The Other Kind of Ghost

The home sits on the bluff, overlooking the river's mouth. The ocean is visible from every room as east and west windows let in both the sunrise and the sunset. The kitchen has an old fashioned pantry, and the wood-fired stove is still connected to the flue although seldom lit these days. The lady of the house is in the living room reading the same book she had in her hand a year ago. She has a great deal of short term memory loss, but is one of the happiest people I have ever met. Her entire life has been lived in this home, so no matter what period her mind settles on, her surroundings are familiar and she is unperturbed.

There are two huge bedrooms at this end of the house. One of them has the door always closed. The other is where she sleeps in a brass bed with a large eiderdown and two huge overstuffed pillows adorning it. Today she is fussing with the covers, trying to get everything symmetrical. Today she is carrying her doll with her, under one arm as she tucks and fluffs. She pauses in the hall and smiles at the closed door of the other bedroom. She thinks of me as a familiar Aunt or cousin. Although she is never sure where I fit in exactly, I do indeed fit and my presence is a happy event in her days. This lady is 97 years young. She is petite of frame and slight of stature and wears glasses that accentuate her round curious eyes. I was at her 85th birthday party and although she was better oriented to the actual date, she was not much different in appearance or attitude. She is one of life's happy wanderers.

When her son comes to check on her, as he does every morning, she sees her husband. Sometimes she sees her father and more rarely, she recognizes him as her own son. No one much pays attention to that part of things as she is just delighted to see him. He brushes her cheek with a kiss, puts a few fresh groceries in the fridge, and tells her he will be by to take her for a car ride later on. She goes to the window and waves him away.

Today as we stand in the hall, she moves past me to open the door to the second bedroom. "Mama asked me to air it out today." When the door opens, it is to a room with a dresser highboy and lady's vanity matching the rich mahogany of the bedframe. On the sittee, hand embroidered cushions hold flowers and mottos of another era. The wedding photo on the highboy is brown and taupe in colour. One picture adorns the wall. It is a sampler from the 1700s done by a seven year old girl, treasured through the generations. The room smells like roses. There is no dust settled on the window sash and the wooden floor gleams with high polish.

When I next see her son, I tell him that I caught a glimpse of the second bedroom.
"What, did you look through the outside window?"
"No no"", I tell him, "Your Mom was airing it out."
"Oh you must be mistaken. We keep that door locked so that Mom doesn't get upset over things. As long as the door is closed she doesn't worry. Grama always kept her door closed."
Rather than dwell on the strangeness of the open door, I asked him what his Grandmother was like, and if she was as laid back as his mother.
"All I remember about her is that "Attar of Roses" stuff she sprayed herself with."
"Was she a good housekeeper?"
"We used to slide along the floors here. Hard to believe now with the carpets everywhere, but Ma's mom keep the wood floors polished to within an inch of their lives."
Carpet everywhere?
I looked around at the thick wall to wall carpets. I decided NOT to look through the window on my way out. My client sat in her big airchair smiling.