Ghosts


As I walk through my home, the one I make with my children, there are ghosts everywhere--reminders of the person I used to be. My grandmother's dining room table, bought when I was in eighth grade, just before Christmas, was inherited after her death. The children use it to color pictures and draw worlds culled from their imaginations. The chairs, already reupholstered once, wear the various stains a life with children dictates, and the wood is wearing down and uneven. 

The dining room table from my youth and the one
 that my children will remember from their own youth. 

I imagine my grandmother sitting at the table in her house dress, because years ago women wore such things. Underneath were slips or dresses in the days before mothers traded fancy for practical. The bright pink house dress resides in the back of my closet. I glance at it when I switch out my clothes seasonally, and my mind is flooded with memories--my heart with pain and gratitude. It smells of roses, the faint scent of candles from a bridal shower that led up to a failed marriage that was a lifetime ago. She stored the remaining shower gift in the back of her closet for years as I recently have with her house dress. 

The dress will remain a constant reminder of a woman I still attempt to call when I forget that she is gone, which is often. Gram wore the pink button-down, and similar looking ones, as she fought against the late stage ovarian cancer consuming pieces of her. We could do little more than watch hoping this chemo would work better than the last. 

While washing the dishes and getting the kids ready for school in the morning, I am greeted by the picture of my grandfather when he was two or three. He has the cherubic face of a wee Irish lad. It is hard to imagine that he avoided death several times during his childhood. He wears the ruddy glow of a healthy and happy boy. The fact that he had 72 years on this Earth was, to him, and to those of us who watched how hard he lived his life, miraculous. 

His baby picture sits across from his obituary card. The image is of him before he became truly ill. Of course I think my grandfather always knew he was living on borrowed time. I wonder how it must feel to live the entirety of life like that.

Gramps as a toddler. 
In the drawer just to the left of the stove are his passports. I show them to the kids trying to share him and his adventures even though he is gone. 

When I go upstairs to sort the laundry, I am greeted by the smiling faces of the dead. Half of the photographs housed in the collage are filled with relatives I no longer see at Christmases and Thanksgivings. They have faded away with my childhood.

As I study them, I wonder how they could actually cease to exist-- for death and life, and the delicate veil between them is inexplicable and unbearable still. The sister who died at 45 from a brain tumor, a great-grandmother blessed with the longevity to see her oldest daughter live into her 80's, a mother who never had a chance to raise her children and another who came along to raise them in her place. 

I can hear bits of conversation and laughter, joy and sadness as they echo through time and bring me back to the moments forever frozen in frames on my wall. A birthday party long before my own birth when my mother was my son's age, a Christmas when I still believed in the magic of Santa, a time, one of the few, when my sister would meet my son. For a moment I am overwhelmed. I sit on the bed, breathing deeply and praying that my own children will never feel this way, this lost, this confused--this alone. I am an adult, but I feel like Peter Pan--naïve, childlike and unprepared.

These people whom I thought I could never live without have left me behind. It is the natural order; I know this though it doesn't make things easier. I understand that someday my own children will stare back at me, glancing in my direction briefly as they greet days that I will never see.

But I will be with them always. I will remain in the things, and memories, that I leave for them. I will be their ghost, possibly one of many depending on how life goes. But, it will be okay. It will be my time.  

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5 comments:

  1. Hugs! I know this all too well! Biggest tightest hugs!

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  2. You are far too young to have so many ghosts, but we don't get to decide that, do we? I am so deeply thankful for my own cherished memories, and the physical reminders I am blessed to hold onto. I hope that yours bring you the comfort I find in mine.

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  3. Beautiful! I love the images and how simple things take on such a deeper meaning. Their memory lives on in you.

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  4. Absolutely beautiful and trust me I have a lot of similar emotions where my grandparents are concerned here, as well.

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  5. Wow, beautiful words you have strung together. Just beautiful.

    ReplyDelete

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