The title of this post is taken from a letter Charlotte Bronte wrote to her dear friend Ellen Nussey, just after her sister, Emily Bronte, died of consumption (i.e. tuberculosis). "A sister, gone like a dream..."
That is such a sad thought, and a beautiful thought at the same time, although I'd imagine the reality of death is not often beautiful.
It was not beautiful the one time I watched it unfold, nor was or is it poetic when I am trying desperately to prevent it from claiming my child.
I too had a sister, gone like a dream. But it's Benjy who takes me back to that tiny cursive sob, penned on paper now yellow and brittle, around 170 years ago in Yorkshire. I held that very paper in my hands once, and took in Charlotte's controlled anguish. I tried not to drop my tears on it because it was fragile and terribly important and I did not wish to spoil it.**
It feels right and it feels wrong that I think of Charlotte Bronte and her bereavement -- an entire family, and a large one, dead before she hit middle age, and she herself buried beside them so that the father, Patrick Bronte, was the last one standing -- when I pine for Benjy.
In a letter to Ellen -- it might or might not be that same one, my memory fails me -- there speak three small but chilling words: Emily is dead.
My god, that is heart-breaking.
Benjy is not dead, just away. But he is a son gone like a dream.
It has been almost ten weeks. We speak most nights. Have visited him there, three times. And yet, his absence keeps surprising me, because he is in many ways so present.
I expect to hear his footfalls on the stairs, and then I am disappointed. It is only Saskia's, or Lars's steps I hear. It's not that I don't want to hear that they are with me, my beloved two. It's just that -- well, that one right angle of the square that is our family has disappeared, and the equation I had learned to understand no longer computes.
That's just a pretentious way of explaining that the old life seems like a fleeting dream. I can be pretentious sometimes.
BUT. I need to let you know that my boy flitted in and flitted out this weekend, his first visit home since starting the new school, and for a precious twenty-four hours our family was whole again.
Here for a wonderful 24 hours. Gone again, like a dream.
Mostly it was great. We had some rough spots. Some tears. We also had lots of sporty stuff going on -- tennis, biking, football tossing (Lars's domain, not mine).
But look, here's the best thing of all. We have renewed hope. When there is more time and less on my plate I will post a bulleted list of all the things Ben can now do -- things that many parents of young teens take for granted, but not us. He is as smart as a whip and completely impaired at the same time. An odd thing, but there it is.
Thanks to this new life he is leading, the impairments are very slowly diminishing. The smarts are still there, and with less anxiety and depression to hold them back, and many new life skills gained, I think some good things lay in store for my boy.
Happy, happy me!
** I have a short-short essay about the day I held that letter of Bronte's in my hands and tried not to cry all over it, coming out soon (I hope). Stay tuned.