My family has always provided me with plenty of amusing things to write about. ("Thurber-esque," a friend termed them.) This may top all.
My mother, Mildred, who sleeps in a double bed downstairs, had a dream the other night that my friend Jonathan was in bed with her. I have known Jonathan for about thirty years. I found nothing perverse about my mother's dream; they weren't DOING anything, and as a matter of fact she said they were lying there just tossing and turning waiting for me because I was off to parts unknown and they were worried. The dream was so real, my mother said, that upon awakening she had to reach for her flashlight to shine it on that side of the bed to see if it were true.
I talked with Jonathan yesterday but forgot to tell him about Mildred's dream. In the afternoon I stopped by my parents' house. Mildred, who had recently had dental surgery and whose jaw on one side was swollen like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, told me that Jonathan had called earlier. "Funny," I said, "I spoke with him today and he didn't mention it."
"He wanted to speak with Dad," Mildred said. "I asked him if you told him about my dream and he said no, so I told him and he laughed like hell." "Oh, I bet," I said. Dad comes into the room.
"What is all this about Jonathan and John Deckleman and a yellow shirt and somebody out in a field?" he asked. It could have been pretty much anything. My father who is 88 is quite deaf, and upon getting home from work (still works part time) he removes his hearing aids so we never get the benefit of them.
"I don't...know," I said. "Well, weren't you at his house today? I could hear you in the background." I assured him it wasn't me, but might have been Jonathan's girlfriend or mother. "Well, he told me his father worked at this little factory down here making bits."
"I don't believe it," my mother said, "You didn't hear him right. His father was always an exterminator, wasn't he, Laurie?" "Yes, and he did something with trees before that," I said, "and he didn't even live around here, he lived in New Haven." My head was beginning its familiar spin by now. "Well, I couldn't quite understand him, and how does he know John Deckleman, anyway?" said Dad. "Who the hell is John Deckleman?" I asked.
"He lived up by the post office," my mother said. I thought the name had sounded a little familiar. I could not see where Jonathan would ever have crossed paths with John Deckleman, though.
Later that afternoon I had to know, so I called Jonathan, only to find out (and I had this suspicion anyway) that he had not called my parents' house. Now comes the dilemma. Do I tell Mildred that it was not Jonathan she was telling her dream to? Or let her live in blissful ignorance, albeit a little confused? I figured I would query my father a little more, but with his hearing loss he could not completely understand what the person was saying. Heaven knows what things may have been going through his mind at the time this person was speaking to him, as there are often many tangents my father is apt to go off on.
I finally thought I'd better tell my mother it wasn't Jonathan. "Well, it must have been Gregg," she said, "pretending to be Jonathan. Because I'll swear that person said 'this is Jonathan.'" Gregg is another old friend whom I've known almost as long as Jonathan. Gregg does disguise his voice at times (he does an excellent impression of Michael Jackson). Something told me Gregg would not have asked to speak to my father, though, as he says my father is too nervous to hold a good conversation with.
"How would Gregg know John Deckleman?" I asked. Well, Gregg did have a store downtown for several years and maybe ran into him around that time, Mildred said. I had a sinking feeling that it wasn't Gregg though. I had never heard Gregg mention the name John Deckleman. By now that name was starting to get on my nerves a little, in fact.
Today Gregg called. Guess what, even though there indeed was a slim chance in my mind that it was Gregg, I found out it wasn't. Nope, not Gregg. Not Jonathan, and not Gregg. Nor did either one of them know who John Deckleman was, much less anything about a man in a yellow shirt in a field. Who worked making bits.
I am sure that whoever did call (no, the parents don't have Caller I.D.) thought that everyone in the house was either senile or smoking pot, maybe both. I mean here was this person who probably had a very logical question he wanted to ask my father (dad's knowledge of town history is unparalleled) and he starts out by having my mother tell him she dreamt he was in bed with her. That would shake anybody up. But what troubles me is that we'll probably all go the rest of our lives wondering, and never knowing, who this man was.
To my mother's defense, the fan was blowing loudly next to her at the time of this call. I can understand that she didn't quite hear the person right. And with any luck, with her numbed-up swollen Cowardly Lion mouth, maybe he didn't hear her right either. Frankly, I think I am worrying about this whole thing much more than anybody else is. John Deckleman included.