I had a rainbow trout. I don't know how he came to be mine, but I carried him with me everywhere, wrapped in a towel, with just his head sticking out. Every now and then, to care for him, I had to run him under cold water, and when I did, his eyes would get this brilliant blue rim around them. The time came when I knew I couldn't keep the trout any longer. I knew I would never kill it to eat it, so the only other option was to release him into a lake. I had such a heavy heart saying goodbye to this fish, but I knew it was what the fish needed. There was a dock at the lake, and I walked to the end of the dock and let the trout swim away into the cold waters.
(This is where things get weird.)
I would go to the lake to visit my trout often. I would walk to the end of the dock, and get down on my knees and wait, only what came to me was an elephant, not a trout. I felt the same way about this elephant that I had the trout, so I somehow the trout and the elephant were the same. At first the elephant was young and small. It would come to the dock to greet me, recognizing only me among the crowds at the lake. I would put my face against his face and just relish the love that passed between us. As time passed, the elephant grew, and so did I, but still I would go and kneel and wait, and the massive creature would come through the water, gently embracing me with his trunk and I would put my face against his and stroke the top of his bony head, feeling the random wiry hairs, and the thick, soft wrinkles of his skin. Years of our visits went on and the love between us was so real and tender. He was my friend, and he, this giant creature, trusted me and was gentle with me.
One day, I went to the lake, and he didn't come. I waited, and I called, but the lake was calm and serene, and he was just gone. I heard word from someone that he had died, and the feeling I had in my heart overwhelmed me with grief. (At this point of my story, I started to cry, like I am now, retelling it, and Lyndsay and Dylan slowly turned their heads to look at each other, like, 'What is wrong with Mom? First she's crying over a caterpillar, and now a trout-turned-elephant in her dreams.') I could still feel the elephant's skin, his bony skull, the breeze of his ears flapping softly by my face, and I realized I would never again be able to actually touch him. I would have to rely on our memories together, and I missed him so, so, so much.
That's when my alarm went off.
Sometimes we're too close to a situation to be able to see it clearly. I'm sure many of you reading are thinking the same thing that I'm about to tell you Lyndsay said to me a few days later---and something that strangely, hadn't even occurred to me.
"You remember your dream, Mom? The one about the trout and the elephant? Don't you think that's about Dylan?" she said to me while folding clothes.
"I hadn't thought about it like that. How do you mean?"
"Well, you cared for the trout as long as you could, and then you knew you had to release it into the lake. And the trout had blue eyes. And then the trout became this big, powerful animal because you let it go, but still it came back to you and loved you and recognized you."
"Yeah, but then one day it didn't come anymore."
"Well, that's just your fear. I don't know, when you told us the dream, that's just what it seemed like to me. That it was about Dylan."
Which made me cry again. First, because she possesses such clarity and wisdom, and she was gentle enough to give me a few days to share it with me. Secondly, because seeing the dream in that light, I no longer focused on the elephant not coming any more, but on the fact that he became an elephant in the first place. A big, powerful, gentle animal. Who still loved me.
All because I let him go.