I begin dreaming of endings.
Scene after scene endlessly play across the stage that fills my head.
Old movies race towards the finish line. The final credits roll down the incline, crowding my vision with shadows and shades.
It is the final scene of “Raising Arizona”.
I stand behind Nick Cage as he speaks of the child he and Holly Hunter once stole.
Their movie characters desperately wanted a baby and believed that the Arizona couple who'd just had sextuplets wouldn't miss one.
Turns out they were wrong.
The pair eventually return the boy to his home. The father listens to the barren couple's explanation of how desperate they were to have a baby. He relents and decides not to press charges.
The boy grows up, seems none the worse for his wild adventure. He even goes on to achieve fame and fortune as a football player.
The movie ends with an elderly Nick and Holly sitting at a long table, with several generations of happy, laughing people chatting and lovingly demonstrating the amazing connection of family.
In a nostalgic, misty reminiscence, Nick reflects on the reality of this dream.
The scene is set by a haunting piece of music which weaves it's way through the narrative as he begins...
“That night I had a dream.
I dreamt I was as light as the ether.
A floating spirit visiting things to come.
The shades and shadows of the people in my life wrastled their way into my slumber.
And still I dreamed on further into the future than I’d ever dreamed before.
Years away, I saw an old couple being visited by their children.
The old couple wasn't screwed up and neither was their kids.
I don’t know, you tell me…this whole dream was it wishful thinking? Was I just fleeing reality?
It seemed real. It seemed like our home. It even looked like Arizona.
Maybe not Arizona, but a land not too far away.
A land where all parents are strong and wise and capable.
A land where all children are happy and beloved.
I don’t know, maybe it was Utah.”
Back in my own dreams, I was being swept along in a current so strong I was unable to escape.
My three children cling to me for a time. A painfully short time.
They were little and I have no good excuse to justify the pain I caused them.
If I could go back in time, I’d choose death rather than do what I did to helpless children.
I may well have been desperately trying to survive my own emotional carnage. Still no excuse.
In some warped reality, I’ve convinced myself that death would’ve been a better choice.
Thankfully, a different reality prevails and
I am gently reminded…”There is no going back. You cannot change the past.”
“I know, I know.” wailed as I sob and beat my breast harshly.
“But I hurt my babies.” “I caused them harm. It is my fault that their lives are a mess.”
Again, the reminder, not quite so gentle this time…”They are no longer babies. And who are YOU to decide their lives are a mess?”
“But I hurt them. All of their problems are my fault."
The voice is definitely getting annoyed. “Jesus Murphy, so what? Are they alive? Did you physically cripple one of them? Do they have access to counselling services? Are they intelligent enough to figure things out on their own?”
I’m somewhat on the defensive and reluctant to answer, for fear I know where this is going.
“Well yes, they are alive, and yes they are intelligent but…”
“Hush and listen carefully. But first answer one question.”
I reply, still reluctantly, “Okay.”
“If you could go back, would you repeat the same actions…” The sentence wasn’t finished as my head jerked up and I bellowed…
hi“NO!!!!" In the next moment, memories begin pouring in.
Me, desperately trying to stop my son’s screaming. Me, holding my hand over his mouth, almost smothering him.
His screams go on and on and I am willing to do... whatever, to make them stop.
I hurt my baby.
My heart still cracks a little when I remember.
Can a broken heart mend?
Can a broken heart be repaired and given another shot at life?
My heart, holds together, barely. It is only through love and a desire to rebuild a different future that it continues to beat.
My heart…it wants to believe, it wants to survive.
Then the voice over softly whispers, “What more can you do? Do you think perhaps your job is finished, that the repair to be done now is his?”
I’m still grieving, but I glimpse a shimmer of hope. “Well, I’ve not hit him in a long time”.
“That's a good start. Anything else?"
“I love his children. I’ve never once touched them in anger, I’ve never once caused them physical injury.”
I'm beginning to feel better and then I remember. I have two other children. I begin to tremble as I start assessing all the damage I inflicted upon them. The case builds as flashes of abuse burst across my conscience. I’m on a roller coaster that is about to go off track.
The voice over is so loud that I jump, turning quickly. I almost expect to find a living being standing behind my back.
The voice continues, rather sarcastically, “I suppose you almost mortally injured these two as well.”
I’m somewhat taken aback, hesitant to answer.
“Well, I did try harder after I knew what I was capable of doing to a helpless baby.”
“So you learned your lesson?”
“Kind of, I guess."
I catch the annoyance smoldering in the air.
“ Okay, okay, I learned my lesson. I did my best.”
“Yah, I wish I’d done better, sure, but that is hindsight.”
I snorted as I realized the enormity of what I was saying.
The voice continued, “Hmmm…so, you aren’t perfect, but you’re willing to try?”
I stop, I know exactly where this is going and I like the direction.
My head stops spinning, my heartbeat slows down and I’m almost breathing normally.
In fact, each breath becomes measured, slower, more even,...in, out, in, out.
I am at peace.
I know, I may not have gotten all the way to Arizona, maybe not even Utah, but I’m somewhere magical.
My dream draws to a close. I see before me a huge living room, cozy, comfortable with a fireplace crackling, snow falling gently against the windows and love and laughter filling the room.
There are children and children’s children gathered around me.
I sit in a soft warm chair, my feet resting comfortably on a plush stool.
Babies are placed carefully into my arthritic hands, older children clamour to whisper secrets in my ear. The adults smile indulgently as I tell more and more outrageous tales.
I look across the room, across the sea of loving faces and meet the eyes of a man. He is my lover.
He smiles, mirroring back that which illuminates my own face.
We’ve been blessed to find one another in our old age.
We’ve been blessed to carve out a relationship that, though not legally binding, offers much to each of us.
We’ve been blessed to have blended two families into an existence neither of us ever dreamed possible.
I feel the love of everyone in that room and they seem secure in that which pours forth from my own heart.
My eyes are shrouded by tears. The mist that fogs my vision begins to clear, I look around more carefully and realize where I am.
I’ve come home.
I know for sure...it isn't Utah.