A Cup of Coffee With the Folks

Reid Dickie

“There is always a moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” – Deepak Chopra

        I had a sister I never knew. Dayna Lee died a year before I was born. She was ten months old.

1965

            She had me on tenterhooks.

            Every day, in the week preceding my sixteenth birthday, Mom mentioned the surprise gift she had for me. Day by day, I coerced tidbits of information from her about the mysterious gift.  Mom was way ahead of me, of course. Everything she told me was a red herring.

            I came straight home after school on my birthday and found a note on the kitchen landing. “3:15 Darling, Gone to Phil’s for coffee. Love Mom.” I don’t ever remember coming home from school and not finding a note that said where she was if she wasn’t at home.

            Phyllis was Mom’s school chum from down the street. Mom lived five miles from where she was born. Phil lived ten miles from her birthplace. They’d been little girls together. Now they were Moms having coffee together.

            Frig snack in hand and TV on, I was prone on the couch when the familiar tinkle of the oriental chimes that, for thirty years, ‘rang’ every time anyone opened the door, announced Mom’s arrival.

            She gave me a big hug after putting her shoes carefully on the landing and stepping into slippers.

            “Phil wishes you happy 16th and a big kiss. Make it a wet one, she said, so…”

            Mom lathered up her mouth with her tongue and planted a big wet one on my lips from Phil, and another from her. Laughing, she handed me a towel.

            “So when do I get my surprise gift?” I could barely contain my curiosity. Mom’s tantalizing tidbits had worked their necessary magic.

            “Just as soon as I get my soda.” She plopped ice cubes into a ceramic coffee mug and poured in fizzy 7-Up.

            We went to the couch and she sat next to me. This was important! She wasn’t sitting in Her Chair. The cup of 7-Up sat on the coffee table beside the fruit basket with the beautiful butterfly spread-eagled under glass at the bottom.

            “Well, Happy Birthday son.  Dad and I pillow-talked this over and we decided it would be a good idea for you to know this now.” A long pregnant pause.

            “Wow! What can this be? I’m enthralled. Umm…”

            “Don’t start guessing. Just listen. Back before you were born, Dad and I lived in the village of Margaret, south of Brandon. He was a grain buyer. It was just after the war and we had already started our family. Your sister Dayna Lee was born in September of 1947. She was a happy robust baby, always smiling and laughing, carefree. We were new parents, green and scared, though I did have a good idea of the process having been one of six daughters of a midwife. You know all of this so far, right?”

            I nodded. I did know it all…so far.

            “This, you don’t know. One bright early May morning in 1948, Dad and I were sitting on the stoop with Dayna Lee, enjoying the sun and the smell of the apple tree in bloom. A stranger came walking down the street toward our house. There weren’t more than 100 people living in Margaret at the time so we knew a stranger when we saw one.

            “He was a friendly sort. Spoke right up and introduced himself as James Reid, a writer by trade he told us.”

            Mom paused and looked deeply into my eyes. They had named me James Reid.

            “He was older than us. I was 35, Dad 30 when Dayna was born. I’d say James Reid was in his early 50s. We invited him in for a cup of coffee. Much obliged, he joined us in our little kitchen. Bruce played with Dayna Lee; I made coffee, set out some cookies and we chatted.

            “We talked about the weather and the crops. He asked Dad what occupied him in the little town. We asked about his career as a writer, what he wrote about, his travels. He had seen some very strange places, experienced some incredible things. I remember he said he was having some heart problems. It sounded serious but he didn’t go into detail.

            “All the while he’s talking I’m thinking how familiar he looks. Where do I know this guy from? It became such an intense feeling that I couldn’t take my eyes off the man. Dad was bouncing giggly Dayna on his knee and, as James bent near to tickles her chin, it struck me. The stranger looked very much like Dad.”

            “He was a long lost brother?” I exclaimed.

            “No. Be quiet and listen. He even sounded a little like Dad. Anyway, at that moment, the telephone rang, it was Winnie Seeback, Dayna needed changing and was getting moody so James excused himself, thanked us for the coffee and left. No one else in Margaret saw him coming or going. He’d been in our house maybe 25 minutes.”

            “Ss…who was he?” My curiosity was dancing from foot to foot.

            “He was…” she paused, took a deep breath and said, “…you.” She watched closely for my reaction. Bewilderment described it accurately.

            “He was me? What do you mean? I’m confused.”

            “The resemblance was so great, son. It was you, visiting from the future, from after your Dad and I die. I saw Dad in your eyes and lips and on your brow and in the way you held your chin in your hands almost as if you didn’t know you were doing it. Dad shares the same mannerism with his own father.”

            “What did I look like?” I asked.

            “Like an older Dad, less hair, frailer. You were very handsome too, I might add. Your hair was cut very short, just like Dad’s during the war. Dad let his headful grow back after he was discharged, so you two were quite a contrast: Dad’s dark bushy hair and your sparse salt and pepper buzz cut, both overarching a similar face. You weren’t fat and you had a good tan. You wore blue jeans and a blue shirt.”

            “Good one Mom! You got me good.” I was sure she was pulling my leg.

            “Okay. Ask Dad when he gets home.” I recognized her earnest tone. She wasn’t kidding.

            “So did Dad recognize me too?” I thought I had her.

            “After you left I asked Dad if the stranger had seemed familiar to him. Dad thought for a moment and said he had a strong sense of having met him but couldn’t place where. I waited several days before I offered my theory to your father.”

            “Oh oh. He just became ‘your father.’ He didn’t agree with your theory, right?”

            “Eventually he did. As life’s circumstances began to play out for us, he came to realize what had happened. I was certain all along, a mother’s intuition.”

            “What did I do while I was there? Did I ask you questions? Did I snoop through your drawers?”

            She paused, pensive. “You watched, I guess you could say. You watched with a sly pleasure as Dad and Dayna played together. You enjoyed laughing with us in a certain way that only family can. You looked wistfully around the kitchen, studying everything that was on the counter as if you were trying to imprint every detail for later. You actually apologized for this at one point when you thought I’d caught you staring. You said it was part of the writer’s life to soak up detail but I knew something else was up.”

            “If you’re so certain it was me, why did I visit you?”

            “What are you saying, that you’ll never visit me after you leave?” She was being playful with me. “That I’ll never hear from you again? Not even a phone call?”

            “Maybe a phone call,” I jibed.

            “Okay. That would be nice. Why did you come to visit? You know I’ve often wondered about that, son. I never have come up with a satisfying answer. Maybe you wanted to meet your sister before it was too late. Maybe you were “shopping for parents.” I can’t be certain. Which is part of the reason I’m telling you today. Maybe you’ll figure this one out. If not now, then in about 35 years, when you are a writer. I’m so proud of my writer son.” She kissed me on top of my head. “Happy Birthday!”

            She got up and left me on the couch alone, befuddled with my gift, my mystery.

2002

            She was right.

            Tonight in my trance as part of my shamanic practice, I journeyed for myself. I journeyed to sort out some problems that were plaguing me; health problems, mental problems, spiritual problems, all the realms represented. It was late in my journey, with my power animals and spirit helpers out in full force that I went to Margaret.

            Webbed Flight, my central spirit ally, took me to the village, to the street, to the house, through the door, into the kitchen with the smell of the apple blossoms wafting in. He made me watch them first, their happy smiles and easy love evident.

            “Why have you brought me here? Why are they in black and white?” I asked him.

            “You know why. Watch. In a moment, you’ll visit them,” Webbed Flight said.

            I watched and saw them tending a person I’d never know, a baby that would be dead before the winter, claimed suddenly, senselessly. Their happiness was so full of hope and expectation.

            “You’ll visit now,” said Webbed Flight and I found myself walking down the street toward my parents. I was my current age, fifty-two.

            I did visit, enjoying every precious minute, gazing into the faces of family that wouldn’t know me for over a year, if ever. I saw the rooms that I would inhabit for the first three years of my life. I was nourished once again by the imaginal world, the realm of the soul. I found, inside this place, the connection to the personal source and the universal source that I needed to relinquish the pain of my problems.

            A healing happened there in that old kitchen with a new baby and strangers who were future family. On that day and in that way, a pang of the universe was relieved in a mysterious beautiful union, just as it always is.

Spring 2002

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