“Robert! It’s time to come home.”
Robert snapped his head up in surprise. For the briefest of moments he though he heard his Mother calling to him. Although impossible, the phantom echo triggered a hundred wonderful childhood memories. She would summon him from the front porch to eat supper or take his bath. He would play outside with the neighborhood kids or ride his bicycle until she called him inside. He always associated her voice with the loving actions that were behind it. Growing up, he had a very happy childhood.
Sometimes she would have a warm slice of apple pie waiting on him for desert. It had been sixty years but he could still taste her homemade flaky crust. She helped him with his math homework and made sure his favorite jeans were always clean and pressed. Throughout his life, she was always there for him. Later as she became aged and infirm, their roles were reversed. He lovingly took care of her until she passed. Now the only place he could still hear her voice was in his fading memory. The bittersweet realization brought a tear to his eye. His Mother had been an angel on Earth.
“Come on home son. You supper is getting cold!”
Again he was startled by how vivid his overactive imagination was. It felt so real and sounded close by. The words rang out in his head as clear as a bell. He looked around to see what might be behind the false association but saw nothing out-of-the-ordinary. The strength of the curious event surpassed the realm of imagination and almost registered as a true hallucination. There was no one else around and no electronic devices in operation to artificially mimic her distinctive voice.
He was bothered by the unsettling feeling that his mind was playing tricks on him. He still a a firm grasp on reality and knew that she was gone. It made no sense to hear her voice twenty years after her funeral but at least it was a pleasant distraction.
“Robert! Come on home now. You’ve got school tomorrow.”
This time he raced about the corner to catch the prankster messing with his head. To his disappointment, there was nobody there to blame. He was absolutely alone. With all the logical explanations eliminated, he had no choice but to dismiss the surreal experience as mysterious and unexplained.
What was triggering the all the echoes from the past? Was it just emotional nostalgia? Undetected depression? He had no idea. Robert was anxious to find the answers so he decided to walk the short distance to his childhood home, a few blocks away.
“Rooooberrrrt! Do you hear me? It’s time to come hoooommme.”
For reasons that he couldn’t explain, he responded back to the phantom summons. “Yes Mama. I’m on the way.” He cringed at the thought of how an old man muttering to himself probably appeared; to anyone watching him walk by in his old neighborhood. To his amazement, his worn out knees and hips didn’t ache from the vigorous cardiovascular exercise. It actually felt good to be outside again.
Around the corner, the old house came into view. Much to his delight, it looked just as it had sixty years earlier. He hadn’t seen it in years and was surprised that the new owners had left it basically unchanged. On the front porch, a woman was waving in his general direction. From a distance, he almost thought it was directed at him. The closer he walked, the more the woman on the porch resembled a younger version of his late mother. When he was within close sight, he realized it was her. The waving woman really was his dead mother.
Wondering if he was dreaming or insane, he continued steadfast on his path to the porch. He wasn’t afraid. In fact, an unexplained sense of calm washed over him. For the first time in years, he had the pleasure of giving his Mother a hug. At that point he didn’t care if he was dreaming or not. It was a very welcome, tactical experience.
Somewhere at the nexus of dream and conscious fantasy, he stepped over the threshold into his childhood home. “Didn’t you hear me calling you, Bobby? It’s very late. Your supper is going to get cold if you don’t hurry and eat.”
“Sorry Mama.”; He answered as a reflex. The inside of the house was just as he remembered it. Everything was exactly the same except the hallway mirror was covered with a sheet. He didn’t care if any of it was real or not. The whole experience was a blessing of lost emotions that he never expected to feel again.
The joy alone of eating another home cooked meal was more than he could have ever hoped for. He had a million things he wanted to share about his life since she passed away. It was then that he grew increasingly despondent. He realized that all dreams come to an end. “I love you, Mama with all my heart! I hope you know that.”
“I love you too Robert! So, why are you so sad?”
He hesitated to reveal the obvious for fear that it would be the catalyst to bring the ‘once in a lifetime’ dream to a close. “I don’t want any of this to end but it can’t be real. You are dead, Mama.”
“But Robert. You are dead too.” She rose from the dining room table and removed the sheet from the mirror. The old man that he was, was no more. There in the reflection was a boy of twelve years old named Robert. For the two of them, their eternal existence was intertwined.