When I was a kid, I used to get sheets from the linen closet and put them over my head, then walk around the house saying "Oooh, I'm a ghost!" Once I was a ghost on Halloween. I had holes for eyes and my cousin Sericea had to help me walk. She also helped me cut the eyes, otherwise I would've been a Charlie Brown ghost with too many holes.
In high school the most popular clique of girls were known as The Basics. In the yearbook all of their quotes said something about ghosts. The quotes were: "Do you believe in ghosts? Watch out for ghosts! Hey, isn't that a ghost!" Twenty years later, I'm still wondering what the inside joke is about. If any of the Basic Girls want to tell me, please email me at email@example.com and solve the mystery for me, or tell me next year at our 20th reunion.
I do in a way believe in ghosts. Not the spooky kind, or the kind that try to frighten people, then Fred from Scooby Doo takes off the mask to reveal a person, who wanted to get away with something and would've too, if it wasn't for those "pesky meddling kids." I believe in spirits, a presence that is made known to you when it's nearby. You might not be able to see it, but you know it's there. I know for it happened to me.
Six months after my grandfather died, I was in Europe. His death was a shock, and there was so much acrimony with his second wife that my family never spoke to her again after the funeral. There were problems with the will, so she gave us all "gifts." The "gift" felt like blood money, and I wanted to get rid of it right away. I paid bills, then I decided to go back to the UK and to Ireland, a country I never been to before but always wanted to go. In some ways planning for the trip was a great distraction. I arranged to take time off work, decided to go on a tour, bought traveler's checks, and found myself on a plane to London in the middle of April.
When I arrived I was so happy. I was back! Back in London, and unlike many of the people I was traveling with, I knew how to use the Underground, knew an elevator was a "Lift" plus I could translate. If a waitress was telling us the specials, people would be confused for British accents can be thick. I would say to them: "The special of the day is Fish and Chips" when in British it would so like "E ‘pecial today is fishandchips luv." This is a talent I use for translating Mike Leigh movies and Eastenders episodes.
We traveled on bus through England and Scotland. The first couple of days I was crazy without much sleep; I was so jetlagged. Then sadness came over me. I missed my grandfather terribly. I also missed my father. We had been bickering for months; he was upset that I stopped taking classes at my community college. I was irritated that he was upset for he never paid for school and I didn't feel like he had any right to tell me what to do. When I left I didn't even tell me I was going, so I was feeling a tad guilty about that. I was also still feeling guilty about Grandad's death. Guilty in the fact that I should've known how sick he was, how I should've stepped in when I realized how his second wife was clearly not able to take care of him. Now when I think back it was obvious she was suffering from some type of dementia. She was forgetting names, and when I mentioned that I was giving money every month to a battered woman's shelter she looked at me and said: "Why would you do that? Don't they have families to take care of them? Or maybe they're just lying about being hit to get attention." No person in their right mind would ever say this aloud, or even admit it. However at the time I thought she was just evil, a June Cleaver version of Cruella De Vil.
We went to Wales, and from Wales we were going to catch a ferry to Ireland. I was still tired. I wanted to sleep, but we went on yet another tour of a Wales castle. I was so burned out from culture and castles I could've screamed. Yet on we went.
The castle had been partially destroyed by fire. I walked around, drinking coffee to wake me up, when I came across a field. The sky was a clear blue. I walked in, looking around. I was all alone. I sat down on the grass, feeling tired.
Suddenly I felt a presence near me. I was alone yet I was not alone. I looked around and I whispered "Granddad?" No answer. I looked at the sky. "Granddad, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry we didn't know. I'm sorry that you died alone." That was another thing I felt guilty about; he died alone in the hospital room. I was at work, my mom and my uncle were getting ready to visit him, and his wife was with her son. "Oh Granddad, please forgive me."
No answer. It became so quiet. In my head I heard a song that was played a lot on the bus,"Sweet Thing" by Van Morrison with the lyrics echoing in my head and I will never grow so old again. And I will walk and talk In gardens all wet with rain.
I studied the wild daisies, remembering the week he died. I was spending the night at Meranda's when he fell down at his house. For hours, his wife sat there with him until a neighbor found them and convinced her to call the hospital. She didn't call me; cell phones were still pretty new and I didn't have one. When she did call me, I called my mother and my uncle right away. I called every night after work and school to check how he was doing, then I updated my uncle and Mom. Mom was traveling in Indiana for work. My uncle and his wife visited every night. The night Mom arrived home, she headed straight to the hospital. Two days after Mom came back, Granddad died.
"You waited, didn't you?" I said aloud in the field. "You waited until Mom came home."
No answer. However I was tearing up. I realized I did the best I could. I made sure that my family knew what was going on. I did the best I could. It would be years when I would realize he wanted to die, but at that moment in the field, I knew for me there was no blame. I knew I had to make up with Dad, because when his time came I didn't want any guilt and extra anguish.
I checked my watch. I had to meet my tour at the bus in fifteen minutes. I looked at the sky again. "I love you," I said. I stood up. Dusted the grass off my jeans. "Okay," I said aloud. "Okay," I repeated. I walked back towards the bus, feeling so awake, excited about going to Ireland.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries