Letting Go

I believe in ghosts.

Let’s just get that out of the way before I go any further with the story I want to tell today.

I don’t necessarily believe in all kinds of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, but I’ve seen and heard too many things that just can’t be explained for me to be a total skeptic. As good ol’ Billy Shakespeare said, “There are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

And with that out of the way, let’s move on with the story.

When The Big Guy and I bought our big old house in the country, we joked about it being haunted, but there was never any reason to treat that as anything more than a joke for about the first four years. Then, something changed. We’d see the curtain flicker in the kids’ bedroom when we pulled up in the driveway, but the house was empty. We’d catch a glimpse of movement in an empty room, as though someone had just moved through it. Lights and appliances would suddenly turn themselves on with no explanation.

Nothing major. Just a few weird moments that gave us all the heebie-jeebies.

One night, I woke up from a strange dream and looked up to see her standing over my husband’s side of the bed. She was young and blonde, with big blue eyes, and she was just so sad. Waves of sadness rolled from her across our bed and hit me so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t really afraid yet because I was still half-asleep, but the enormous weight of her deep and lingering sadness felt like it was crushing me. I couldn’t move or call out to my husband.

Then she looked over at me and smiled, and just like that she was gone. I could move — and you’d better believe I moved. Hauled ass out of the bed, down the hall to check on the kids, and back into the bedroom to wake up The Big Guy to see if he had noticed anything.

Of course, he hadn’t.

I dismissed the whole thing as a dream. A realistic and terrifying dream, but a dream nonetheless. Until it happened again.  And again. Over the course of the next few years, I saw her a total of seven times, always so sad at first and then smiling at me from the other side of the bed.

I started asking around town about the people who had lived in our house before us. As it turned out, there was indeed a young woman matching our ghost’s description who had spent a great deal of time there with her uncle. It sounded like she had a good childhood, but her adult life had been pretty rocky.

I’m going to call her Alice here, and I’ll skip a lot of the details that don’t really matter. It’s enough to say that she struggled as a mom and died much too young about four years after we bought the house from her uncle.

When I found a picture of Alice in an old yearbook at the library, I immediately knew that she was our ghost. And looking back, I realized that every one of her appearances in our house coincided with times that were difficult for the kids or me. I saw her shortly after both of my miscarriages; she showed up when my son had a bad case of Strep or when my daughter struggled with a bully at school.

I never actually saw Alice again after I identified her, but her presence lingered in the house. The TV would turn on in the middle of the night, and we’d come downstairs to find all of the lights on. A radio would suddenly blare out a favorite ’80’s song when no one was around to touch the dial. And always, there was that flash of movement, that presence glimpsed out of the corner of the eye.

Little things. Always when the kids or I were struggling with something. It was like she was watching over us.

She became really active after my car accident. Each night, The Big Guy would turn off the TV and the lights, help me up on my walker, and begin guiding me to the bedroom. About half-way there, the TV would come back on and the lights would start flashing, and I’d have to reassure her. “Alice, it’s okay,” I’d say. “I’m all right. I’m just going to bed.”

And she’d stop.

Years later, after my husband and I split, she made it clear that she didn’t approve. The Big Guy would wake up every so often to the sound of the TV blaring and kitchen cabinet doors banging, and nothing he said would calm her down. Every few months, he’d call me up and ask me to drop by to talk to “my friend” as he referred to her.

“Alice, honey,” I’d say, “Everybody’s okay. The kids are doing well, and I’m good. Could you please leave him alone?” And he’d be all right for the next few months.

It’s been a lot of years now since the first time I saw Alice. Our oldest kids are grown and away at college, and the youngest splits his time between his father’s house and mine. And Alice has become just something my ex has to deal with at his house, like a leaking faucet or a loose floorboard.

And then things changed again.

At the hotel where I work, a familiar-looking woman checked in late last night. She seemed stressed and a bit frazzled and overwhelmed. “I’m in town for my youngest niece’s graduation,” she explained. “It’s just really hard for me because her mom– my sister– died a long time ago. I miss her so much.”

She handed over her driver’s license and I gasped when I saw her last name. “Was your sister…Alice?” I asked. Ridiculous question; the woman looked almost exactly like our ghost.

She stared at me, nodding slowly.

“My ex-husband and I bought Floyd’s house,” I told her.

“She always loved it there. She adored Uncle Floyd. She was always his favorite,” Alice’s sister told me.

I told her everything then. How Alice watched over my kids and me over the years. How she had seemed to emanate sadness at first, but later became more mischievous and even peaceful in her own way.  I worried that I might offend her, that she might feel that I was disrespecting her sister’s memory, but she squeezed my hand and thanked me for letting her know that Alice had been at peace with a family to watch over.

I cried all the way home from work last night. For Alice, for her children, for her sister. For all of the moments, good and bad, that both Alice and I have been through in a house that no longer belongs to either one of us.

I feel like I’ve lost someone.

Because I don’t think we’ll hear from her any more. I’m going to pay a visit to my ex-husband’s house today, and I plan on telling Alice that I met her sister. I’ll tell her that her kids have all grown up just fine and they’ve finished school. I’ll thank her for watching over my kids and me all these years. And then I’m going to tell her that she was a good mom, and it’s okay to let go now.

Because I understand how hard it is to let go and move on.

Rest in peace, Alice. You deserve it.

 

 

In The Woods

I don’t talk about my husband in my blog very often, other than the occasional mention of him as just a part of a story or commentary.  He is a very private individual who is uncomfortable with some of the things that I talk about here, so I respect his wishes and try not to shine the spotlight on him.  Besides, most of the times that I really want to talk about him are times when I really shouldn’t say the things I am thinking.  Especially not in writing.

However, we had an experience yesterday that I really feel the need to share because it shows a side of the man that people don’t usually see.

It started with a Trail Cam. This is a motion-activated camera that he got for Christmas a few years ago, ostensibly for use in identifying the best hunting spots on our forty wooded acres.  In theory, he is supposed to hang it in different places on our property for several days at a time so that he can get pictures of deer traffic, day or night.

I say “in theory” because he has used it for so much more.  He set it up to find out what kind of animal was messing with our bird feeders (raccoons) and put it near the mailbox to see who was disturbing our mail.  He has also had far too much fun hiding it in random spots around the house and then showing me pictures of myself in all kinds of unflattering nose-picking or butt-scratching shots.

Yeah, think about that for a moment.  Think about the things you do when you’re alone in your house, and let your mind wander about what kinds of pictures a hidden Trail Cam might get of you.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Creepy, right?

Yesterday, he sent me an interesting email from work.  Apparently, he took the camera’s memory card into work with him and was looking at the pictures on his lunch hour, and he found some pictures that he thought I should see.

I brought my trail cam card to work to look at pictures. There are some crazy things that go on in our woods at night.

Picture one made me go, “well, all right.”  Nice to know there’s at least one nice-looking buck out there.

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Then I looked at picture two.

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You know those little tiny hairs on the back of the neck?  Mine stood straight on end. Goosebumps started popping up all over the place.

Then I looked at picture three and immediately felt a very strong urge to pee my pants.

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That poor baby! Was my first thought.  Was she still out there?  There had been a news story the previous night about a missing two year-old child in Grand Rapids; I wondered if she had somehow been transported to our area.

Then I looked at the date and time on the pictures:  August 22, 4:02 a.m.

My goose bumps gave birth to goose bumps.  My lungs went on strike and utterly refused to take in one more breath.  My eyes started watering.  My teeth chattered.

There is absolutely no way a little girl like that was roaming free in our woods at four in the morning two months ago.  We live in the middle of nowhere and there are coyotes and other wild animals out there that would not have left her unharmed.

Our nearest neighbor is close to a half-mile away.  They are weekend neighbors from Chicago, what the locals refer to as FIPs, and most FIPs are generally too busy looking down their noses at the locals to actually mingle with us.  It is highly doubtful that people of their elevated social status and self-importance would ever allow a child to wander in our dirty woods, day or night.

That left one other option, and my mind absolutely refused to wrap itself around it.

You see, we have a ghost in our house.  This house belonged to her aunt and uncle, and she spent a great deal of time here when she was growing up. Her brief and troubled life was torn apart by drug use and bad relationships, and local rumor says that she had four children taken away from her by Protective Services shortly before she died of an overdose.

I have seen the ghost several times, usually during my pregnancies or when one of my kids has been sick.  She stands over my husband’s side of the bed and gives me a sad smile before she vanishes.  Sometimes, she randomly turns on lights or the TV or some other such mischief.  She never does any harm.  She is just very, very sad and I think she stays at our house because she was happy here during her lifetime.

Looking at the pictures of that tiny girl in our woods, I just knew it was a childhood incarnation of our ghost.  Or perhaps it was one of her children that is no longer among the living, doomed to forever search our woods at night, looking for her mommy.

I was terrified.  Mind-numbing, pants-pissing, teeth-chattering terrified.  There it was, visual confirmation that we have more than one ghost.  After all, the times when I have seen the ghost in our bedroom have been times when I was just waking up, just coming out of a deep sleep; there is always a tiny possibility that those sightings are just very realistic dreams.  But an actual digital photograph of a ghostly little girl was just too much to comprehend.

I sent the pictures to my big sister and to one of my best friends.  And I started feeling less fear and more sadness for that poor baby.  That poor, tiny, lost soul, wandering our woods. I found myself wiping away a few tears as I thought about her.

Hubby and I continued to exchange emails as the day went on.  We exchanged theories about her identity and tried to find ways to explain who she could be and how she could have ended up in the woods, but we always came back to the fact that she just couldn’t have been a real flesh-and-blood little girl.

Near the end of the work day, I asked

You think the FIPs and their kids wander the woods at night, or do you really think it’s a ghost?

His answer?

I think those were tampered with pictures and I am messing with you.  LOL.

I don’t usually like being scared.  I have enough fear in my life, fear of really, really stupid things.  I hate slasher flicks and gore.  Even though the movies are about fictional people, I end up feeling so sad about the lives ending so suddenly at the hands of Freddy or Jason or whoever.

But I have a secret:  I love a good supernatural scare.    I adore movies that make me jump and scream.  I don’t want to watch “The Conjuring” or “Amityville Horror”, but sit down at a Ouija Board with me and just watch me shiver.  I’m talking about that delicious kind of shiver that starts at my gray roots and picks up speed on its way to my toes, only to meet itself coming back up.

I love the kind of scare that can truly be described as the “heebie-jeebies” because I am unable to utter anything other than noises that sound like “heebie” and “jeebie”.

You know, the kind of noises I made yesterday while looking at those pictures and pissing myself.

The best/worst part of this is knowing that my husband got me.  He pranked me good, and I fell for it.  Beneath the flannel and Carrharts, buried deeply under the aw-shucks country boy exterior and let’s-take-care-of-business attitude toward work, there lurks the heart of the world’s best prankster.

He reigns undefeated.

I want revenge.  I want to get back at him.  But really, let’s be honest here. I can’t top this one.  He wins.

Again.

Damn it.

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