Last summer I came out of the closet about my preoccupation with ghosts and hauntings. Now that spring, too, is out of the closet, talk at the dinner table once again turns to our annual visit to the cabin in the woods, the one Girl from the East now calls “our other house.”
As always, I have mixed feelings. I must temper my desire to witness the raw beauty of the land with the growing body of evidence (suspicion, paranoia) that something paranormal lurks in the cool shadows of that deep-woods shelter. Each year as we discuss when we’ll go, an inner voice, as if watching the thin plot development of a horror flick, screams: “DON’T DO IT!”
Yet, we plan, pack and go. Every year we come back with another piece of evidence to tuck in the dossier of the unexplained.
Truth is, I don’t have to go far to see ghosts. At a red light a few weeks back, I glanced in my rear view mirror to see my dead friend sitting in the white Toyota behind me. She was checking her hair and makeup. The light turned green and I didn’t notice at first. I was still gaping at my dead friend primping in her compact car at a busy city intersection. I closed my eyes and shook my head to dislodge the vision. A horn honked, my eyes snapped open and she was gone.
At parent-teacher conferences in March, I sat in a hard plastic chair in the high school cafeteria waiting my turn and staring at my dead father. He strolled into the room as if he belonged there, as if he wasn’t dead 15 years. His pinstriped suit was as neat and pressed as the day he was laid out. Unlike the last image I had of my father: prone and embalmed, this ghost was hale and hearty. As I stared at this apparition (It wasn’t really someone else’s father, was it?) reading the conference schedule and studying the teacher station map, my heart bounced in my chest like a caged raccoon. Crazy thoughts crashed around in my brain: He didn’t really die, he just went into the Federal Witness Protection Program. It’s all been a big misunderstanding.
The resemblance was uncanny. Down to the last details: the body shape, the facial structure, the mannerisms all were my dad. Yet, obviously not. For a moment I imagined a world in which my father still roamed among us. Would I truly recognize the 73-year-old version of my father?
I don’t see ghosts of everyone I know who has died. I’ve never encountered any of my grandparents, aunts or uncles.
I have a theory: I see my father and I see my friend who died in January because I didn’t get to say good-bye to either of them. Unfinished business. I held my grandmother’s hand in the days before she died. I had a chance to thank my grandpa for all he had done in his life. In all cases except these two, I had the opportunity to make some final connection.
On a final note, a few years ago a visibly shaken stranger stopped me in a pharmacy, declaring me to be the spitting image of someone dead. Not that I looked like a corpse. Rather, I looked like the soccer coach at her daughter’s school who had recently died of cancer. This is why I’ll never approach anyone who looks like someone I know who has died. Awkward.