Letting Go of Ghosts

She lived with us in that old house I grew up in, I know that now. She seemed to come and go, though I never saw her. And when we went, when we moved out after all those years and headed up north, I heard her silently pleading, screaming don’t go. I froze, alone in the house, packing up a box. I said out loud, I’m sorry. A silence fell, and I considered why I just spoke out loud to no one.

Years later, after we’d moved back south, I was biking down that old street and rode by the house and felt a pull and had to stop. Put one foot down on the pavement to wait, couldn’t understand the pull till I remembered, it was her, had to be. And she rushed out and wrapped her arms around me. She sat on the handlebars and rode with me for the rest of the night. We rode by all the old haunts, stopped at the lake, watched the ducks, saw the sign the city had put up saying not to bother them, the ducks. 

That night ended like a dream ends, abruptly, like a car crash, and I didn’t know where she’d gone and wasn’t concerned. Just a waking dream, it seemed. 

Shortly after, my wife drove up to the new house late one night, looked up to the window above the garage and saw her peeking out our daughters window, curtain falling aside as she stepped back, caught. She’d grown younger, it seemed, when before I’d never sensed an age she now she seemed tiny. A few weeks later we heard her singing in the hallway upstairs. A few days later, the girls away at school and my wife and I downstairs in the kitchen, she coughed at the top of the stairs. Just one short cough, as if to say I’d like your attention please.

She showed up at my bedside one night. Felt but not seen. Not there. But she was. I exist, she whispered.

I began to write about her, felt I had to, felt I might be losing it, had to get her out or let her go, help her be free. I wrote her birth story but it turned out wrong, a horror. 

The serious work began, finally, in the dark. In silence, in the deep night with closed eyes and mind open. I groped for her slowly, blindly, called out and found her, but she didn’t trust me, would’t let me get near and cowered in a corner. I left her there and came back every so often until she finally looked up, met my eyes, crawled over. She was in my arms again and I held her tight. We were in my old room then, in the old house, the one I grew up in, and I don’t know what that means, but we were there.

She wouldn’t talk, just shook her head when I spoke, long dark hair covering her face. I would leave her in my old room, sitting on the bed, her arms wrapped around her knees, let her know I’d keep coming back until she was ready.  

One day I knocked on her door (my door) and found her standing by the bed (my bed), smiling. She’d grown older, looked ready to begin. She looked so…well. I told her I loved her. She said I love you, thank you. She wouldn’t take my hand, wouldn’t leave with me. But that smile was something else. It was love. She needed a bit more time.

The last time I found her was in a wooden rocking chair on a wooden deck overlooking green fields, mountains in the distance, big blue sky overhead. Not sure where we were, but there we were, and I sat with her, asked how she was and she turned to me with that smile, that long, dark hair swirling over one eye, and just said she was good, so good. Said she was going to go now. Said it was time for her to go.

And then she was gone. 

She hasn’t been back.

When I think of her now, I miss her, but I smile, and feel her smiling too.  

18 thoughts on “Letting Go of Ghosts

  1. Am I remembering this accurately as a riff on a previous (or similar) tale you’ve posted here? Or conflating with another ghost story possibly? The love angle is new and equally creepy and alluring. I like how the sense of reality blurs between dream and waking life…and hearing that old Walt voice again I miss!

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    • Thank you very much for the kind feedback and for sharing your thoughts. Glad you found something to like in it, and that you felt the existence/transcendence current underneath. It’s a theme that seems to keep coming up lately.

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  2. I was so happy to see a list from you, Walt. Lovely to read your work again.
    And what a beautiful ghost story. Sad and unsettling, so atmospheric. I live those little touches – that cough at the top of the stairs, the way her age change echoes their developing relationship. And even though she’s a ghost, a thing of vapour, it seems to me an infidelity happening here. He’s more devoted to this first love than any other.
    Just lovely and a pleasure to read

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    • Hi Lynn! That’s an interesting comment about the infidelity, I can see how it might come across that way. Someone else had a comment that surprised me too, and I think the way this one came out leaves it open to different takes on what’s happening more so than some of the others I’ve done. Nice to hear from you, and thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Hope the “offline” writing is going well for you!

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      • It’s interesting, isn’t it, what readers see you’d never considered yourself – I’ve found that with my own writing. Sometimes it’s frustrating (‘No, I didn’t mean that at all!’), sometimes pleasantly surprising but always interesting. Nice you’ve left wriggle room for the reader’s own interpretation. Offline writing certainly ‘going’, though slowly! Hope you’re well and still offline scribbling yourself, Walt

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        • Glad to hear the scribbling is coming along, Lynn. A lot of my scribbling is academic these days, as I’m back in school working on a master’s in counseling. But as for what we’re doing here, I think it’s a sign of progress, or maturity, or maybe just not trying so hard and letting the writing write itself. The more I think about it, the more I think we shouldn’t think about it, at least not too much. When the mind gets in the way, its stops the flow, and it’s in the flow where the magic happens, I think.

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          • I hope your studies are going well – that’s some commitment you’ve taken on – good for you! I know what you mean by overthinking though I’m certainly thinking technique a lot at the moment, working in plot construction – a weakness of mine- paring down the prose until it’s succinct and accurate to what I need to say. Always still learning. Nice to chat, Walt.

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  3. Are you haunted, Walt? Because it sounds like it. Is this a muse or a ghost or both? Only thing I would say is to ground this a little bit more, maybe add a dash of humour to give it the grit to make it come through the screen and haunt the reader, too.

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    • Hi, Trent. Well, I would say I was haunted, but now not so much. I think I see what you mean when you say “ground” it. It is a little ephemeral, a little floaty, I guess. I think that’s a product of going more stream-of-consciousness. I’m trying not to overthink things these days, just let them be. It’s interesting that you suggest adding some humor. I wasn’t feeling humorous when I wrote it, so I guess that’s why there isn’t any. Not sure how humor would add to the haunting though, I’ll have to gnaw on that. Thank you very much for your constructive criticism, though. I share your take on that, that it’s in short supply in blogland, and I sincerely appreciate it. Nothing wrong with the rah-rah, but… well, you’ve already said it. I’m simpatico.

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  4. Well, this is amazing. Glad I checked in! I can now believe my son’s reluctance to leave Florida back in 1986 (he was in 7th grade) because there were “things” he couldn’t pack. That house had suspended ceilings, and I have often wondered what “things” he might’ve stashed up there. This lets me drop the notion of tangible “things” altogether. Thank you!

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    • Thanks for reading, Jazz. Glad you found something in it that resonated with you. May be a good time for a follow up conversation with your son — I’d love to hear more about that! 🙂

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