It’s the kind of confidence you can’t fake.
When my daughter, Brody, says she scared, I tell her this, “They want you here. They want you to feel safe. They don’t want us to go.”
Heidi will sometimes tell her, “There’s nothing to be afraid of. They wouldn’t make you feel scared.”
I don’t think that Heidi knows them. She only knows that I know them. Or feel them.
Let me explain.
* * *
Our house is surrounded by spirits.
And I would be as naturally prone to reject this idea as you.
Except that they are here constantly.
I have known this for a long time.
But it’s been easy to write off; as foolish; as subjective; as somebody searching for proof. A fool seeking a supernatural answer to feelings.
But then this happened.
* * *
To talk about this, we must take a step back first.
When I was 5, my grandmother died.
Grandma Frances was my world. Parents worked; and so she was my caregiver.
My mom always gone; we lived from place to place – in her basement; in the home of a friend.
Grandma, years passed, succumbed to a complication from polio, from a damaged heart, maybe from a botched surgery.
The details have never been clear.
I remember visits to a New York hospital; I remember her fading fast; I remember tears; talk of a litigation.
I remember when they told me she died.
I remember the funeral.
I remember what happened thereafter.
We moved into a home she owned with grandpa.
It was a home with its own problems.
A drug addict – an alcoholic(?) – had died on the couch in the living room.
We cleaned it out. And then we moved in.
My bedroom looked out towards the couch where the previous tenant died.
Night after night, I woke up, looking at that couch. Always bad.
* * *
I made a pillow in first grade.
All felt and fluffy – I think we made it in class.
Red for the frame; triangle green eyes, a circle nose; and orange felt mouth.
One night, I woke up and it came flying at me. Twisting on a 135-degree pendulum. Rotate, rotate, rotate.
Tempting me with fear.
The pillow went back to where it belonged. Regular size.
And by my bedside: an aura.
It floated there.
All serene. Gown white and moving.
I rubbed my eyes.
Surely, I was sleeping.
But it was there again.
Rub my eyes one more time.
It was grandma.
Rubbed my eyes again. Closed them. Rubbed them.
Surely this can’t be real.
But there it was again.
And then it got angry.
Came at me.
And it faded.
* * *
This would play out; again and again through my early childhood.
The nasty from the couch; and the floating figure that made it okay.
But there was always a way to differentiate to the good from the bad.
Red, orange, green. Shifting, simple, complex.
The orb gave me goose bumps; filled my body with calm.
In its light, a view to something. Unobtainable, but peaceful.
Goosebumps. Not fear.
That stopped when I was 10. Maybe 11.
* * *
Fast forward thirty years later. Blood pressure 177 over 110.
School, work, Beckett’s health issues stripping my soul.
The alcohol, the bad choices, stripping whatever progress I’d made a few years earlier running endurance races.
Every morning, a challenge to wake to – and that’s a grand, grand overview of what I’d been fighting.
I’d lost faith.
I was functioning.
On mandatory responsibility.
Every day had been a challenge to face.
I lay in bed that night.
And I had a dream.
* * *
In it, I was maybe 5, maybe younger.
My grandmother, it was definitely my grandmother, was there.
She was sad.
There was a boy; but she called to me: “Eddie!”
She held out her arms to me.
Pulled me into her embrace.
“Eddie,” she said.
And then started bawling … for Charlie.
“Your Uncle Charlie,” she cried.
“Charlie … Charlie … Charlie.”
I woke up.
* * *
The orb was there again. The one I’d seen when I was 7.
Some 30 or more years removed, it hung over my bed – undeniably the same light source I’d seen as a child.
I hadn’t experienced anything like it since pre-puberty.
I was sure it was fake.
I rubbed my eyes. Closed them. Reopened them.
Did it again.
So I stared at it. Really looked at it.
Oh, the wave.
Calm and sudden.
Cool and soothing.
No threat; then goosebumps.
What is this thing? No 41-year-old man has this moment; surely I’m asleep or high, no?
But no drinks last night.
Washing over me.
The light dancing and then expanding; faint and hard to see – but now clearly across the entire foot of the bed.
I say to it, “Okay, grandma. Gotcha’. It’s you.”
And it fades.
And I go to sleep.
* * *
The next day, I woke up and called my mom.
“Who the hell is Charlie?” I ask.
She says she has no clue; but promises to ask around.
I tell Heidi.
About the aura. The red floating globe. How I know it was grandma. I tell the kids, too.
She searches the internet.
Looks up what it means.
We get the normal crackpot results.
But I know, even if no one else does.
I’ve been visited.
* * *
A couple weeks later, mom calls.
“I’ve been talking to Claire (Grandma’s 90 year-old-sister),” she says across the phone. “They had a neighbor they called Uncle Charlie.”
“He was a close friend who lived next door.”
I’ve never heard of this Charlie, I swear. It’s the first sign.
I take it as confirmation.
And life moves on.
And I forget.
Because the supernatural only has so much place in a busy every day existence.
And then … tonight.
* * *
I was walking to the neighborhood mailbox.
Mom had called several times today, during meetings.
Couldn’t take the call.
But I could now.
It had been many months since that dream / experience / whatever the hell it was.
That’s the way it goes.
I returned the call. Mom answers.
I don’t get “Hello?” – I get this:
“What was the name of that guy in your dream?”
Don’t know how, but without missing a beat, I said, “Charlie.”
“Get the heck out of here,” she said.
“I found a picture of your grandma today that said, ‘Me and Charlie.'”
“Two of them, in fact.’”