At the tender age of twelve I had two recurring dreams. They came to me during the night and stayed with me during the day. One I welcomed; one I feared.
The lion cub was my responsibility. I fed him, combed him, and walked him on a leash. Everyone in the neighborhood admired my lion. He was strong. He was beautiful. He was tame and walked on the leash like a highly trained large dog. His muscles glistened through his stunning golden coat. There was no need for him to scare anyone into submission. All he had to do was look at someone, and they stood aside in awe. I was one with my lion, as he was with me.
A brick wall was being assembled and presently stood at waist height. A man was folded in half over the partial wall of bricks. He was face forward, slumped, and not responding as an unknown assailant, wielding a brick, hit him repeatedly on his back. The victim was not dead, but he was not resisting the attack. He was hit again and again and again.
I always woke up with a start after the brick wall dream.
I always woke up with a smile on my face after the lion dream.
Walking into the hospital, I held onto my younger siblings’ hands. My brother was on my left, my sister on my right. Aunt Jo walked ahead of us, and Mom was behind us. As we entered the lobby Aunt Jo took us to the side by the waiting area. We sat as she whispered to mother.
“He needs to see them.” Aunt Jo was a loud whisperer.
“…don’t think it’ll work,” from Mom.
I bent over and pulled up my white ankle socks as I listened.
“Yes, it will.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll handle it.” Aunt Jo turned to the three of us and crouched to our height. She looked each of us in the eye and said, “We all want to see Daddy, right?”
We all nodded. We were very polite children. Good Catholic children. Well schooled in discipline and respectful of our elders.
“Now,” Aunt Jo glanced at Mom, “we have to do something in order to see Daddy. We will play a game of pretend.”
Mom was nodding to us, yes.
Aunt Jo pointed at each one of us in turn, oldest to youngest, as she said, “Amy, you are going to pretend to be fifteen years old. John, you will be thirteen. Cynthia, you will be twelve.”
We were bewildered.
Mom chimed in, “You have to be older to visit Daddy.”
15, 13, and 12 instead of what we were—12, 10, and 9.
“It’s just a pretend game and then we can all see Daddy.” Mom knew we were confused and uncertain. We were good kids. We were good Catholics. We did not lie.
The cardiac floor nurse stopped us as we walked down the hall toward Daddy’s room. She singled me out, after being informed by Aunt Jo we were all age twelve or older, and asked me what year I was born. I just looked at her and said nothing. I would imagine the look on my face said everything she needed to know.
I believe the nurse decided to go easy on us and asked a question we children could answer without hesitation. “So, kids, what’s your favorite television show?”
“Tarzan,” from John.
“American Bandstand,” from me.
As we drove home from visiting Daddy in the hospital, my Aunt asked my Mom about the new construction in our old Detroit neighborhood. One single new home was showing some progress on the brick walls. “When was the last time a new house went up on your street?” Aunt Jo wondered.
“First one since we moved in,” said Mom.
Daddy got over his heart attacks and came home to us. My Daddy was strong. He was beautiful. He used to tease my Mom by flexing his muscles like a strong man on television. He watched Tarzan with us. We felt safe when we were with Daddy.
My lion was strong.
He was beautiful.
I walked with him past the brick wall.
He glanced at the workmen and they dropped their bricks, and ran away.