I don’t know why, but I feel like writing about ghosts again today. (This will probably be the last post along these lines for a while!) 😉
This one is far more benevolent than the last one. 🙂
I had met my partner’s grandfather, “Granddad”, in 2001, along the escape route from my northern past, coming (back) to Texas.
Already, I knew quite a bit about this man, although tainted by several layers of personal bias and baggage. I knew that in my partner’s childhood, his phone calls were dreaded obligations to be met and satisfied as briefly and painlessly as possible. I “knew” that he was the preachy sort when it came to the young whipper-snappers who hadn’t seen–and borne the brunt of–as much of the world as he had. I also knew that he was a kindred nitpicky Virgo.
And I thought to myself, this could end well.
Our escape, which was really my escape and merely a curiosity for my partner, who, gratefully for me, said, “sure; why not?”, when I ambushed him with a sudden “I want to go home; will you come with me? Please say you’ll come with me”, would take place over 3 days and 2 nights. The first night would be spent with his sister, and the second night would be spent with Granddad.
Granddad turned out to be a gentle, mellow elderly man, somewhere in his 80s. He lived alone in a tiny Oklahoma town that had long since said goodbye to its heyday. Granddad had long since retired from his own business, a store on the town’s main drag.
Despite the superficial, obligatory connections with my partner’s parents, which had halfway transferred to my partner himself, and despite the enormous generation gap (I was only 23), Granddad and I connected. I “got” him, in the way I “get” people that others “miss”. We knew little of each other in the formal sense, but there was a mutual respectful understanding that need not be spoken.
We left the next morning, to complete the final leg of our trip.
My partner and I kept in touch with Granddad, although sporadically, as is my partner’s custom when interacting with family.
Granddad sent each of us birthday money, and joint Christmas cards. I found him to be a delightful, earthy, sensible man. It’s not common that I click with someone–or that someone clicks with me–so easily.
I never saw him again.
Our new home was 6 hours away, and we quickly found ourselves knee-deep in the obligations and logical steps of the young non-retired adult. We both worked–my partner full-time and myself where and when I could score shifts at neighborhood dive bars as the low cocktail waitress on the seniority totem pole. We had also decided to go back to school. Juggling different schedules was hard, money was always too scarce, and we ran on energetic fumes, with nothing left come vacation time.
We have always regretted that.
The next time we saw Granddad’s house, he wasn’t in it. He had passed away.
My partner’s parents and some aunts, uncles, and cousins here and there, were there instead. His parents had invited us to come up and go through Granddad’s belongings and take what we wanted.
In terms of belongings, the items that mattered most to us were those that mattered least to everyone else.
Granddad had been a transplant from New York State, who attained the rank of 33rd Degree Freemason, and had helped shape Oklahoma’s more recent history. My partner was the only other person in his family to express any interest in Freemasonry, and had recently asked my father, a Mason himself, about becoming one.
My partner respectfully asked his mother (Granddad had been her father) if he could have the Freemasonry items. He also picked out a few old rifles, one of which had been a musket made just after the Civil War. Of course, his mother said yes.
We returned home, items in hand, the next day. I’m not sure if my partner felt the strange feeling I felt, but I knew I felt it. As with so many feelings, I lacked any words to describe this one. It’s the kind of alien feeling you get when you’ve just come from the house of a departed loved one, driven 6 hours, and you’re fatigued yet restless, unsure what to do with yourself. It’s an unsettling, incomplete-ness.
Katie, our only cat, a beloved, intelligent, elderly calico, was glad to see us. But she, too, padded cautiously around the house.
I was in the bathroom with the door open (sorry for the TMI), when she came blazing through the house and skidded to a quick stop like a hockey player, eyes wide as could be. If her face could’ve gone whiter, it probably would have.
She was freaked. Out.
One phrase popped into my head: “like she’d seen a ghost”.
Instantly and instinctively, I knew exactly what happened.
Granddad had followed us home. He was there. No question.
It was then that the rest of the feeling hit me. It flooded in. Granddad admired us. He appreciated that we took loving custody of what were his most treasured items. If he hadn’t been aware before of my partner’s budding quest to become a Mason, he was now, and he was beaming. He traveled with us because he felt close to us and wanted us to know all of this. He wanted to say hi, to let us know he was with us, and to bring comfort and reassurance.
I hadn’t known this a few minutes before. I knew them solidly right then. Knowledge acquisition can be very spontaneous.
Katie was highly intelligent. We talked to her, in normal adult voices all the time. It’s OK to consider that strange; Katie was exceptional.
She just didn’t know what or who she’d just seen. I had to calm her.
“It’s OK, Katie. That’s just Granddad. He’s OK. He won’t hurt anyone. He’s a good guy. He can be here.”
And with that, she was perfectly fine.
I’m sure that over the years, Granddad has come and gone, dropped in to check in on us, and then dropped out again, probably to check on others. My partner, his mom, and I all felt his presence at our wedding, and my partner’s mom is a delightful woman, but she doesn’t tend to think along lines of belief such as this. But Granddad had/has the ability to have that strong a presence.
Not too long afterward, Katie joined him, across the bridge. I hope she found him, in some afterlife lounge, and I hope they hang out together to this day. They’re perfect for each other. 🙂