In honor of Halloween, pull up a comfy chair, fix yourself a cup of hot cider, roast some marshmallows for s’mores, and I’ll tell you a true ghost story.
When I was about 10 years old, Grandma’s neighborhood was going downhill. She was considering selling her house, encouraged by my dad and my aunt, who wanted her to live somewhere safer. But Grandma was dragging her feet about the move. She'd raised my dad and my aunt in that house. My grandfather had died in that house. It was her home.
When a man bit off a policeman’s ear in Grandma’s front yard, she decided it was time to go. She sold her house and moved to a “better” neighborhood. The next month, when she was out of town for the weekend, her house in the better neighborhood was robbed. She came home to find they’d taken everything. The refrigerator stood open, and the food was gone; drawers were missing from the dressers; the handmade antique clock that had marked time on her mantle for years had disappeared; clothes, jewelry, sheets and towels had to be bought new.
But when we went to see Grandma a few months later (we lived in Alabama, she lived in North Carolina) she seemed to be doing well in her new house. She’d replaced her stuff and met her neighbors. And when she tucked my sister Susan and me in bed that first night, she said, “I’m going to tell you girls a true ghost story tonight.”
Grandma turned out the lights and sat down on the end of the bed. “Now, you know how I didn’t want to move out of my old house?” she asked.
“It’s not just because I loved the house,” she said. “It’s because your grandpop visited me there.”
Susan and I snuggled deeper under the covers. Grandpop died when I was six. How could he visit?
“Many times since he died, he’d come to see me in the night,” Grandma said. “He’d sit down on the end of the bed, kind of like I'm doing now, and ask me how I was. Then he’d tell me he was watching out for me. I’d fall asleep with him by my side.
“I was afraid that if I moved, Grandpop wouldn’t be able to find me,” she continued. “Since he died in the house, I thought maybe he couldn’t leave there. I didn’t know how being a ghost worked.”
Susan and I scooted closer together. We didn’t know how being a ghost worked either.
“Then I moved here. I got robbed, and I didn’t know the neighbors, and I was really lonely. And your grandpop didn’t visit me,” she whispered.
We scooted closer to Grandma, whose huge smile showed up even in the dark bedroom..
“Then about a month ago I was in bed. I looked up and there was your grandpop standing in the door to the bedroom.” She turned toward the door, almost as if she could still see him standing there.
“He sat down on the side of the bed, patted my leg and said, ‘Don’t worry about moving. Wherever you go, I’ll always find you. He’s been back to see me two or three times since then. And I’ve met some really nice neighbors. And I got all new stuff. “ She rubbed the new sheets through her fingers. “I think I’m going to like it here.”
As I grew up, I didn’t think about Grandma’s ghost story very often. I knew she believed, but I’d never seen a ghost and wasn’t sure I believed. Grandma died a few years back. Not long after her death, I was in bed, thinking about her, and there she was, in the doorway to our bedroom.
She sat down next to me, patted my leg and said, “Don’t worry about me. I'm fine, and I’m looking out for you. Wherever you go, I’ll always find you.”