the sky is gray and white and cloudy.
Sometimes I think it's hangin' down on me.
And it's a hitchhike a hundred miles.
I'm a ragamuffin child
pointed finger, painted smile.
I left my shadow waitin' down the road
for me a while.
my thoughts are scattered and they're cloudy.
They echo and they swell
from Tolstoy to Tinkerbell,
damned from Berkeley to Cornell.
Got some pictures in my pocket
and a lot of time to kill.
I haven't seen you in a long time.
Why don't you show your face
and bend my mind.These clouds stick to the sky
like a floating question "Why."
And they linger there, to die.
They don't know where they're goin'
and, my friend, neither do I.
--Paul Simon, "Cloudy."
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.
A recurring dream. What is it, why does it occur?
I have one that involves my late brother Tim coming back, and his turning out not to be dead, after all. It involves the repeated experience of his coming back, getting back into his old, alcoholic pattern, then leaving again.
The dream starts out with the idea of how wonderful it would be if it turned out that Tim hadn't actually died in Phoenix. This whole concept apparently was somewhat troubling to me. I got off into a fantasy about that possibility just briefly after his death, when the thought occurred to me that perhaps he'd sold his i.d. to someone and hadn't actually died himself--that someone who'd bought his i.d. had actually been the person who'd died. (See "Phoenix Sunset").
Also, in the immediate aftermath of Tim's death--evidently within hours of it--my youngest sister Ann's daughter, Anna, was raped in Houston. She'd been denied justice under the law--or, rather, had decided not to press charges against the boys, one an Anglo, one a Hispanic, in question, both of whom she'd known for years going into the rape incident. Though she was spared the trauma of a court trial, the stress of all of it on both she and her mother was terrific.
When Ann arrived for Tim's memorial service, she had seemed tense, but initially had kept quiet about it. But the night before the service, she went into the back room and tearfully broke down and told my parents and my cousin Martha about the rape.
At some point during Tim's memorial service, after hearing about the rape incident and realizing how Tim would have wanted to avenge it, I began to form a bizarre "revenge scenario" involving my brother-in-law Glenn, who is Italian-American and my equally strange thoughts and feelings about Tim's not really being dead. This was based on the fact that Glenn sometimes likes to use the occasional mis-identification and stereotyping of him as a "mafioso," to his advantage by making jokes about it.
For brief seconds, in my deep grief and shock over both Tim's death and Anna's rape, I began to dare to imagine that Glenn might have taken this concept seriously . In the fantasy scenario I then formed up, Glenn would have spirited Tim out of Phoenix with a false i.d. and sent him to Houston to eventually avenge Anna's rape. The entire incident of Tim's death would, then, have been a myth, propagated to cover up Tim's later actions in the Houston area.
It was probably a little sick for me to have formed this fantasy scenario in such detail. But during those few but long days after Tim's memorial service and before my trip to Phoenix to find and talk with Will Dodge, Tim's last roommate and sponsor, I'd wondered about it. At the very same time, incidents began to occur, perhaps in connection with the principle of coincidence or Synchronicity--because those incidents seemed to literally "outpicture" the images I had in my mind and heart.
In Synchronicity:The Bridge Between Matter and Mind, F. David Peat notes that:
"Synchronicities give us a glimpse beyond our conventional notions of time and causality into the immense patterns of nature, the underlying dance which connects all things and the mirror which is suspended between inner and outer universes. With synchronicity as our starting point, it becomes possible to begin the construction of a bridge that spans the worlds of mind and matter, physics and psyche . . . To view the world in terms of pattern and interconnections of individual events would not have appeared strange to the inhabitants of the Middle Ages or, for that matter, ancient China. . . According to such a worldview there are affinities between apparently different things and sympathies that act between body, soul and the outer world. Indeed all of nature was considered to be a single, giant organism in which each person had his or her own place. To become part of this harmony of the universe was the key to right action and bred a form of knowledge which was never separate from subjective values and beliefs. "With the rise of science, however, the universe was found to be describable in other ways. Heavenly and earthly were no longer of different orders, for both could be subsumed under Newton's law of universal gravitation. In place of mysterious affinities and sympathies [were] the scientific concept[s] of force . . .mathematically related...changes in motion. . . Anatomy. . . the germ theory of disease . . .Science, assisted by mathematics, was able to describe the universe in quantitative terms that had impressive predictive power. Using the scientific approach, any phenomenon could be isolated and analyzed under repeatable conditions until even the most complex of processes were reduced to a collection of known elementary units acting predictably as a result of the forces between them.
"At its height toward the end of the nineteenth century, Newtonian mechanics had become the model for all other sciences. . .[with] all phenomena explicable in terms of a handful of physical laws . . .[with] little room for values and meaning or the inner facts of experience and revelation. . .
"Quantum theory and relativity had a revolutionary effect upon this . . . transforming the formalism of physics . . . also . . . changing the worldview . . . associated with it. Neis Bohr...stressed that quantum theory had revealed the essential indivisibility of nature while Heisenberg's principle indicated the extent to which an observer intervenes in the system he observes . . .This participatory universe . . .this relativity of space and time, this interconnectedness of things, points to a very different worldview than that of Newtonian mechanism . . .Paradoxically, scientists have not yet caught up with the deeper implications of their own subject.
"The worldview. .. we . . . inherited from an outmoded physics still...permeates our attitudes. . . and suggests that every adverse situation can be analyzed into an isolated 'problem' with a corresponding solution or means of control. . . [S]ynchronicity can have. . . a profound effect on us, for it reaches beyond our intellectual defenses and shatters our faith in the tangibility of surfaces and the linear orders of time and nature." (2-5).
Driving down the street as I was coming home to my apartment two days after Tim's memorial service, I saw a man riding on the passenger side of a car immediately in front of me, just before I turned down my home street. He looked remarkably, synchronistically, like Tim from the back. The car didn't have a license plate, and the man seemed anxious for me not to see his face. He turned to look at the driver, who also looked at him, then slumped down into the seat of the car. That image almost seemed like the fulfillment of this fantasy scenario, as if someone were acting out my mental image.
About a block further, not far from my street, the car turned off. Somehow, this fed my fantasy, as Tim had always wanted to visit me at my apartment and never had. Perhaps, I fantasized, he was in Little Rock incognito, and was enroute to Houston to avenge Anna. The woman in the driver's seat might have been Martha or someone Glenn knew. Tim had always had the style of doing the things he himself really wanted to do, as an aside from other activities he was involved in. Maybe he'd arranged it this way, to be in this area , in order to see me one last time and to see my "new" apartment that he'd never seen. It fit Tim's behavior patterns and was strangely comfortable to me at those moments.
As this sideshow mental fantasy played out for a couple of days, I wondered about that car and the people in it. Perhaps if I could find where it was parked, I could go in and have a look at the drive and passenger. So I drove around the area around my apartment a couple of times, looking for it. My aching mind and tormented mind forced bizarre Could it have been Tim? Had Glenn worked something out that helped Tim do this? Or had there simply been a powerful synchronicity set off by the electrical power of my own powerful, confused emotions, by the enormous power of the loving heart of a big brother.
One thing kept this idea in my head. I came back from Phoenix with Tim's little bundles of clothes, including some jeans that had those hip pockets that were so instantly recognizable as Tim's because of the top corners that had those edges. He always loved those kinds of jeans, and they fit on him just the way those looked like they would have. It's difficult to describe, but I knew the instant I saw the pockets on those jeans, that they were Tim's jeans.
Yet, even though I had all that evidence that it was really Tim, I had brought one thing back from Houston that wasn't good for me in my efforts to put him to rest. It was a paperback novel in Tim's little bundle, titled The Executioner. It was part of a series of books on the same theme, with the same characters: ultra-secret intelligence (or other) agents who kill and avenge for a living.
This, over time, I think, gradually fed the Tim dreams on an unconscious level. Even though I know consciously that Tim is dead, I often experience this imagery in my sleep, when I allow thoughts to flow that I normally repress. This might explain the dreams.
In the dream scene where Tim comes back, I'm usually with Mom and Dad or my oldest sister Suzy, but I'm not sure I always am. He comes in. We hug. It is so real and I'm so happy to see him again.
It's always the same, just like it used to be when he'd come back from being gone for awhile. There's the happy reunion, then we gradually start discussing issues. Sometimes the happy time would go along for quite awhile. After awhile, though, Tim would shift personalities and become an impatient, irritable, sarcastic and mean person who had no tolerance for where he was or the people he was around. He'd then want to leave the area. Though he never verbally said it, he wanted to go get liquor
He could hang on for quite awhile sometimes, before he got into this "Mr. Hyde" personality. But as he gradually got into it, he got more and more unpleasant to be around. This was the pattern he followed when he was alive.
In the dream, I can't recall the pattern or if he always follows it. But in one of the last ones I've had, one early morning (1/18/98 a.m.), one of the last scenes is of Tim--or someone-- veritably shouting at me that they "weren't really an alcoholic."
It is this theme that I keep going over in my mind, too, along with the idea that it wasn't really Tim who had died. I keep thinking about the therapy methods used for Tim, which were those applied to alcoholics, and how they hadn't worked for him. Does this mean that Tim, therefore, wasn't an alcoholic? Was he misdiagnosed and, therefore, treated with the wrong methodology? Can this explain why our efforts always failed?
Does "Tough Love" even work, anyway? Even if it does work for alcoholics, maybe Tim wasn't an alcoholic. Maybe he just had depression or needed nerve medicine. Yet, I recall my mother saying that Tim had been treated for depression at times and had also had other types of "all kinds of therapy," including nutritional therapies.My mother, nevertheless, has recently reinforced this idea by saying that she now felt that Tim had Depression, based on what my cousin Linda's husband has described about his own drinking experience. He had a drinking problem at one time, but got a handle on it several years ago by taking anti-depressants. He hasn't had a problem since. But his drinking followed a somewhat different pattern to Tim's, plus he has Parkinson's Disease, which severely limits him, physically, more so than Tim was limited.
Of course, Tim was in bad health, himself, having both TB and pneumonia that he never allowed himself to be fully treated for. The last time I saw him, he'd also lost his dentures and had severe pain on walking sometimes, with his feet feeling like he was "walking around on the bones." This evidently was nutrition related, perhaps a deterioration of the tissues in his poor feet, since he seldom got to drive, having to either walk or get rides wherever he went most of the time.
Now, in these beautiful dreams, all that pain is forgotten. He comes back to see me, just like old times. Over and over, it turns out it "wasn't really him" that had died. We hug, we talk, it's wonderful and I'm so happy to have him back. Over and over in these dreams the theme is stressed that I should count my blessings to be so lucky to have my little brother back and that I shouldn't ever be mean to him again. That he wasn't really an alcoholic. That I made a mistake to try to treat him as one, using "tough love" methods. That this is what caused him to stay "sick" and continue to drink and to not seek medical treatment for his TB and pneumonia. That I've been given a second chance.
And then I wake up with the strangest feeling. There's a cover-up, an avoidance, going on. Tim doesn't want anything else to do with me, for the way I've treated him using "tough love" in the past. He resents my ignorance and hates me for it. And it hurts.
I first enjoy the experience of his coming back. But then there is apparently a scene in the dream that is too painful and I can't bear to remember it, in which either Tim or my parents, or other family members, "confront" me in some way about those times I'd been "firm" with Tim in following his therapists' guidelines about "tough love." In this dream my family has taken "sides" with Tim "against" me. I explain that I wasn't being "tough" with Tim out of hatred or ill will, but out of love, since that's what his therapists said he needed.
I think that in some dreams he forgives me. But I come away from them, always, with this feeling that he is still alive. It is most troubling. I never thought that, after two or three years, I'd still be having dreams about my brother being still alive. I loved him so much, and this kind of twisting of my emotions is hard to take.
Another thing I keep experiencing lately is this rage against my mother for making such a big issue of using the "tough love" method while Tim was alive. She was the one who virtually insisted that I do this. Now she's sighing and saying, in her own way of trying to cope with heartache, that "maybe we shouldn't have--maybe he just had Depression like David (my cousin Linda's husband) and just needed an anti-depressant."
Each time she talks like this, I have to remind her that she told me that Tim was being treated for Depression at a clinic in Arizona a few years ago, and had walked out. And he hadn't thought he had Depression when he'd talked to us about it. "I don't have Depression. I'm just an alcoholic," he'd say. Of course, that doesn't mean he was right, just that he was responsible. But I keep being troubled by the notion that maybe I went along with this "misdiagnosis."
There were a couple of incidents that I keep going over and over in my mind--really three. On all three of these occasions, Tim and I had words, as I told him how I'd lost patience with him. In all those cases, he didn't really argue with me about my having patience.
However, there were other situations when he said things to me that really stung and hurt, or in other ways hurt me or made me feel inferior. Certainly, he and my dad would sometimes run me down when I still lived at home. But I keep thinking lately about how long it has taken me to grow up, and how maybe that tends to prove Tim was right in some of the things he said.
These are the thoughts that are going through my mind as I have these dreams. These concepts are what I'm addressing as I sleep. In some of the dreams, Tim leaves again, back into his old pattern. It is as if I'm saying, "Even if he'd lived a while longer, he would still have been in his old patterns." And perhaps he would have.
It's just that he had seemed so close, there in Batesville, until mom and dad gave him the money he'd worked and saved up to buy a van. I told them to wait about another month or so to give him the money, to keep him from driving until he got a better handle on his drinking. I couldn't believe they gave him that money. They should have held it, I told them, and made him wait another month. In about a month, it would have been a year since Tim had taken a drink. Dad once said Tim's therapists had said that if an alcoholic can go a full year without drinking, many times they're cured. Another month would have been about a year. But they gave him the money, instead of refusing to for another month, like I'd suggested. I guess that was just wishful thinking on my part.
He could have hurt them, physically, if they had refused to give him his work money, which he'd given to them for safekeeping. I have to realize that. It's just hard to connect how strong he was, with how sick he was. He was a dying man, even as he was acting so tough and threatening.
These are the things I have to contend with, even all these years later. My relationship with my mother has so much to do with it. I can now see that my relationship with her has been convoluted and sick. My mother has some severe emotional problems and exhibits at least a couple of behaviors that are pretty seriously flawed. And, looking back, I can see that these problems of hers, have caused problems for me (though without her love I'd never have survived).
Likewise, my relationship with my dad is similar to Lynn's relationship with her mother. There are so many parallels. Maybe this explains why I can relate to Lynn at times, and can empathize and sympathize with her. It may also explain why we apparently had the same symptoms at times. When I was at the worse stages of my problems, I had mood swings, uncontrollable outbursts, obsessive behaviors and obsessive thoughts--like Lynn does. Getting away from my dad helped a lot. Getting away from her mother probably helped Lynn, when she lived in Memphis and in North Carolina. She apparently did better in those places, further from her mother's criticism..
It may be that, on some level, Tim responded to my lack of self-confidence, which was often reinforced by my father's seeming lack of confidence in me. He generally trusted Tim, though he was younger, with levels of responsibility that he didn't trust me with. Though she made gestures in the area of taking up for me to my father in the area of having confidence in me, my mother essentially went along with him in this, as in everything else he did. It may be that my consequent low self-esteem and low self-confidence were eventually reflected in my little brother's behaviors. Maybe he had to hide in a bottle the way I hid in my room. Though on one level he could "fake it" that he had more self-confidence than me, on another level, if I lacked self-confidence, how could he, as my lttle brother, really believe he could do it better than me?
I don't know how much longer the Tim dreams will last. It may take awhile for these unresolved issues to all be settled. Perhaps they never can be. If that is the case, I guess I will go to my grave, having Tim dreams. But probably I will eventually stop having them. After awhile, memory itself starts to dim. Time is our friend.
Peat, F. David. Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind. New York: Bantam, 1987. 2-5
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