Ten years old, ten and I had never once lost someone close to me. But every day of my life I faced spirits of those who were lost by someone else. It made me sad for these people. It also personally fascinated me. These poor people who the very last time they would see there loved ones would be at the funeral, never knowing that more times than not their loved ones would be closer to them then they ever were in life. Yet here I was. Standing at the cross walk of a city street walking with two of my friends, and unable to tell which people were people and which people was part of the dead.
I was still young I suppose. Though I grew up around death and the dead; no one ever stopped and explained it all to me. No one ever said that when someone dies they are gone. It's simple. You would think it strange I didn't know, but I didn't. I guess no one ever told me because they just expected me to know. My mother expected it that's for sure. No one ever needed to explain it to me either. I had never had a pet die and up until this day. Walking with my friends in the Streets of Madison I had never had a person die either.
It was cool that day. Fall had begun and so had the changing of the leaves. I had finished all my homework and all I wanted to do was go play at the park down the street. As we were walking I felt an odd chill down my neck, not a breeze. Though it was cool it wasn't windy. It didn't bug me though, not enough to dwell on it. Us three did the usual, we climbed the monkey bars, and as we swung we faced Lake Erie. The township was beautiful, and the waves crashed against what was left of the tiny beach. As I played every so often my eyes would catch a man off in the distance staring at us. It didn't bug me, just made me smile.
He smiled too, at least I think he did, he waved to me goodbye and walked off around the building across the street. Something about him was so familiar. I realized at the moment that the chill that rested on my neck was gone as well. I turned quickly and looked to were he was standing and there sat my mothers car. I ran up to her and smiled, it was six o clock and I knew she would want me home now. As we drove we spoke about school, friends, work, chores I would have to do and my mother said "By the way, grandpa Dickson died" as if it was nothing.
Ever since my mother was a child she and my great grandfather never got along. She was disrespectful and my grandfather was old school. She was the perfect example of a rebel. "What?" it was, however, something to me? Ever since I could remember I had been spending veterans days, and forth of July with him. He would teach me songs from his time spent in the service. Then tell me of his days as an officer of the law. He was the most loyal patriotic man I had ever known. The very reason that I myself want so badly to be an officer. Adventuress until the day he passed. I loved my Grandfather and it was funny because I had always expected that he would be the one explaining death to me. Instead I would be learning about death from him in a whole different way. But not really.
Three days later I attended the funeral with my grandparents. I sat in the front row of the open casket funeral and wondered why my grandfather was just laying there. Why he looked so sad. My great grandparents had six children of their own. Twenty five grand children and five step grandchildren my mother included. Fifty one grand children myself included and three great great grandchildren. I was only a step great grandchild. But neither he nor my great grandmother ever treated me any differently. Not once.
They were always excited to see me. And always cared for me, and never once forgot me on a birthday or holiday. They always made sure I knew they cared. The minister spoke of how wonderful my grandpa was. It made me smile to think about all the wonderful times we had had until I forgot I would no longer be having them. He was a woodsman, made plates, trinkets, pens, tops, and yo yo's all out of wood and when ever I would see him he would always have a new one for me. Not anymore. Who would make them now?
As I thought of these things I noticed once more a small chill on my neck. This time, I didn't let it bug me at all. I didn't even stop to think why it was there, on the inside of a building. With heat running. I had more important things to think about. When we went to the cemetery to bury him I stood hand in hand with my grandmother and held her. I watched her break into tears as the men in the army dress handed her his folded up flag. The same time I myself broke into tears and walked away from it all.
I spent the night at my grandmother's house that night. In the same room with the single bed. A desk. And the rocking chair he used to sit in and tell me war stories. The same one he sang the songs of his glory days with me. And that night as I stared at the wall waiting for him to come in I heard the creek on the floor. I looked up at the window to see him there, sitting on the chair with a smile on his face. I remember every moment of that night. He told me another war story, and sang with me, and then he told me about death. He told me that every body dies eventually but there was no reason to be sad.
He promised me that though he couldn't be around anymore, that he would always be watching me. And as long as I remembered him he would always be with me. I finally understood. And for a short while it made me very happy. He asked me to sing him another song and as I did my great grandmother entered the room. "Who are you talking with my dear?" she said sitting on the bed and stroking back my hair. "Grandpa. I'll be a good cop grandma" I told her as I cuddled into her chest.
She stroked my hair lightly and closed her eyes. I remember the look on her face as she tried to fight the tears. It was heart breaking. "Yes dear, yes you will" she kissed my forehead and tucked me in before leaving. When I looked back at the chair he was gone. And I never saw him again after that night. Not once. I used to get angry sometimes. I even refused to go to church when I was old enough to make the choice.
I'd often ask God expecting a clear answer why I could see everyone else but I couldn't see my grandfather. And as the years passed why I couldn't see anyone else I loved who had passed. Until one day I realized. Perhaps it is them keeping there distance from me. After all I already see so much. And have so much I can't handle. Maybe by keeping their distance they are showing to me how much they really care. I'm no longer angry with God. You can not be angry with something and not believe in it at the same time.
To be honest I don't know what I believe. But what I do know is I see ghosts. And they are a big part of who I am. I can't change it and I wouldn't for the world. Not anymore. See you next time in my Ghost Stories.