Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Man

It's not that I believe in ghosts so much as that I don't disbelieve. There are things, I think, that are inexplicable. Unless they can be explained by the presence of an energy that feels the need to hang around.

The house that my parents live in was built in the mid 1920's and was purchased by my great grandparents for a shockingly expensive $20 a month. To make ends meet Grandma Fred (yes, Fred) sold eggs and chickens and kept a garden. Back then, the suburb was an apple orchard and the trains ran through the valley on coal fueled steam. Great Grandpa raised fighting chickens (I know. But it *was* the 20's and they had a very different view) in the back yard and Gram was charged with feeding them. To this day, she won't touch chicken skin.

Grandma Fred lived in that house for about 60 of her 86 years and so it's really no surprise that from time to time the attic that had been her bedroom and then was mine would grow cold. No surprise either that when you were sick, you'd feel her sit down beside you and lay a hand on your head. It wasn't scary, it was just Grandma. It was her house and that's all there was to it.

So, too, when Grandpa Jimmy (Grams husband) passed did it make sense that he would return to his home to pass the time knocking around in the basement workroom or sitting on the front porch watching the neighborhood go by.

It's just the way things were. Are.

When I was a very little girl, just slightly more than six, our little family took a road trip through the northwest in a red Volkswagon van. It had one of those pop-up roofs and a wee adorable kitchen. We camped in it at night, Mum and Dad on the folded down seat, myself tucked up underneath it and CK nestled in the stairwell (she was three).

Near the very end of our trip, as CK, Mum and I dozed, Dad drove us through a twisty mountain pass on a two lane road. Around a blind corner, a drunk driver crossed the center line and struck us head on, rolling the van into the side of the mountain. We were lucky, the other side was a cliff.

I remember nothing of this trip, save for the this.

When I woke up, dazed, the side of my face destroyed by gravel, my arm was trapped under the vehicle. I had no idea what had happened, just that I was stuck and I was scared. I recall pulling my arm from the window (I think I broke it myself doing that) and then looking around for someone; an adult, to tell me what to do.

The roof of the van had come off when we rolled and through where the top of the van should have been, I had a clear view of the side of the highway.

God, was I grateful to see The Man. The Man (because that's how I've always thought of him) was in his sixties, grey haired and bearded; dressed in Levi's, boots and a work shirt.

He called me by name and told me to take off my seat belt. I did and then I dropped to the ground. He didn't come any closer, but that he was there was enough. He told me to unbuckle CK and I did and together we crawled (her femur was broken, but crawl we did) out on to the gravel. The Man stood a bit aside and he told me we needed to get far away from the van, it was going to explode.

It's eerie how quiet chaos can be.

By now, though, I could hear the horn blaring, I could hear Dad shouting, his pants burnt off, his tennis shoes melted to his feet, he was screaming for us, for Mum. I shouted back, but I doubt he heard me.

In the most serendipitous stroke of fate, the next vehicle on the scene was a motor home driven by a retired EMT.

They bundled CK and I into the motor home, the wife of they EMT's friend rocking CK back and forth and plying me with juice. Neither of us cried, there would be time for that later. Who were we? Where were we going? How old was I; was CK; were our folks? Where were we from? Whom could they call? It was a pretty boring game. I watched through the window as they led my father away from the wreckage, watched him hit the pavement only after they pulled Mum out on a backboard made of the table and laid her away from the smoking van.

"My mom is dead" I told them in the implicit logic only a child can conjure and of course, they assured me she wasn't. "Yes, she is. She's allergic to bees. If she wasn't dead, she wouldn't want them near her." The ladies looked at one another and one left to shoo the bees away with a white paper plate.

The roadway was scattered with nickles and Choc-o-dials. I could see one of my shoes on the yellow line. The hillside was scattered with poppies. There was a skid of red paint on the black top. The doors of the cabinets on the wee kitchens facade hung open, the plastic contents tumbled into a heap in the gravel.

Several minutes later, though it's hard to say how long, the van did indeed explode and I turned to the woman that had stayed with us and told her The Man had said it would.

"What man, lamb?" she asked

"THE man," I looked around for him then, but he was gone.

Much later, when I was grown up, my Mum (who had indeed died) told me that she too had seen The Man, she had seen him in the Summerland before she decided to come back. The man told her that he would watch me. Watch us.

From time to time, as I grew up, The Man came back. Never to the degree he had that day, but back still. In the corner of my eye, I'll see him in the hallway. I'll catch his scent, a mix of pipe smoke and the ocean, in a breeze. I'll turn around and expect to find him.

Am I crazy? Yes. But that's not the point. The point is that some time, some where in my past, The Man has come to see me as his. In times of great stress, I feel him more.

The day that M had her accident, I was sure The Man was on the porch.

I'd say he's not a ghost. Not exactly an angel (I rather get the sense that he was a bit of a trouble maker. And he's definitely a jokster. I hope he reads the interwebz, and if so I NEED MY DAMN EARRINGS BACK and I better not find them in the kitchen cupboards again) but something close. Some sort of other. The sort of other that makes a bump in the night.

It's not so much that he portends disaster, but rather that he shows up to stand just behind and beside me to remind me that I am strong enough to sail a stormy sea. So too, does he show up when things are about to change. Just before a move. Right before I make a big decision. When I need a push because I refuse to just leap.

This morning, I thought I smelled the ocean.

13 little kittens say Meow:

ZDub said...

DUDE. I believe.

Chibi Jeebs said...

Whatever The Man is there to support you with right now, you'll get through it. Love you.

Sheila said...

I totally believe this kind of shit. And I totally believe you.

Queen of the Universe said...

I cried when I read this post. I thank you for sharing and I too believe.

Stewie said...

Great post. One thing I don't understand (and I apologize if this comes out as insensitive, but I assure you it's not meant to be): Did your mom die that day?

If so, how did she tell you she saw The Man, too?

Don't take this as me being a smartass, I'm just trying to get what happened.

Miss Thystle said...

Stewie, she did die, but thanks to excellent first aid, CPR was performedsuccessfully.

Stewie said...

Ohhhhhhh okay, gotcha. Wow, okay.

That's insane.

KAErk said...

damn, wow. nice post. glad you clarified about your mom in the comments.

KAErk said...

and the damn wow wasn't snarky. i meant it. just don't want it to be taken wrong on such an important entry.

Martie said...

That. Is. Awesome. The day my great grandmother was buried (I was EXTREMELY close to her), I had the flu. Bad. I felt her sit on my bed and pat my hand and feel my forehead. And no one will ever, ever take that from me. RIP MawMaw Riggs. I miss you.

Nadine Hightower said...

Glad to know you're mom isn't dead. I wish my dad had good EMTs like that.

I want a man.
I need a man. or a dog or something to watch over me. Too many bad things have happened for me to believe I have an angel.

I hope that whatever is going to happen this time to you or with you or your loved ones, is not something so life altering that you can't get thru it.

Love and Hugs.

Baylee and Blair's page said...

Wow... what an amazing story! You guys are lucky to be alive and I'm glad you listened to the "man"! I believe in stuff like this as well!

Hugs - Tiff

MODG said...

i'm not saying why, but TRUST ZDUB.