Haunted


Do you believe in ghosts? I really don’t, yet I am haunted by one. When I was about ten or eleven my grandmother and I became penpals. I had spent two summers with her and we regularly wrote to each other afterwards. This particular grandma was more special than any other grandma in the world. She went out of her way to have a relationship with me when she lived in Connecticut and I lived in Texas. She could have easily decided it was too much trouble to have a long distance relationship with a ten year old grand daughter, yet she thought I was worth it. I remember thinking that I loved her so much that I would not be able to bear it if she died. She seemed almost ancient to me at the time, and I figured we did not have time to waste, so I wrote and asked her if she would come back from the dead and haunt me after she died. I can imagine her and Grampa sitting at the kitchen table and laughing when they read that! Always obliging, she promised she would if she could. I imagined her floating into my room, candy in her pockets, settling down for a conversation, and perhaps an afternoon of sewing doll clothes, or drawing a custom made set of paper dolls that looked like my family. She was that kind of a grandma. When we were together, she was all there, all for me. 

She spoiled me all my life. She made me feel like I was her favorite person in the world and so she became one of my very favorite people. I treasured her. Thankfully, we had many years before I lost her for good. We continued to write when I went to college. I found a letter from her in my box at least once a month, and always the first day I returned from the summer. Once she wrote on a lace doily to make her letter even more special. It wasn’t what she wrote, but the fact that she did write. She was thinking about me when I was lonely in a new place. She knew what I needed without me ever having to say it, as evidenced by the $20 bill enclosed in every one of those college envelopes. 

We could talk about absolutely anything. Everything. After I got married, Mike had to go away on his first business trip for two weeks. I thought about two weeks alone and it seemed like a lifetime. I bought a plane ticket to Grama’s. The time flew by, of course. I made every effort to visit her and Grampa as often as I possibly could, usually once a year. Most of the time we just sat around and talked. We both had our book or needlework project in our laps, while our hands sat idle, and our thoughts flew back and forth. My favorite subject was the family saga. I felt I knew all the dead people in our family tree and called them by name when I saw pictures of them. I also loved Grama’s memories of her childhood and child raising years. I wish I had sneaked a tape recorder under her chair to capture them all, as I know she would have been too shy to knowingly talk into it, but I just enjoyed the moment so much, that I never did that. Plus I don’t think I really could have fooled her.

I used to love to browse antique shops because they are filled with items that remind me of Grama and the mysteries of past days. She thought this was an incredibly boring way to spend the day because those shops were just filled with a bunch of junk identical to the junk in her attic. I didn’t have much spending money back then, so I would just look and wish I could buy those kitchen items, linens, and knick-knacks. Eventually, I decided I did not need to buy much of that, because Grama would probably give me any attic junk I asked for. Then, much later, I realized it was not the stuff I wanted at all. It was just her that I wanted, and the way I felt when I was with her. Now browsing an antique store makes me feel so sad. So sad that all that is left of all these grandmothers has found its way into a dusty shop. Little bits of them, sold for a few dollars. 

Eventually our letters tapered off and we talked on the phone once a week instead. I would just be thinking of her and decide to call, with nothing special to talk about. It would go like this, “Hi! How are you?”

“Oh, fine! How are you?”

“Oh, everything is fine here.What is going on with you?”

“Oh, nothing, I just thought I’d call.”

We would discuss the daily incidentals at first and before you know it, we would both be laughing until we were crying. I always felt so happy and healthy after talking to her. 

I sent her flowers for her 80th birthday and thought I would call a few days early, but then I checked myself and decided to wait the few days and call her on her day. I deeply regret that. I never had a chance to wish her a happy eightieth or to say good-bye. She fell, went to the hospital, and died. It was unbelievably fast and she was gone. I thought I would cry forever. I would be in bed and images of her and Grampa and their house would just play in my imagination. I could see it all so clearly that I could walk through their house in my mind and see everything. I would sigh. Tears just poured out all night, without sound. I am surprised my eyelashes did not dissolve or wear off. Every night when I went to bed, I could see it all, even if I tried to think of something else. We had several upheavals during that time. I was unable to go to her funeral because I was nine months pregnant.Victoria surprised us by being born in twenty five minutes in the bathtub- an unplanned homebirth. Then we moved a few months later and life kept spinning on. As time went by, I cried less. But I still cry. Some random thing will bring her memory back and the ache that she is gone to me for eternity. It is too hard to bear. 

I am thankful that she gave me a few small pieces of furniture, with the stories behind them, and I inherited several rooms worth. Not only did we need bedroom furniture for our growing family, but I am delighted to have it. Still, it hurts to have it. I have her dressing table. The first time I opened the top drawer, her smell wafted out. It was a powder she used to wear, strong as ever. The same thing in her dresser, which now belongs to my girls. 

She has been gone more than six years now. At first I just wished so badly that I could call her once a week like we used to do. I didn’t think being haunted would be like this. It is a hovering sadness, that usually is hidden, but pops out when I am not expecting it. 

It has been several days since I wrote about this. I waited to post it because I could not see through my tears to make sure I made any sense, and I also didn’t want to sound so depressed that you all would be worried and send someone to keep an eye on me. I suppose you don’t ever “get over” losing a loved one, but I have had a hard time letting go. We had so much in common, but we did not share a common faith. It is hard to know she is gone, and I will not even see her in the sweet bye and bye. However, sharing this in public has helped me somehow to focus on what we had. If you still have your grandma, hug her and squeeze her while you can. Soak up her stories and make cookies with her. Go to the Donut shop together and buy one of everything and then split each one. (Over a period of several days, of course.) Write to her and save all her letters. Ask her a million questions about her life. Eat those “nice tuna sandwiches” with a smile, even though you loathe tuna. She is worth it. 

© Being Fruitful, 2012