They said maybe a week. It had been what – two, two and a half days already? And then what? She looked at her dresser and then at the chair in the corner of the room. There was a lot of medical equipment on the dresser, not the things that should be there, and across the chair lay her bathrobe. She had always liked that bathrobe; just the right weight and fabric for all four seasons. Nice color too; her favorite, blue.
She stared at the phone on the nightstand. Phones were made for calling people and sharing news. People talked about stuff. Usually not important stuff, never really about feelings or dreams or fears, but stuff nonetheless. But what news did she have to share? What stuff had been left unsaid? And did anyone truly care about her dreams or fears now? Certainly no one seemed comfortable talking about them. All they talked about, at a time like this, were odd things, like the weather outside her room or what they’d had for lunch. Surely not her dreams or longings. And then she tried to remember anybody who really ever cared about them, much less actually understood? Yet here she was with maybe only three or four days to go. And then what?
After all these years, did Ben really know what was in her heart? At first she had thought so. She had married him because he was the first man to look deeply into her eyes when she spoke and the first man who knew how to listen instead of just talk. And when he did talk, he shared his dreams, and she felt certain that he must therefore understand hers. But now, with only days to go, she wasn’t so certain anymore, since most of her dreams simply hadn’t come true. They were in love, the best she knew it, but they were never really quite in synch. They shared so much – home, children, vacations, responsibilities – but was sharing the same thing as being soul mates? Soul mates – that was the phrase that was all the rage in the 70s – but for most sharing and caring was about as close as any two people ever really got to the essence of the concept.
Even with her children, a lifetime of conversations seemed most often about doing rather than being. What are you doing (how’s it going) in school or sports or jobs or whatever possessions were purchased? She couldn’t remember actually ever saying, “are your dreams coming true?” Activities, activities, activities, keep the ball rolling. That’s what seemed to matter; if you’re staying busy you must be doing well. You must be alive. Your soul must be getting nourishment. Who knows; maybe people just don’t talk like that to one another. Maybe it isn’t normal. But with less than a week to go, she didn’t care about normal anymore; she just wanted to really, really know somebody and to have somebody really, really know her.
She was quite sure that her family and friends would have fond memories of her. After all, they truly had been a close family. But would the memories be of things or thoughts? Would people say, “Remember when we went camping or for that boat ride or when we all got caught in the rain at the baseball game and Grandma only brought a tiny little umbrella? Or would they recall, “Remember when mom taught us dreaming or personal integrity or taking care of the less fortunate.” What exactly would be her legacy? Or did legacy really matter at all – once you’re gone, you’re gone?
She turned her head and looked out her bedroom window. Sunlight hit the window at an acute angle. Autumn was waning and she could see the maple trees dropping their leaves. They floated past her window as they descended, covering the ground in the side yard. Soon to be her fate, she thought; dry leaves curled up at the edges, blowing across the ground in a cemetery. She looked at her hands. How quickly that would happen, how short had been her life, how swiftly would her reveries become an afterthought as life went on. She should have written it all down. After Ben was gone, would any of her dreams really matter to anyone else?