"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer



Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a recurring dream.

I’m back in college, and through the ambiguity of time I wander about the semester, loving my music and writing classes – but waking up with a start on finals day realize I’ve been missing my history class the entire time and I’m going to fail. It’s obviously a work ethic issue. I seem to have it when I am being particularly lazy at work, or when layoffs are imminent. I dreamed this incessantly in the months before losing my last job.

I am always back in Denton, in the warm sunshine, living in the dorm room – during my underclassman days, when I was still taking those basic requirement classes. Being from Alaska, there was no way I could justify flying down to Texas for orientation and registration when just 3 weeks later I’d be moving into the dorm. So of course when I registered after the entire freshman class, I had 8am theory Monday through Thursday. My priority as a freshman was to drink as much beer as possible every night of the week, so generally those mornings started at 7:55 with me struggling through my remaining buzz to remember where I was before putting on last night’s clothes and running to class – barging into a tonalization exercise 10 minutes late and BOing profusely. The TA would give me a sad look of disgust and pity, then get back to the lesson dismissively.

It’s not a huge regret of mine – nothing ever is – but I probably would’ve been a much more successful musician had a put effort into those early college theory classes.

This dream captures perfectly the frantic helplessness of the 7:55 moment, the frustrations of never being able to change my bad habits, the self-loathing I felt upon interrupting class, over and over.

Last night, however the dream changed quite bit. I was still in school and living in the dorm, however, my brother was there with me. For his first day of school. He never went to college. I was so proud of him in the dream – yet with a feeling of complete normalcy. The idea of him at college didn’t seem weird at all – which in reality is a laugher. Not disparaging him at all – he's a thick-skinned, up-at-5am-to-work-in-the-dark-10-below-Alaskan-morning, blue-collar, donuts and black coffee, “get your fucking ass up there” electrician.

In the dream we rode the campus shuttle together, where at one point I got off to retrieve my bike – a brakeless fixie for some reason – and we went our separate ways. A little later we connected by cell phone. He was headed off to get loaded at some bar and I was headed to the library. I chided him, self-confidently.

I wonder if something is about to change in my life. I don’t believe in fate, or spirituality, but then again I don’t believe in coincidences. I do believe in some sort of extra-sensory perception. I spell it out so as not to let the acronym give a sense of cliché. But I believe there are some things that we just know.

My aunt, my mom’s older sister, has terminal cancer. She’s been waiting to die since May when she received the news that the tumor in her brain had not been eradicated as thought, and that the malignancy in her lung had spread to her liver. I’d never seen anyone dying of cancer before. Everyone knows it’s an awful way to go, but seeing it in-person is another thing entirely.

I haven’t seen much, only the suffering on her face – swollen from steroids – when the headaches wash over in waves of pain. Her dizziness and confusion. Her disinterest in a remaining life of shuffling between meals, the toilet, and the bed.

I’ve visited her twice since the diagnosis. Once over Labor Day and the second time about a month ago – just going through the motions while gradually getting weaker.

About 10 days ago, I went to bed rather early, and had a dream about her.

In the dream, the cancer was gone. She was her old self. Just the two of us, we stood in the kitchen of her old house, where so many family reunions have gathered over beers, cheese and crackers, jokes and ostensibly hurt feelings from political discussions. But there was no cigarette in her hand, no haze in the room, her face wasn’t wrinkled, her hair was shiny and lively, and she wore a wry smile.

“I’m glad that’s over with,” she said in her characteristic exasperated laugh.

The next morning, the dream out of memory, I checked my email over coffee and saw a note from my mom, sent the night before, after I’d gone to bed. Mary had taken a strong turn for the worse earlier that evening. Hearing that brought the dream back. Sometimes we just know.

Once the end stages hit – it’s over very soon. The labored and rattling breathing, the indignities, the morphine, and constant sleeping are now apparent as her body finally shuts down.

She’s made peace with her family, her friends, and I hope she’s going now with a little suffering as possible. I hope the worst is over for her.

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