One morning, when my grandmother was in her early eighties, she said, "Sometimes when I first wake up, before I remember, I think I'm fifteen."
I don't remember my response to her, or if I even made one. But I remember her comment.
For some reason, last night, everyone in the house was up and down all night and I ended up in the livingroom in the recliner with Conner on my lap watching some movie about a dog in Australia. Eventually he went back to his bed -- Conner, not the dog -- and I drifted off and...
I was walking to history class with a couple of girl who were obsessing about the "all or nothing" quiz we were going to have to take this morning. The class had been doing poorly and the teacher had become fed up. She had warned us that today's quiz would only have five questions but that anyone who failed it would fail for the entire year.
"Oh my God," said one of the girls. "If I miss more than one question, I won't be able to go to Penn State in the Fall!"
I smiled at her in a fatherly way -- even in my dreams some part of me knows that I'm 65. "There's an advantage to having your career behind you instead of ahead of you."
She stuck out her tongue at me. "Maybe not that much of an advantage," I agreed. "But at least I'm not sweating the test."
We arrived and the teacher was handing out individual test to each of us by name and she handed me a single piece of paper and a pencil. I recognized it as the same test we had taken a week before. She had written her comments in red in the margins. "Just redo the questions you got wrong the last time," she instructed.
I found a place to sit near a window off to the left of her and began to read her general comments at the top of the page. I really wanted to do well for her. The red pencil marks were small and hard to read but my eyes were glued to them. "Pretty good but you can do better. Don't rush. I really want you to pass because I can't stand the thought of you leaving the class. I still remember the moment you walked in..."
I looked up. The way she turned her head back to a conversation she was having with a fellow teacher was so smooth I could hardly be sure she had been watching me. She had short auburn hair and was wearing a thin summer dress.
I began to make corrections but it was so hard to concentrate. Question number 3 was a short essay about a Greek and Roman war. I had flubbed it before. Her comment in the margin was: "You really need to put in more facts, dates, names. It doesn't matter that I love you, you still need to show you understand the material."
And then I woke up, still sitting in the recliner. The television was still on and I was staring at Spongebob Squarepants. My heart was aching.