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Past lives: picture courtesy Gemma Evans, Unsplash

Unexpected intruders in pandemic dreamtime

Past lives. Picture courtesy Gemma Evans, Unsplash

Hi Mum, everything all right?

No reply.

Morning Dad, how’s tricks?

Silence, not a word.

And why should I expect one? It’s been such a long time since we last spoke. Something like thirty years or more in dad’s case, probably going on for even lo ger. More recently with mu, almost in this century.

I’ll have to check as it is not the sort of information I easily retain. Never was any good at pinning down dates. Others in my circle seem to have memory banks of not only when major personal events occurred but also able to instantly produce the precise years of so much else, a mental almanac of trivia.

They can reel off Oscar winners, Olympic Games venues and medallists, hit parade number ones (plus many flops), Eurovision winners, the date of cousin Charlene’s wedding (and her divorce) when Diana died, Ashes victories, Wimbledon champions and the month as well as the years of every pop concert they have attended. And so much more.

Then there is all the other stuff – the dates when you said that, she did something else, there was that falling out with Steph and Harry, the redundancy, the disastrous holiday in Bali, the sudden promotion, the divorce, the purchase of the Audi, the broken leg … on and one, a life in instant recall, precisely documented and ready to be called in evidence for the prosecution of the defence.

Whereas me. I am at my limit recalling the year when England brought home the World Cup (Okay, sore point, easily remembered as it was only once and it was in … er … got it … 1966 … I think) and even stumbling over major dates involving my nearest and dearest.

Usually such lack of precision is of little concern. The past is, well, we all know what that is even if not who authored that cliché of a definition.

However, this middle of the night encounter with the parentals had left me nonplussed and disturbed. How long had it been since our last exchange of words?

Records checked in the chill early light confirmed dad died in 1972, although I have scant memory of the details surrounding it. Mum almost made it into this century, not breathing her last – which I do at least remember witnessing – until 1998.

All so many years ago yet here they were, not so much suddenly appearing on the doorstep but somehow already inside my home, drifting around while we made sleeping arrangements for these unexpected guests as if it had been agreed they would be staying over.

And not just briefly. There was an air of being at ease, comfortable with their surroundings, at home, settling in for the long term as a family group.

All very unnerving. Especially for one who claims he never dreams.

So vivid too. Like watching a home movie of happy gatherings.

Then, as the reel unwound, I felt a growing sense of role reversal. No longer were they my guests; I had become the visitor, returning to a family nest people by the long dead.

To the welcoming arms of mum and to dad’s firm handshake.

Conversation, although vague and indistinct, had all the hallmarks of conviviality, friendship and love.

The prodigal had returned. Was being welcomed. Encouraged to stay.

Mum kept reaching out, a pleading gesture, sadness in her eyes, urging me to remain with them. Far more emotional than ever displayed any in our real-time years; emotion is not in our DNA.

It was vivid. Physical. I recall struggling against her pleading insistence, but not the details.  Eventually I threw off the shackles, broke free from the dream’s restraints, willed it to go and leave me in peace.

Fully awake and soaked in sweat, I sipped a soothing drink and tuned into calming music.

Gradually I relaxed into some sort of normality, relieved to have escaped, although from what I remained uncertain.

And still do. Days, now weeks, later this encounter with the rellies remains strong in my mind.

A troubling experience, especially for one who claims never to dream.

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