Everyone understood, therefore no one said anything but goodnight. My mother kissed my cheek gently for the first time in a long time. During the night, again Grandma dreamt.
“They’re in the park . . . they’re in the park . . . bye bye yall. . .bye bye. . .”
Grandma Paul sat up. She hit me hard on my butt. “What Grandma Paul?”
“Wake up your tutor is here.”
“Grandma Paul, we’re in Carver.”
“I Know. Now get up and get dressed.”
“Grandma Paul, it’s the middle of the night.”
“Bria, get up and get dressed. Do as I say. Your tutor is waitin.”
Grandma Paul hit me again. The hit made me jump up and look at her real sharply.
“Get dressed, I said. Your tutor will be here.”
Grandma Paul went to her closet and put on one of her housedresses, and then put her hands on her hips waiting for me to dress. After I got dressed, we walked outside. It was still dark out; darker that it was in the city. In the woods, I followed behind her. She took a wooded path. I she was scared, but I figured since Grandma Paul lived here, she knew where she was going. In fact I was praying inside, that it was not one of her moments of confusion.
“Where are we going Grandma Paul?” I said tired and dragging my legs along.
“We are goin to the park, now come on.”
“I gotta go get the twins. They still at the park. Now catch up.”
I ran up to Grandma Paul’s side and held onto her hand. She was the nine- year old kid again. She was taking me to the park where she and her twin siblings once played. I was now awake and anxious to see it. As we walked she mumbled to herself.
“That Mr. McGill took’em and he going to bring them home. Yes he is. I aint afraid of you no more Mr. McGill. I aint afraid of you no more. You gonna bring my twins back!”
“Grandma Paul, when was the last time you been in Carver?” I said try to keep the pace of her steps.
She didn’t answer. I pulled on her hand and asked again.
“It’s been over sixty years, why?”
“When was the last time you were at the park?”
“I said, it has been over sixty years, now come now, we are almost at the park.”
When we arrived, I halted my steps. I walked slowly in to the park. It wasn’t a park at all. It was a gravel yard. I saw nothing but gravel stones and sand mountains. There was nothing here to play with. How could she and her twins play in the dirt? I ran to catch up with her. Grandma Paul was still walking to the back of the gravel yard. She turned to the right and went up to the trailer. Grandma Paul banged on the door until the lights came on.
“Grandma Paul. What are you doing? We aren’t supposed to be here.”
“He got my twins! I want them back!” she yelled fiercely at me.
I backed up. This was the first time she had ever scared me enough not to challenge her.
The door to the trailer opened up. I was shocked. The man invited us in.
“I knew that it was a matter of time before you showed up. Come on in.”
“Where are they?!” Grandma Paul yelled at the man.
“They’re close. Please have a seat. Let me get some tea.”
“I don’t want no tea! I want Jim and Jeanette! Now where are they?”
“Fine. Let me get dressed” said the man as he went across the trailer and drew the curtains.
Grandma Paul walked about the trailer. “What a mess!” she started to clean up the trailer. She went to the stove and put on a pot of coffee. I stared at the place and at the behavior of Grandma Paul. I also wondered about the man who opened the door.
My tutor came out from the curtains. He just stared at me. He said nothing. I, likewise remained silent. I watched my Grandma Paul wipe his counter. I was afraid for the first time to look at him. He sat in a chair near the door for Grandma Paul to finish cleaning his place. All of a sudden, without looking at me, he spoke.
“This is my father’s place. I live in the city. My father died long time ago. My mother and I moved to Michigan before the divorce. My father had a horrible drinking problem. When my mother left, my father had no one to care of. He felt incomplete, if that makes sense to you. He had to have someone near him. He took the twins, and brought them to Michigan. He said that he had gotten married again and had the twins. We knew that wasn’t true . We read the papers. We tried to convince him to take them back. He left Michigan and we hadn’t heard from him since. That was several years ago. I just came back to Carver for the first time, a few days ago.”
My tutor looked at me with sad eyes, and then continued. “I went to a familiar place just yesterday . . . the school’s basement. My father was the janitor there. He was drinking one day during a fire drill. When the staff found him in the basement asleep they fired him. That’s when he really started drinking a lot.” My tutor sighed and wiped his face with both hands. He looked up as if he was praying for solace. “There’s a hidden cellar down in that basement. He put me inside when he claimed that I was being bad. When I told my mother what he did, that’s when we moved to Michigan.”
“Well here’s your coffee. Drink up and let’s go.” Grandma Paul slammed the coffee cup on the table.
“Let’s go get the twins, Mrs. Lipton.” My tutor stood up and opened the screen door.
“How you know my name?”
“You are Paulette Lipton, and I am Daniel Rynes. My Father was Fred McGill. We are going back to the school to get your twin siblings. Come let’s go for a ride.”
“I can’t go for no ride. No not right now.” Grandma Paul shook her head and started to mumble to herself.
I went over to Grandma Paul and gave her a loving hug around her waist. As I looked up seeing her face, I felt a warm tear stream down my face. She finally remembered me. “Grandma Paul, let’s go take the twins home.”
“Oh, where are they? Are they here?” Grandma Paul asked as she looked at my tutor and me.
“No. Allow me to take you where they are. Bria will be next to you. She won’t leave you.”
We all got into my tutor’s truck. The school was right behind the gravel yard. We drove out of the yard and turned left. Another left was the school parking lot. Grandma Paul and I followed Mr. Rynes to the back of the school. He had the keys to the staff entrance. Once in the school, he lead us to the Basement. My Grandma Paul kept mumbling about how she remembers the school. She was giving us a tour of the classes she had and the teacher’s names. I was getting agitated. I just wanted to get the twins and leave. In the basement, I was cold. We arrived to cellar, which was at the far end of the basement and hidden behind crates and boxes of schoolbooks. The lock to the cellar had been broken off.
“Their inside. They are not alive, child. They had been here a long time. I sorry to bring you here. Tomorrow was when I was going to notify the sheriff, but it seems that fate lead me to show you what I just found out myself. You are a mature girl, so I know that you aren’t afraid to help me. Am I right?”
“Yes.” I responded with tears forming in my eyes. I looked over at Grandma Paul. She was wandering off, looking at the things in the cellar. She was talking to herself about the books she found, old desks alongside the wall, and classroom items that she thought I could use in my studies.
I helped carry one of the bagged twins back to the truck. Tears flowed down my face uncontrollably. I tried to remain the brave girl that my tutor said I should be. I couldn’t remember if Grandma Paul followed us. I didn’t look back. When the tutor took the twin off from my shoulders, he knelt down and hugged me for a long time. He waited for me to stop crying.
“You are the bravest girl, I have ever met. You are going to be all right Bria. Don’t ever leave your Grandma Paul. She will have no one if she doesn’t have you. Now let’s take the twins home.”
I got in the truck. Grandma Paul was already sitting there fumbling through a book she took from the cellar.
“I use to read this book to the twins. It’s a good book. They like this book. You like this book Bria?”
I couldn’t answer. I stared out the window, stifling my cries.
We returned to the house in Carver about mid-day. When we arrived everyone ran to Mr. Rynes’ truck. He explained to the men that crowded him what had happened. My mother yelled at me for not controlling my grandma Paul, and not waking her up during the night. I wanted to explain, but I just didn’t know how. Mr. Rynes talked with the sheriff alone, and for a long time. He walked to the back of his truck. He pulled the cover off. Those who surrounded the truck were in shock. The women wept. Grandma Paul took my hand. She lead me into the house, away from the spectacle.
“We saw enough child, we don’t need to see no more. “
I said nothing. Grandma Paul and I walked into the house silently.
My mother and I returned to the city a week later. The newspapers told the sixty-year story. My tutor still came on a regular basis. My Grandma Paul kept mumbling her dreams in her sleep. Because it was the same dream, I stopped listening. When Grandma Paul died ten years later, I put my notebook in her casket. It had my picture on it. My mother also died a year later. My sister Ann got married and moved back to carver. I stayed at Grandma Paul’s house.
The happiest day of my life was when the mailman delivered a packaged to the house. It was from my sister Ann. When I opened it, I was in tears. It was my journal. I read the attached note.
“This is your remembrance of Grandma Paul. I must agree with her when she says, “Don’t always bury the past”. She gave you her best dream of all, which was seeing her twins again. And now she lives with them, so they are all together forever thanks to you Bria . . . your mother.”
I read the journal once a year and think of the dream my Grandma Paul had.