Ghost Stories.

03/30/2011

I get to Laura’s and the first thing I do it look for the urn, although I try to make my search look casual, nondescript. It doesn’t appear to be on the ground floor, on the mantle as I immediately assumed it would be. I sigh to myself and feel a wave of panic encroaching, a grip tightening around my lungs, making my heart beat faster and my breaths short, shallow. Suddenly, it’s very important. I have to find my dad.

It makes sense, I think to myself, turning way from the fireplace and starting my walk into the entry way, up the stairs, because suddenly, I know. He’s in his room. He’s on his nightstand. Of course.

I walk, nudging the door open, the door still marked with a white banner that reads “Honeymooners”, and Laura’s bedroom has turned into a memorial of sorts. All the pictures that I’d framed for the funeral so meticulously are set up on end tables and night stands but I don’t see them. Not really. All I see is the absence of my dad’s ashes and I crumble inside, go to my purse, take a Valium and wait for the panic to subside.

—————————

That night, I toss and turn, too plagued by unrest to sleep. Every night since my dad’s died, I’ve relied on sleeping pills to calm my sad, full mind enough to close my eyes. Every night, I sleep for four hours until they wear off and I wake up and I cry. I sit up and I grab an empty glass from the carpet next to the guest bed. I stand up and leave the room. I walk past Laura and she’s sound asleep, unrestless, unmoving, and I turn on the hallway light before walking down the stairs. The moment my left foot lifts off the bottom step and touches the cold linoleum of the entry way, the upstairs hallway light flicks off, silently. I curse to myself – I’d left my phone upstairs and without it to use as a flashlight, I’m in the pitch black. But I’m not angry, assuming the light had stirred Laura and she, not realizing I was using it to not fall down the stairs like a clumsy fool, turned it off.

The next day, I’m with Allen, my nephew. We watch Resident Evil, then Alien Versus Predator, both his picks. Halfway through the second movie, he draws my attention to the fact that the water’s been running a long time. Shouldn’t the laundry be done by now? I go to check it but by the time I get to the small room the washer and dryer are in, I recognize the fact that the noise isn’t coming from there. It’s coming from the bathroom. I turn on the light, walk in and hear the toilet running. Lifting up the lid, I see it’s damn near about to overflow. Allen comes in and as we try to fix the suddenly broken pump of the toilet no one has used for hours, my twelve-year-old nephew turns to me.

“I think it’s Dan. I think he’s trying to show us that he’s still here.”

I stare at Al for a moment and feel tears sting my eyes but I don’t want him to know that the truth is that there is nothing I want more than to have my dad still with me, in otherworldly ether or in flesh.

“I wish he’d chosen a better way to say ‘Hey’ other than breaking stuff.” I respond with a reposed smirk.

That same day, the kitchen sink began to spurt water.

Morning comes and Laura laughs at the lovely jerry rigging job Allen and I did with the toilet, MacGuyvering it with a small keg and a bunch of rope when the dog leash I used initially didn’t keep it from overflowing. We go to the store and we get candy and we sit in the basement and we watch movies on a cot on the floor. She’s wearing my dad’s sweatshirt. I’m wearing his tee-shirt. And we’re eating a three-pound bag of Swedish Fish. “If he could see us right now.” Laura laughs. I admit that we are pretty pathetic. We watch Up In The Air and I tell Laura all about my past week, living life as an actress pretending to be a journalist as George Clooney (Who’s pretending to be a Governor) gives speeches not five feet in front of me. “He’s shorter in person.” I tell her. She’s surprised. What doesn’t surprise her is how damn dashing I say he is. We pick out another movie – From Hell at Laura’s request for “something scary” – but minutes in to it, Laura pauses.

“Do you hear water running?”

I do. We go upstairs and check the toilet that had stymied Al and I so just yesterday but it’s fine. The washer, the sink, all fine. To the top-level of the house I go, although no one had been up there for at least four hours, and I trace the sound to the bathroom to find that it’s the same thing as the night before. Only now, it’s upstairs. Laura enters the room and I don’t know what to say. She had told me of some strange encounters, one involving a mirror and her seeing my dad’s reflection, and Sara, my stepsister, had some oddities to report as well. When they had recounted these tales, however, I felt skeptical, explaining it away as lack of sleep to hide the fact that really, I was angry. If ghosts exist, if my dad is here but not really, then why do they get him and I don’t? I feel like a child at a birthday party, angry that someone else gets all the presents while I remain empty-handed.

Laura sits down on the edge of the tub, looking uncertain. What do we make of this? All of this oddness? Do we shrug it off as coincidence or risk doubting our own mental state, accepting that maybe it’s something more? She sighs and speaks with equal parts humor, fright, and frustration.

“Dan, I am not peeing in the tub. Don’t break things, please.”

The toilet fixes itself and Laura tells me if one more strange thing happens, we are packing up the dogs and going to Grandma’s house.

We go back downstairs and I ask Laura if it was her that had turned the light out a few days prior. She tells me it wasn’t. I feel warm inside.

The next day, Al and I are on the couch and Laura is on the computer at the dining room table. Upstairs, Madeleine, my dad’s toothless, seven pound Italian Greyhound, barks shrilly. I exchange a glance with Al and wordlessly stand up, walk upstairs and find her. She’s jumping, wagging her tail, and playing. It’s something she hasn’t done since my dad died but my brief wonder at Maddie’s sudden mood swing is gone when I notice the state of the upstairs.

My dad was a stickler about keeping the electricity bill down and would give anyone a sever lashing of sarcastic remarks if they leave a light on when they leave a room. As such, both myself and Laura were very much in the habit of turning out every light, as well as closing every door so Madeleine wouldn’t wreak the havoc she was so prone to. Laura and I had just been upstairs and we’d closed every door, turned off every light. Now, however, only an hour or so later, two doors were open. And every single light was on.

I don’t breath as I turn off the lights and close the doors. I don’t cry and my face remains expressionless until I get downstairs and sit next to Laura and tell her.

These aren’t just coincidences anymore.

—————————

Laura got home an hour or two after I arrived at her house. It’s evening and she’s tired and she administers me an Ambien after I tell her about my sleeping patterns. She takes one herself. I want to ask her the most important question in the world to me but the words stick to raw, pink flesh of my tight throat. I’m quaking with the too familiar tremor that’s plagued my muscle memory like a nightmare since I got the phone call telling me he wasn’t breathing. I’m not talking yet but my eyes are wet even though I’m not crying.

“Laura…” I talk, my high-pitched voice so fragile and brittle that I fear it will crumble and I’ll lose it. “Where are the ashes?”

It feels strange and impersonal saying it like that. The ashes. This is what my dad has been reduced to? The unfairness of it strikes me hard like a slap to my left cheek, blood vessels bursting and flesh going hot. Laura smiles at me.

“They’re in his room.”

In the basement was my dad’s pride and joy: A small room that any normal person would turn into an office that my dad had set up to be an exact replica of his suburban bachelor pad. When he’d assembled it, even the art on the walls was identical to how it had been in his flat. He showed it to me in late summer, beaming as I laughed at the absurdity of it.

Now, only months after he’d moved in, Laura and I sit on his white leather couch (The same white leather couch I slept on when I lived with my dad briefly, early last year) and we talk. We talk to each other. We talk to the ashes. We talk as if dad is there. We talk knowing he’s gone.

Gone.

But not really.

Even though this – Whatever it may be – isn’t enough, it’s something. And at least I have that.

One Response to “Ghost Stories.”


  1. The day after my Dad’s mom died, my grandma but I was only a baby, so I don’t think of her as “grandma”, my parents where asleep and the phone rings. My Dad picks it up and says “Hello?”. The line is crackly and the voice faint but someone says “Tim?” and my Dad says “Yeah?” and she says “I just want to let you know that I’m okay.” My Dad recognized the voice as his mom, but she had just died and having just woke up, it didn’t register what was going on till he hung up and my Mom asked him who it was, since the phone had woken her as well, “It was my mom, she just wanted me to know she was alright.” and he turned to go back to sleep and that’s when my mom reminded him “Tim, you’re mom’s dead.” A couple years later, my Uncle Jim dies, my Dad’s older brother and sure enough the next night, the phone rings. “Tim?” Jim asks.”Yeah?” my dad says. “Just want to let you know everything is okay.” and hangs up. My Dad is the most straight laced, OCD person, who thinks people like John Edwards, the guys who to ghosts, not the lawmaker, are total scams, but he has no doubts that he got calls from the beyond. I’ve informed him a expect a call, since I now know it’s possible.


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