An old lady was sitting in the middle of a furrowed field. In her hand she held a bunch of flowers the children had brought. Her husband had died the autumn before. They had lived together for seventy years. Then he suddenly fell ill and departed from this world. Not a day passed when she didn't think of him. When he was still around, she never thought of how attached they were to each other, but now that he was gone she had more than enough time to fully realise it. He didn't have to deal with it. Or did he? She often dreamt about him and in the dreams they talked, just like when he was alive. The neighbour told her that dreams were as real as reality. The old lady didn't know whether it was true or not, but every night she went to bed with excitement in her heart, expecting to meet her dear husband.
In dreams he was telling her they would be together again soon. Would they? What did 'soon' mean for him? She always forgot to ask, although every night she reminded herself to find out when 'soon' was. But she forgot time and again. Perhaps tonight...
Little Anna came running, her son's five-year-old granddaughter.
»What are you doing, Granny?« she asked and smiled.
The old lady's eyes filled with tears when she looked at the tiny, happy creature... She frequently cried those days. She wasn't sad, things only moved her in a special way... – Children are so beautiful, she thought. And the world can make them so cruel when they grow up. Some people say that this is the way the world turns and should turn. The many should's sometimes made the old woman feel dizzy.
»Well, Granny?« Anna woke her from her thoughts. »Will you answer me before it gets dark and I have to go to sleep?«
The old lady smiled. »I'm thinking, my dear,« she said kindly and stroked the girl's long fair hair.
»Oh, what about?« the old woman repeated. »About everything.«
»For example?« Anna insisted.
»About your granddad, Anna... And about you. About what a sweet and nice girl you are.«
Anna thought for a moment, and asked: »Why are you crying, Granny?«
»Because I'm so happy, my dear, when I see your beautiful heart, you know,« the old lady said and touched the place where Anna's heart was. »You may not understand it now as I do, but when you're a little older and remember today, you'll know what I mean... You know, your granny loves you very, very much.« And the old woman hugged the little girl and kissed her on the flushed cheeks.
»I love you very much, too, Granny,« little Anna said and kissed grand-grandmother on her wrinkled forehead.
»Granny, you miss Grandpa very much, don't you?« Anna asked after a while. The girl called her grand-grandfather 'Grandpa' as she called her grand-grandmother 'Granny'; it was easier.
»Yes, Anna, I miss him very much,« the old woman replied quietly. »When he was still alive, I wasn't aware of how much I loved him. There was no time. I was always so busy, you know...«
»What do you think, Granny, where's Grandpa now?«
»Some people say he's where the dreams live.«
Anna thought for a moment, then said: »My mom once told me the same thing. Do you think it's true?«
The old lady smiled. »I'd like to believe it's true. In my dreams, when I talk to Grandpa, I'm happy. And then everything that's happening seems real. Just as real as what's happening now.«
»Well, what's happening now is real,« said Anna, slightly irritated. »Do you think dreams are just as real as this world?«
»Some people say they are, perhaps even more real,« Granny smiled.
»And what do you think?« Anna inquired.
Granny took a deep breath and said: »I miss your granddad, Anna. This is what I think... And that you're such a wonderful girl that everybody should be happy to know you!« Once more the old lady's eyes moistened. »You know, I'm no longer young, and tears just come of themselves,« she laughed.
»It doesn't bother me, Granny,« Anna said seriously. »I often cry, too, if there's something I don't like or if someone offends me, and I'm not that old! – But, tell me, do you often meet Grandpa in your dreams?«
»Yes, often, Anna,« nodded the old lady. »Almost every day, lately. He says I'll be joining him soon. He says he's made everything ready for me and we'll be even happier there than we were here. He also says I should say good-bye to everybody and tell them it's not that bad over there. He says he likes it even better than here, but misses me...«
»Oh, that's great Granny! I'll miss you, too, but if you tell me how to visit you in the dreams I'll be happy to come see you!«
More tears glittered in the old lady's eyes. »My dear, darling girl,« she said and stroked Anna's unruly curls. »Grandpa says I should only wish to see him, and the best time to do it is when I lie down in my bed, just before I go to sleep. He says the last thought before we fall asleep is very important. That in our dreams everything can happen the way we want it to.«
»Daddy also says that everything I wish can happen, Granny. Only if I wish strongly and honestly enough.«
»If Daddy says so, it must be true, Anna, right?«
»It's just like you said about the dreams. Does it work?«
»Most often it does. Although it sometimes happens that I remember nothing in the morning. Grandpa then tells me what we did the night before, and I'm surprised because I can't remember. It must be because I'm old. Although Grandpa says it has nothing to do with age. He says it has to do with a change in awareness. That the state of our consciousness is different in the morning than it was in the dreams, or something like that. He's changed quite a bit in the last year, you know. He never used to talk like this before. Sometimes he makes me a little afraid. And then I say to myself I have to join him as soon as possible, before he goes too wild over there, one never knows...«
»What do you mean, Granny, one never knows?« Anna frowned.
»Oh, Anna, it's just what people say. I just meant that people can change. If you don't see them for a while, it may take some time before you get used to them again.«
»Yes, you're right,« Anna finally understood. »It's the same with me. If I don't see Daddy for a few days when he goes on a business trip, and when he comes back I sometimes need half an hour or more to get used to him again. Yes, Granny, you're absolutely right,« nodded Anna.
Grand-grandmother smiled and once more looked deeply into her grand-granddaughter's velvety eyes.
»You know, it was nice to be in this world,« she said with emotion. »But now it seems high time I finally went.«
»I'll be bored without you, Granny,« Anna said sadly.
»If you want to see me or hear me, little Anna, just make a wish in the evening before you go to bed. And the moment you walk into the dreamland I'll be with you. Agreed?« the old lady said kindly.
»Agreed,« said Anna. »And if you don't come?« she was suddenly afraid.
»If I don't come, it only means you can't see me. I'll be there for sure, whenever your little heart wants to see me. Just look behind a bush or a tree, perhaps I'll want to play some hide and seek to make it more fun. All right?«
»All right,« Anna seemed satisfied. »But you'll come out if I look for you too long, right?«
»Of course, darling,« said the old lady and gently stroked the girl's hair. »It's late, I think it's time to go in.«
And they left.
That night everybody was gathered in the house, all sons and daughters, their sons and daughters and their sons and daughters. It was the anniversary of the late grand-grandfather's death. All evening the old lady was watching her family, and every now and then her eyes misted over. So many memories! She remembered giving birth to her children, three sons and a daughter. She remembered the births of her grand- and grand-grandchildren; little Anna was the youngest among them, and the old lady the oldest in the family. And now it was time for farewells. She was happy she would rejoin her husband, and yet she was anxious thinking of all those she would leave behind and never see again. At least not the way she was used to seeing them.
The clock struck nine. The old lady slowly rose, and everybody in the room went quiet for a moment. She gently looked at her gathered relatives, rested her eyes on each and everyone, and said: »My beloved ones, tonight is perhaps the last time we see each other.« Her son wanted to object, but the old woman wouldn't let him. »My son,« she addressed him, »you always raise objections, it's just the way you are, but please don't this time. Just let me finish.« He soon understood and went quiet. »Your father, grandfather, grand-grandfather has for a while been preparing me for the day when I would leave you and join him... And it seems to me today is the day. Believe me, I can't tell you how happy I feel when I see you all. When I see your lives I helped ignite... I want you to know that I love you immensely and that I'll always be with you whenever you need me. Now I would like to ask you to say nothing. I just want you to remember tonight whenever you want to remember me. Remember this beautiful, quiet moment. And remember how much I love everyone of you!«
Then the old lady slowly limped past the table through the door to her room. It seemed her words had touched everybody. Silently they gazed after their mother, grandmother, grand-grandmother.
The following morning the old lady didn't come to breakfast. The doctor said she had died a few hours before, probably in the middle of the night. »I wouldn't be surprised if she'd gone at midnight, just like her Franz.« He also said she left quietly, without any pain.
The sons and daughters, grand- and grand-grandchildren cried in silence.
»Now she's with Grandpa again,« little Anna said quietly looking at her daddy.
»Yes, Anna,« he replied and hugged her lovingly, »our granny is with grandpa again.«
Translated from Slovenian by Lili Potpara