Sunday, October 30, 2011

Who could it be now?

Something happened to me once, something strange and peculiar.  I’ve told a few people about it, but my older sister, you know, the pesky one, thinks I need to write about it here.  I carry this event, this experience, around me with everyday, buried in the depths of the digital world and accessed by dialing “1” on my cell phone and hearing those words, “You have one saved voice message,” spoken by an electronic voice.  When I press the key to listen to my saved message, I hear a woman’s weak, trembling voice say, 

“Hey baby. Can you come n' help me? I got to get on the pot, and I'm afraid to. (pause) I love you. (awkwardly long pause) Bye.”

I got this message one Saturday morning, April 30, 2011 at 8:50 a.m., to be exact. My phone rang, and in typical fashion I could not get to it in time to answer.  When I looked at the call log I knew it was a wrong number because I didn’t recognize it, and everyone who ever calls me is in my contact list, and this number was not.  I saw the wrong number left me a voicemail, so I listened, hoping it was a message from one of the many contests I enter telling me I’d won a major prize.  I got a prize alright.  When I heard the message for the first time I was stunned.  In fact, it was one of those literal jaw dropping moments.  What should I do?  Should I call her back?  What if she had made it to the pot?  I certainly didn’t want to interrupt her.  And, even if I could help her there was no way I could get to her in time to make it to the pot anyway.  And if I did call her I imagined she would be terribly embarrassed to know she left her pot emergency message on a stranger’s voicemail.  I did the only thing I could think of at the time, I listened to the message again.  Surely I heard it wrong.  But there it was, 

“Hey baby. Can you come n' help me? I got to get on the pot, and I'm afraid to. (pause) I love you. (awkwardly long pause) Bye.”

Again, I was stunned.  By now, I figured, if Baby hadn’t called her back, then surely she had called Baby back, and all was well.  All I could do was speculate.  I wondered just what was this woman afraid to do.  Was there a big hairy spider in the bathroom, and she was afraid to go in without Baby? That’s reason enough for ME to call Baby.  Maybe she had once seen a ghost in the bathroom, and didn’t want to go in there alone.  Did she hear a strange noise outside the window? Maybe she had just had some kind of medical procedure and was afraid of what might happen to her if she made it to the pot.  Whatever the reason, I prayed she found Baby and made it to her destination without incident.

I have kept that voicemail since it was left for me.  It’s like a little gift.  I’ve shared it with others to hear their take on the situation.  I always get the same literal jaw dropping reaction.  Then I have to play it again because surely they’ve heard it wrong as well.

I’ve thought about that woman from time to time, hoping she found Baby, hoping she is well.  And then, one day a couple of months ago, August 9, 2011 to be exact, I was on my way home from work when my cell phone rang.  This time I answered it, and I heard a familiar voice say, “Hey Baby! Hey Baby!”  This time the voice was happy and exuberant. I interrupted to say I thought she had the wrong number.  She apologized and hung up.  She sounded like she had good news for Baby.  RELIEF!!!  I was so happy to know the woman was alive and well.  I guess she made it to the pot afterall.

I continue to keep that voicemail.  I’ll listen to it from time to time, and then, as instructed by the electronic voice, I’ll press “9” to save it for 21 more days.  I’m glad my phone number is so close to Baby’s.  I hope she will call me by mistake again someday.  Her voice is like an old friend to me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Things do go bump in the night

Halloween is right around the corner, as I am reminded every time I search the television guide for something decent to watch.  Instead I am bombarded with horror movies, movies rapt with blood and gore and/or demon possessions.  I admit I do enjoy watching some Ghosthunters and the like, much to the dismay of my husband, but I never, ever, never ever, watch anything do to with demon possessions.  I don’t play that.
I think it is about time I tell my own ghost stories.  If these things bother you for whatever reason, then stop reading now.  But if you want to know me, then you should know sometimes strange things happen to me.

Here is where I am going to admit to something many would disagree with.  I believe in ghosts.  I also believe in demon possessions which is why I do not pursue my belief in ghosts.  I do not own a FLIR, I do not make digital recordings to listen for disembodied voices, and I don’t take pictures in Graceland to look for orbs.  Well, actually I did do that, and from the results of my pictures, Elvis has left the building.  No, I’ve had enough unsolicited personal encounters of my own that I do not have to go looking for them. 

When I was growing up, ghost was a household word.  The idea of ghosts was no big deal.  My parents were believers, but it was more of a matter-of-fact thing.  My father and my grandmother often told us stories about hauntings in the old farmhouse in which he was raised.  Rattling doorknobs, strange lights, meat cleavers swinging on the wall…these were the things of bedtime stories.  Most of my brothers and sisters have had unexplained experiences at the “farm”, and my father never dismissed them.  I don’t remember him encouraging us, but he never refuted us either.  My mother was more afraid of things, but she would chime in with her own sighting she had of grandfather at the farm after he had passed.  Since that day she never went back into that house.

Personally I have never seen anything unusual at the farm, but there have been times when I would go out there and immediately have to leave.  A feeling would come over me I could not explain, and all I knew was I had to leave.  But I have witnessed other things at other places.  Shall I tell?

The first time I ever had an extraordinary experience was when I was about 10 or so.  In the bedroom I occasionally shared with two of my sisters there were two beds with the headboards against the wall with the windows. I was sleeping in the bed on the far left side of the room.  I woke up in the middle of the night and I saw the silhouette of a young boy in the window.  The odd thing was he was inside my room, not outside.  I could not see his features, but I could see his shape very clearly.  He was a solid form.  I remember feeling so scared.  All I could do was close my eyes tight and cover my head.  I know I wasn’t dreaming.  This image has stayed with me all of these years.  Was it real?  I don’t know, but it was real to me.

The first house my husband and I owned was an unusual place. It was built in the 1940s and we were the third owners.  The second owners only lived there a couple of years before we bought it.   I never felt any negative feelings there, but when my son was born things started to happen.  Sometimes our dog would bark and run around for no apparent reason.  There were times when we would all be in the living room and things would fall on the floor in the kitchen.  When my son was a baby he was always looking up, or over my shoulder behind me.  And he was captivated by the lights.  He was always looking at the lights.  

Speaking of lights, there were times, once I remember clearly on Christmas Eve, when there would be strange flashes of light out of nowhere.  These flashes are why, to this day, I hang reflective things outside my windows.  That way, if I see flashes of light at least I have an explanation.  But I think the eeriest thing was the footprints of a small child embedded in the finish of the floor in our bedroom.  Just an imprint of little feet in the far corner of the room.  I kept it covered with a table until we could carpet.  I was told by someone who knew the original owners that they did not have children, and the floor was original, so I do not know how the footprints came to be.  But the most startling thing that happened to me in that house was having my foot tugged on when I was in bed.  Just a gentle tug, but it was enough for me to keep my legs away from the edge of the bed from then on.

When I moved to my next house things were much calmer.  Calmer, but not altogether quiet.  There was the time I felt someone sit next to me on my son’s bed, complete with impression on the mattress, the time my husband saw a woman in a flowered dress walk down the hall, the hundreds of times my children would call out “yes” in answer to someone calling their name, thinking I was calling them, and the time I was surrounded by swirling golden sparkles, as if I was in a snow globe full of golden glitter.  In this house the strangest thing that happened to me was being awakened in the middle of the night by a little boy.  I had two little boys of my own, so I got out of bed and followed him in the dark out of my bedroom to put him back to bed.  When I got to the hallway he was gone.  I went to both of my sons’ bedrooms and they were both sound asleep in their beds. 

I am now in my fifth year in my third house, and so far so good.  The only strange things that have happened here are the tappings I feel on my legs sometimes when I am asleep.  But this didn’t start until after I got housecats, so I attribute it to a kitty jumping on my bed.  Right?

The truth is I have never seen an actual ghost in my waking hours.  Yes, I have had some strange experiences, but I’m sure they all have reasonable explanations if you think about them hard enough.  No, my ghosts come to me in my dreams.  My dreams are where I converse with and touch my loved ones who have passed.  These encounters are as real to me as if these people were standing next to me when I’m wide awake.  These are the dreams I call visits.  I haven’t had very many of these dreams, but I treasure each of them.  My sister has visited me, my good friend, my father, my grandfather, and my niece.  My aunts and grandmother sometimes make cameo appearances in the background, waving and smiling at me.  I have yet to be visited by my mother, my nephew, and my brother-in-law.  Sure, I have dreamed about them, but these dreams have not been visits.  There is a definite difference between a dream and a visit, and I can’t really explain it, I just know.  If it happens to you, you will understand.

So, keep a watchful eye out there for strange flashes of light, footprints in the varnish, and golden sparkles.  And if you do see these things, who you gonna call?  Not me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

There is light

I am Catholic.  Catholicism is something that is as much a part of me as the air I breathe.  I did not choose this faith, I was born into it, but I have the freedom to choose to leave it at any time.  And I have considered it.  Throughout my life I have had sort of a love/not so much love relationship with the Church.  There have been times in my life when I have ignored the Church and pushed it aside.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never ignored my faith, just the institution of the Church.  In fact, I have been going through one of those periods for the last couple of years.  

I was raised in a Catholic school as was my entire family including my mother and her entire family.  My years at that school are some of the best memories I have.  I credit those years for giving me the strong foundation of faith that has carried me through many difficult times.  That is why I insisted my children attend the same school.  Even though it was a financial burden on our family, I wanted them to have the same experiences and as solid of an education as I did.  I guess the phrase “you can never go home again” rings some truth because my children had some very negative experiences.  And as a result of their rebuffs, I, as a parent, spent too many years under undue stress that I unintentionally passed on to my children.  I finally had all I could take and pulled them from the school in an attempt to salvage what little there was left of their self-esteem and get them back on track academically.  Public school did not prove to be a cure-all for one of my children, and when I turned back to the Catholic school for help I was refused it.  That hurt.  It did not matter that my mother and her 8 brothers and sisters were alums, and most of their children, and their children’s children.  The fact remained I was refused, and the experience left a bitterness in me that turned me away from the whole establishment, even the Church.

Holding onto bitterness is not a way to live one’s life.  It will seep into every pore of your existence and corrupt your life from the inside out.  Ever since the time these feelings took over, my life has been in a slow downward spiral, so slow it is almost indiscernible, but yet I can still feel it turning.  

I know I have to make a change in my attitude before things can turn in full swing towards the positive.  I have forgiven the school, even though I still cringe when I think of all of those lost years I could have had with my children as a happy mother instead of a stressed out wreck.  

In an effort to make some positive changes I went to mass yesterday for the first time in a very, very long time (not including funerals).  I was reminded God will sometimes reach out to you in the most peculiar ways.  For example, on my way to communion I was listening to the song and looking down at my feet and the feet in front of me and in the line to my right.  I looked at the shoes around me.  There were running shoes, sandals, boots, and sneakers.  Shoes carrying people of all ages, sizes, and different walks of life to the front of the church to take Jesus into our hands, into our bodies and into our souls.   We asked forgiveness and stepped out into the aisle and walked together to the altar, and I noticed we were all stepping in time to the music coming from the acoustic guitar and the music director singing: “There is a light that can overcome the darkness. There is no darkness that can overcome the light.”

That moment in time reminded me of another communion many years ago in my sister’s hospital room when I felt the presence of Jesus so close to me I could almost feel Him breathing on me.

Those rhythmic steps down the aisle, the memory of that long ago communion, the words of light overcoming darkness, the feeling of Jesus in my hand, all these things made me remember that my Father’s house is my home, and no matter what kind of family spats we may have He will always have a place for me and welcome me with open arms.  Just as my earthly father never refused me entrance to his house on Rawls Avenue, my heavenly Father will always welcome me into his house as well.

Will I be back in mass on Sunday?  I don’t know.  I like to think I will.  Either way my bitterness has ebbed and is fading.  As the hymn says, “There is a light that can overcome the darkness. There is no darkness
that can overcome the light.”