Sunday, September 23, 2007


Last night I stayed in my Grandmother's house on the lake by myself, for the first and perhaps last time. She, at 99, is moved in with my Uncle and Aunt now, either forever, or until either one of two obvious eventualities plays out. The house and its overgrown grounds were silent and calm, dark and moist. My wife called to speak with me and she, remembering cold nights spent trying to evade spider-webbed nightmares of ghosts, sleeping in the dark and creaky basement room where my Grandfather slept, asked me if it felt spooky being there by myself.

It is where my father grew up for most of his childhood, and where my grandmother lived for over 60 years. Most, but not all of my Gran's treasures are moved out now, and the main floor has been cleaned and tidied for renters or possible sale. Memories, for me all good, lay silently in each corner. Christmases, winters, spring, but mostly summers. There exist pictures of my sister and I at every possible age at that house, or at least, every possible era: greying and paunch-comfortable adults, slim and handsome 30-somethings, long-haired (or perhaps multihued-short-haired) idealistic 20-somethings, burgeoning and insufferable teens, children, toddlers, newborns at our Christenings and even as twinkles in our newlywed-parent's eyes; all pictures taken within the 1.3 acres of wooded, sun-dappled rainforest on a high lakefront perch. Virtually every member of our extended family has been to the house at one point; my mother's family; my father's many cousins; my many cousins with their spouses and children; All of them captured on print or slide: laughing in a cape-cod chair; drinking a homebrew beer out of a pewter stein on the wharf; lying under a card table with my Grandfather, surrounded by an abandoned card game, drunk on sunshine and Scrumpy; a cousin scrabbling with my 8 year old father among the goats and chickens that clucked around the yard in the 40s; my infant sister in her pixie-snowsuit, propped on the hood of a giant Chevy with a foot of snow blanketing the
world around her; Grandmother in outrageous cat-eye shades and audacious bathing suit, hoisting a glass of elderberry wine, the bare legs of her Grandkids visible in the corner of the frame as they lie in the sun, drying off;

So yes the house - old, dark, spiderwebbed and silent - contains a thousand ghosts for me - all my own ghosts though, none strange or frightening. All familiar ghosts, literally. Each one of us who has had a long relationship with the house and its inhabitants has ghosts there. My father and his remaining brother perhaps have the most. But those are their ghosts, not mine. Mine are memories.

And when I feel the ghost tickle the back of my neck as I sit out on the deck looking at the moonlit lake, or hear a ghost creaking up the basement stair as I lay in bed, or perhaps shuffling in the underbrush as I stroll the pine-scented driveway, I turn quickly with a smile, hoping to see someone I love.
(sent wirelessly from my phone)