Dreams, Covid, and Incomprehensible Modern Tasks
My grandfather had an enormous sprawling house in a seaside town in Connecticut that I used to visit during the summer when I was very young.
He’s been dead forever now — he expired twenty five years ago, 1998, from, technically, a cardiac arrest, but nontechnically it was his depression and eventual refusal to eat anything that did him in. The last year of his life he was in the hospital suffering from — well, just suffering in general. After he died, there was no one left to stop the kids from selling the house, so they did.
So I woke up this morning thinking about him because in my dream, he’d just passed a couple of days ago, and I bought his house. It’s the first vivid dream I’ve had since taking these lexapro drugs for the depression of my own — it’s been two straight months of zero dreams, which I found to be strange, because my entire life up to Lexapro, I’ve had at least a few a week, the stunningly clear variety, the sort where it’s hard to believe you’re dreaming.
He died and the house was available and I bought it, just like that. That’s where the dream started. Me, entering the house for the first time in two and a half decades, checking it out, taking a look at exactly what it was that I bought. It’d been built in the seventies back when it seemed like a requirement to build all roofs at stupidly gentle 20 degree angles — it sloped like the front of the Brady Bunch house. It looked fine on the outside, exactly as I remembered, brown and weathered and welcoming.
On the inside, though, it was something else. He’d been a hoarder — as had been his wife, who died just a couple of years before him. No attempt had been made to move anything out of the place and it was just rooms and rooms of boxes and junk. He collected toys, his wife dolls — and he made wooden toys himself, too, this being his primary hobby after he retired in his mid fifties. But the hoarding didn’t stop with the toys — it was more depression-era type hoarding, keeping old bits of string and tissues and shoeboxes, having six of every kitchen appliance just in case the other five eggbeaters break and you really really need one because the pope is coming to visit and well, he likes his scrambled eggs, you know. I don’t think a single piece of paper that entered that house ever left.
So I go through the rooms and there are hastily cleared paths just wide enough for a person to walk down from one sad overflowing pile of mess to the next — piles of newspapers and magazines, cereal box tops, clipped coupons, old greeting cards, a stack of uninstalled linoleum. Even in my dream the individual items popped out at me and I registered awe that anyone would keep this stuff.
I started doing a tally of the things that needed to be done, and another of things that needed fixing. To be done: 1. Call dumptruck company. 2. See if I can hire anyone to help move the heavier stuff. 3. Research how to get rid of toxic shit. (He had a room full of paint, turpentine, oil, acetone — all sorts of chemicals that he used for toymaking and whatever else — that you can’t just dump.) To fix: 1. The caving in ceiling in the Purple Room. 2. The Roof itself, which must be leaking. 3. The furnace, which would not stop blowing hot air through vents, no matter what I did with the thermostat.
My brother and mom showed up in the dream while I was doing the tally of things and fretting over what this would cost me. My brother is 48 and a deadbeat and lives with my mom — in my dream they were already making plans to move into the house I’d just bought. I was trying to explain I didn’t buy this house for them to move into. I wasn’t sure why I’d bought it to be honest, other than some sense that I wanted to hang onto things that had been in the family.
But there’s so much space! There must be six thousand square feet here. I only need a single room, my brother said.
My wife Jennie appeared in the dream at that moment — to that point she hadn’t been there, but she just kind of apparated like a Harry Potter character, probably because my sleeping brain decided that we needed to firmly respond to my brother in a way that would block him from achieving his dream of shifting his mooching from my mother onto me.
It’s ours, Mike. Joe and I are going to raise a family in this house. You’re welcome to visit.
I take a look at Jennie and realize she’s very pregnant, her stomach comically bulging out, like an eggplant on stilts, and I wake up.
I tell Jennie about this dream in the morning and she’s like well of course you had that dream. I started taking drugs for our sixth IVF cycle so that’s why I’m pregnant. You were in the basement yesterday and you came across a pile of your brother’s stuff that he’s storing here, so that’s why your brother was in the dream. And just a couple of days ago you were telling me about your grandparents’ hoarding, because we were talking about where your mom gets it from — she learned to hoard from them, and you learned to NOT hoard from the bad experiences with your mom.
It all makes sense, I guess. I’m just glad I’m still capable of having dreams. Apparently I’d missed them.
Jennie has Covid. I don’t, somehow. I had my fifth booster about two weeks ago. I guess it’s possible I won’t get it, but it seems more likely that I will, given my proximity to Jennie and the fact I am doing nothing at all to protect myself from her. So she’s on the couch downstairs doing nothing and I’m up in my home office pretending to work but instead writing on OpenDiary.
I didn’t write over the weekend. It’s hard to write on weekend days — the structure changes, and I feel beholden to Jennie’s desires — the part of me that I think of as me sort of recedes and I engage, mostly, in caring for her — for us might be more accurate — I want to do things that we both enjoy, and writing is such a solitary thing, it feels like I am ignoring her in a way that probably registers as painful for her. God help her, she appears to enjoy spending time with me when she can.
I’ll have to cancel some shit for the week — I shouldn’t, for example, go to my physical therapy appointment on Wednesday or my on-site meeting with my employer on Thursday because of the covid exposure, even if I’m feeling fine. I took a test this morning and I’m negative so here’s hoping it doesn’t happen.
I think I am finding it easier to enjoy things lately. I did some work on the insulation in my basement yesterday and listened to music and found I was almost having a good time, despite being itchy from fiberglass bats and covered in what felt like full body armor to protect myself against the Great Stuff Insulating Foam — a hat, goggles, N95 mask, gloves, longsleeved throwaway shirt for dirty tasks. I wonder if it’s the Lexapro doing this, or if I’m just having a rare good day. But I felt less flat.
I also got a new phone, a google Pixel 6a. I had a Samsung Galaxy S9 and the battery was starting to give me trouble — I feel like if your phone can’t make it from 7AM to 10PM without getting some charging, you probably have a problem, and lately I’d been getting down to 15% by mid-afternoon. I looked it up online and found that Samsung hasn’t been doing software updates for this phone since mid-2023, meaning: They’d essentially end-of-life’d it. Time to get something new. The Pixel 6a was $350 on sale, a startling deal for the quality of the phone, and I just bought it, swapped the SIM out, and the new one works. I’ll have to spend a little more time this week customizing it and getting a few accessories but it seems like a low-effort swap overall, which is always a relief. I wonder what my grandparents would think about our use of phones — these things that we do here in 2023 and take for granted are going to be things we have to do regularly for the rest of our lives, like buy a new phone every five years and reconfigure the thing so we can text and insta and whatever. They would probably find it to be utterly incomprehensible.
I’d also been thinking lately about the idea of letting things go including old dreams — this idea about how important it is for people to sort of update their identities as they get older and progress through life, and how a great deal of pain is caused by our inability to let go, to insist we must hold onto parts of us that are, honestly, objectively outdated and probably should be discarded. I once had a goal of beating every 8-bit nintendo game ever created and here at age 45 I’ve accepted that a) I don’t want to do that b) it’s a stupid, silly goal, a total waste of time and c) I wouldn’t even get anything out of this accomplishment — nobody would care. Why do I still, then, feel like I should keep up being friends with someone I haven’t seen since college, or try to draw manga characters? Why is it hard for me to toss the instructional books on watercolor painting that I own?
And so on. Writing time is over, time to do something for work.