Monday, February 11, 2008

Susan and Things That Go Bump in the Night

My friend Susan at A Thousand Wordsworth mused in her latest post about the friendly spirit that seemed to live in their previous home, and her encounter with him.

It's a nice story, and brought to mind my own propensity for seeing things which aren't (technically speaking) actually there.

This little quirk of mine began in childhood, and it's happened quite a few times, but this story happened one bitterly cold February night in Calgary. I was sitting in the living room in my rocker, reading. The living room and dining room were one long space, there was an arched doorway about midway down the wall leading to a short passageway, with stairs going up to the left to the upstairs bedrooms. The other side of the passageway opened into the kitchen, where Tony and the boys were at the table working on some kind of project. The kitchen door opened onto a set of stairs which went down to the garage level, where the outside door was.

I looked up from my book to see a boy of six or seven standing in the archway, one hand on the door frame. He was dressed in woolen pants which buckled just below the knee, dark socks and high-topped brown shoes, a short woolen suit jacket, a white shirt and a sort of "pork-pie" billed hat.

He was not dressed for the -30 temperatures outside and my first thought was he was a neighborhood child who'd found himself locked out and had come to our house for shelter. But he was dressed so strangely. And he hadn't come through the front door to my left, so he must have come through the kitchen, yet Tony and the boys hadn't said anything.

He just stood there looking back at me with steady dark eyes. I laid my book down and stood up, I don't remember exactly what I said to him, something like, "Are you okay?" or "Are you cold?" because I thought he must have come in from outside.

I began to walk toward him, a distance of some 10 feet. But with each step he seemed to grow more transparent until by the time I reached the spot where he'd been standing he was entirely gone! I flipped on the light to the stairs and went up to the bedrooms, but he wasn't there. I went into the kitchen, where Tony and the boys said they hadn't seen him, and he certainly hadn't come through the kitchen door.

It was years later when a cousin dropped off an old suitcase she'd found in her mother's attic. In it were photos from the 1860s onward. In one, taken about 1912 my father and his brothers were dressed exactly as that little boy had been. I can't say that the child in the doorway was my father, who had passed away the previous November, but it certainly looked like him.

That house was a duplex. We were in one side and Tony's mother was in the other. It certainly had its share of spooks. One morning my mother-in-law got up and reported that Tony's father, dead 20 years, had come into her room in the night, sat on the bed and talked to her, telling her they'd be together again soon.

And another winter evening I was in my rocker, this time working on a quilt, when I saw Tony's mother's cat Hobo run the length of the dining room, run past me in the living room, jump onto the fireplace mantle and disappear through the wall. I looked up at the clock and it was 7:30.

The only thing that made this remarkable, aside from the fact that Hobo jumped into the wall and went right through, was the fact that he'd died the previous summer. He was a sweet little guy, a blue-eyed white cat and deaf as a post. Tony's mom felt so badly about his death. He caught his collar on the top of the fence and hung himself.

The morning after I saw Hobo's ghost, with his little blue collar, I went over to see Tony's mom, as I often did. We had a cup of tea and chatted, then she said, "You won't believe me, but I was lying here on the sofa last night with a book, and suddenly Hobo jumped right out of the wall over the mantelpiece, jumped down, ran across the room, jumped onto the dining room table, to the buffet and right out through the wall!"

I asked her what time, and she said, "7:30." I told I had no trouble believing her, because he'd run through our place first.

Years later we lived in an apartment in a high-rise. We had two cats, the smaller Freddy and larger (dominant) Patches. Tony was going through a difficult time and tended to have violent seizure-like attacks during sleep. So we slept in separate beds. Freddy liked to sleep with Tony but Patches took exception to that, and would chase Freddy out of the bedroom.

But in the night I'd often feel a soft little bounce as Freddy jumped on my bed and nestled in the crook of my knees, purring and kneading the covers. I thought nothing of this until one early morning when I awoke to find Patches curled up at my side, and saw Freddy nestled next to Tony in his bed.

With a bit of a start I realized that "Freddy", or a cat I'd taken to be Freddy, was stilled curled into the crook of my knees. I reached down and though I could feel the weight against the covers, and the purring, there was no cat there.

This happened so regularly I lost count. The little invisible cat would come to sleep in the curl of my knees several nights a week, and we soon called it "spirit cat". I felt kind of bad when we moved, and hoped the next tenants wouldn't mind being snuggled by a spirit.


When Freddy was a kitten and young cat he loved anything red. Red flowers were his favorite thing. He would pull a flower from a bouquet and carry it around for hours, crooning to it, licking it, batting it back and forth. To save my flower arrangements I finally bought a spray of red silk rosebuds. I plucked them off the stem and when he'd love one to pieces I'd give him a new one. He never seemed to tire of red flowers.

But time passed and he grew older and a great deal more serious. His red flower days were left behind. When he was 14 he got lymphoma and with great sadness we had to say goodbye to this sweet boy. I was devastated by his loss. I get really very attached to my animal companions and losing them is very hard.

The morning after his death I came out of the bathroom and there sat Freddy in the doorway to our bedroom, sleek and healthy, young and beautiful as he'd ever been. He was there for only a second, then he vanished.

But in the spot where he'd been sitting was a single red silk rosebud.



Anonymous said...

Ah the things we see and feel . We feel much more than we see.

Susan said...

Hi Deb,
I am glad my post inspired you to pen this passage. I love these sort of stories. I remember you told us about the rosebud kitty a while ago. You myst be very open to recieving spirits. Hopefully they will always be friendly! I actually felt our dear old Grandville curling up in the crook of my knees more than once.