A Dream Of Kooky Cousin
Dreams are unique. We have a choice: either to ignore or analyze them. Years ago, I began a “Dream diary.” Recording the most vivid dreams allowed me the opportunity to look at them objectively. There were repetitive themes and suppressed emotions that became evident when they revealed themselves time and time again. It was helpful in unravelling deeply buried feelings. I no longer had Hubby as my confident. In the old days we talked about everything.
In the wee hours of this morning, I had a dream about Hubby’s ‘kooky cousin.’ In the dream she was having a party to celebrate her 92nd birthday. She had invited all my friends, but not me. In the dream she fell into a river and drowned. She was then lauded as a great and important painter by critics. It was just a dream, of course. The dream plagued me, and I hope to unravel its meaning as I write to you, dear Diary.
Kooky is a loving word selected to describe Hubby’s first-cousin. I searched for others, but they were harsh and judgmental, so I kept the original. Cousin is only one year younger than my Hubby. We have had a long and constant relationship. She has been in my life for more than 45 years… in Hubby’s for 92 years. I have always been fond of her and called her frequently to stay in touch. She would call me when she needed someone to confide-in. I thought we were close.
A colorful woman who loved to paint (no pun intended), write romantic novels and read fortunes, there was no one like her on my side of the family tree. “Eccentric” was the term many used about her. In her youth, she ignored the boundaries that most of us observe. In her later years, she spoke her mind, admitting that she probably shouldn’t, but doing it just the same. She believed that she could read your fortune. A local shop hired her to do tarot card readings for their customers. She also had a private clientele, mostly people from non-western cultures, who believed in such powers and sought guidance from the mystical. Her hobby provided pin money and she truly believed that she had a gift. When she completed a reading, she was drained emotionally and needed to rest.
On many occasions Cousin offered to read my future as revealed through her tarot cards. I was not the least bit interested in her doing so. She insisted. It always felt that whatever suspicions she had about my life with Hubby, our marriage, past and future were revealed in those readings. She knew bits and pieces and spun quite a tale. She would try to lure my curiosity by saying “I had a vision which includes your Hubby and someone else but I don’t want to cause trouble.” The clear implication was that she suspected my hubby of infidelity, but could not actually admit it to me. She had known him all of her life, and remembered him as dashing and a flamboyant. Little wonder she let her vivid imagination go wild.
When she was well into her early 80’s she came to visit Hubby and myself in London. She admitted that she had been having an on-line relationship with an unknown man whom she was meeting in London. I was shocked. The danger of it. The risk! She could not be deterred. There was a femme fatale lurking inside her awaiting adventure. She met him over a coffee, and it was a tremendous disappointment. Little surprise. He was expecting someone about twenty years younger. She would not accept her own limitations. Even then, her reality was askew. Hubby laughed about her illusions, saying his cousin had always been a “free-spirit.”.
Cousin was quite a competent painter. She adored Florence, Italy. She believed that she had lived there in a former life. She returned annually to a small pensione to set up her easel and paints on its roof. In our home is one of her paintings of the red clay roofs of Florence. We went to see the little hotel in person, and went up to photograph the view for her when she was unable to travel any longer. It was quite touching to imagine her sitting there with paintbrush in hand.
Two years ago, to celebrate her 90th birthday, Hubby and I travelled an hour to join her and her daughter’s family for a small celebration. There were seven of us, in a local restaurant. It had been a year since we had been together in person. It was a tremendous shock to find Cousin had lost so much weight that she was almost unrecognizable. She was always a bit chubby, and very feisty. When we returned home, I called her daughter who lives in the same building with her mom. She had called me frequently to discuss her mother’s paranoia, obsessive behavior, declining memory and other beginning signs of Cousin’s dementia. Hearing my concern about her mother’s weight, daughter was surprised. She had not noticed the gradual but serious decline. I suggested that her mother was not eating. Perhaps she was forgetting to eat or was confused as to what time of day it was – and was missing meals? No one was paying close attention, and the result was clear. Her daughter appreciated my call and vowed to be more pro-active. Daughter’s life was complicated as well with an ailing husband and teenage children. There is only so much energy which one can muster when so many people depend on you.
That was the physical evidence of a decline which we had suspected for a while. She had changed dramatically not only physically but mentally as well. Cousin’s paranoid behavior, and extreme mood swings could have been tempered with medication years ago, but she refused to take what she needed. Her daughter did not insist. Daughter’s response to my repeated suggestion (that proper medication would be a blessing) was – “She does not want it.” I tried explaining that Cousin was not able to assess the benefits and should not be making this decision. Her daughter would have had far less stress if she had taken the reigns of responsibility and insisted, in spite of her mother’s inclination. Every step of the way, family members must decide what works best for them. It is not a one solution fits all condition.
Cousin and I were close. At least, I thought we were. Not long ago, I began receiving bizarre text messages from her. Terrible messages, complicated to decipher with incorrect spelling as a result of her increasingly poor vision. Full of accusations. I was stunned. A call to her daughter elicited the response “Forgive her, it is the Dementia.” Of course, I forgive her. Her last shocking message was “Do not come to my funeral.”
There was nothing to be done. I was the one family member who constantly was concerned about Cousin, and she has now erased me from her life. Dementia has destroyed her memories and left her quite alone. Her daughter and grandchildren love her. That will have to suffice.
Last night’s dream of Cousin was definitely a way for my subconscious to deal with the abrupt loss of our relationship. It was my way of mourning a woman who no longer has any need of me. Dementia is the enemy, not the person whose mind is no longer their own.