Last night my mom came to me in a dream for what may be the last time. We were outside her bedroom in the evening. She was wearing her pajamas, the off-white ones made of flannel with the floral print. Her skin was soft. Her cheeks had the baby fat of youth. After we embraced (we hug in every dream I have of her), she said to me, "This is my last time coming here." I assumed she meant that Laraine Dave, who she was over 71 years, my mom and so much else, was her last incarnation, and that she would not be born again. After all my mom believed in reincarnation, and her words echo what a family friend had said after her funeral. He said, I assume by way of consolation, "She doesn't need to return to earth." But my mom may have meant that this was to be her last visitation, and that she wouldn't come to the house that had been her home for the last 44 years of her life, her golden years, ever again. And so I said, "Will you stay with me at least until I die?" At these words she vanished in my arms. I searched the back yard for my mom, but she was gone.
In the dreams I've had of her, she doesn't come to me as my mom. She looks like my mom, and I can feel that she loves me tenderly, but with a different breed of affection than that which characterized her feelings for me in life. Less personal. And this seems natural. For her motherly duties ended with the death of her body. Assuming an afterlife, how long can I expect her spirit to persist in this role of ministering to my needs? She was my biggest fan in life. I was an extension of her. And now we're back to the way it was before I was born. Not mother and son. Just two kindred spirits in harmonious communion.
My mom used to call me "Sunshine Superman." I don't know where she got this unique turn of phrase. Like most of her ideas, it probably just sprang spontaneously from her mind. I didn't really love the title. After all with her blonde hair and effervescent personality, she was far more sunny than I. But the Superman seemed to fit. After all it was my mom who had taken me to see the trilogy starring Reeves when I was a child. Superman 1 in 1978 (I was 5), 2 in '80, and 3 in '83. I was enamored of the man of steel. I wanted to be him, to be any super hero. I was in love with strength. I used to dress up in underwear and a cape and run down the street when I was still in nursery school. I have pictures as proof. After viewing the first sequel, I came home and narrated it scene for scene for a neighborhood friend. You could see the budding screenwriter in me. Had I focused on super heroes perhaps I've had had more success. In college I became the man of iron, the closest I could get to the man of steel's feats. Heavy bench and squats produced slabs of granite-like musculature and a 30-lb weight gain over the summer. I wasn't quite Ironman, though I did wear Downey's prim goatee. And my parents said on more than one occasion that I did smell like the stuff. Iron, I mean. Ah, the days of metal plates. Rubber just ain't the same. But though getting big and strong made me look good in underwear, like Superman, I felt stiff and musclebound and my clothes no longer fit very well. I am not a shopper, so rather than update my wardrobe I chose to shed the weight. Besides, the protein shakes were hell on my face.
But what does it mean to be Superman, really? It is not superhuman physical feats, or else nobody but a few athletes would measure up. And even Bolt is not faster than a speeding bullet. Lewis could never leap tall buildings in a single bound. And Lou Ferrigno, who played a super hero himself, could never match the power of a freight train. To get strong I had to eat a lot of steak and spend a lot of time at the gym. Those are pretty ordinary pastimes if you ask me. Every Superman has his Kryptonite. What's yours? What's mine? It's interesting that what made Superman weak was a metal ore from his own home planet. What does this mean for me? For you? Maybe my Achilles heel was iron. It was in mistaking big muscles for powerful character. I still lift weights, but real strength comes from within. So like so many of my interests, the gym rat phase faded away.
There is a scene in Superman 2 when the man of steel forsakes his super powers for the love of a woman, in his case Lois Lane. He relinquishes his cape and all that comes with it and he becomes truly human. He gets beat up by an old man! In a clever twist, Lois Lane doesn't love him any more, not the ordinary weakling ridden with insecurity who's the same as everyone else. For who will save the day? She wants her hero back, even if it means she'll only get to love her from afar, as a fan, like before. And so Superman goes back to work to defeat the devious General Zod and his dastardly henchmen. Lane never again suspects that Superman is none other than her hapless co-worker, Clark Kent. At the film's end, when the bumbling, bespectacled reporter asks if he can get Lois anything, she requests a cheeseburger. My mom leaned over to me in the theater and whispered that Lane was for sure pregnant and that Superman 3 would feature Superboy, Kent's omnipotent prodigy. Didn't happen that way. Something for me to write.
I think being Superman means being self-sufficient. Superman didn't need the love of a woman. Indeed he gave it up for a greater cause: to help humanity. Uplifting the consciousness of others is more of a feat than bending steel with your bare hands, though sometimes when I am sunning myself at the beach I would appreciate a taste of Superman's X-ray vision. We seek in another what we desire for ourselves. I had this conversation with a gay friend, who often dates celebrities. The affairs don't end well. Don't you see, I said. You don't want to have sex with that star singer so much as you want to be the star yourself. So ditch the heart break and shine. Superman shined in his own light. I've often chosen for romantic partners girls with traits I admire. In touch with their emotions, expressive, demonstrative, cheerful and humorous. But we'd always break up. And so I developed these personality traits and now even when I'm alone (as I almost always am) I'm content. Do I miss the sex? Well, truth be told, I've yet to find anyone who can satisfy me like myself.
Even Superman missed his mother. He'd frequently return to his Fortress of Solitude to commune with his parents, interact with their holograms. These are my night-time visitations. But they give such brief relief! Maybe my Kryptonite is being so sensitive, so sentimental. So nostalgic (which after all means "home pain"). I miss my mom. And the thought that she may not visit me again gives me a measure of grief. But then comes another thought to take its place: the visitations happen in my mind. It all takes place on the canvass of my consciousness. And this gives me consolation. Because even if she never comes back to earth, even if she vanishes forever, merges with the Fullness, I can always dream about her.