Monday, 17 August 2009

Recipe for a less-than-stellar evening

1. Family who has invited us to a barbecue kennels their dog for the evening, citing dog's over-excitability and danger of nipping.
2. Dog-worshipping younger daughter is informed of this at the beginning of the twenty-five-minute car journey to the house and spends the trip in a pall of disappointment, not having seen the dog in two years.
3. Aging mother/mother-in-law of host couple asks me after dinner if I plan to put younger daughter in a group home.
4. I wander off for a solo stroll to weep and regain my equilibrium and wonder in passing if kennelling is this family's solution for everything.

Other than that, our summer stay in Victoria has been quite lovely, thank-you.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Uninvited ghosts

Woman and Baby with Ghost(s)
Originally uploaded by meowhous
I've just finished listening to an audio-book in which a young boy's mother has vanished. He is certain she is dead because he senses her in things like candles. "People don't hang around without their bodies unless they're dead," he explains reasonably.

This reminded me of my eldest daughter when she was four. She was frequently visited by the spectre of her paternal grandmother who only spoke to her once to say: "Do you know who I am?" My daughter replied, of course --- she'd seen the picture on the mantle. (My mother-in-law died three years before elder daughter was born.) She mentioned this in the off-handed way children mention these sort of things, and I battled not to show the shudder descending through my body. Something about the words and the circumstances rang true, and it would be just like my late mother-in-law to hang around. She had an unshakable faith in her own indispensability, and both my husband and I had unsettling experiences after her death, which I'll tell you about some other time.

Later, when elder daughter was thirteen, she gave me a little more detail. She said her grandmother would be sitting in the rocking chair in her bedroom, smiling pleasantly and watching her granddaughter play. The rocking chair had belonged to my sister-in-law, a gift from her parents when her first son was born; the rocker had been passed on to us when she left the country. When we moved, I donated the chair to the Unitarian Church, which would not have pleased my devoutly Anglican mother-in-law.

Elder daughter told me her grandmother only appeared if the Resident Fan Boy was in the house, and faded when anybody came upstairs. She stopped her visits altogether when the RFB started a series of secondments to Ottawa in 1998, which had him away from home for three-week periods, broken by three-day jet-lagged weekends. Father-in-law began making appearances shortly after his death in 1999; elder daughter would see him leaning on our front yard gate, something else she told me at the time in a matter-of-fact tone. I had no reason to doubt her. I felt him enter the living-room one evening and said calmly: "Hello, Edward." The feeling passed, and we moved to Hades less than a year later. Elder daughter said she was always waiting for her maternal grandfather to show up, but as we learned the year she was thirteen, he was still alive then, so not prone to hang around without his body. Now my daughter is seventeen and he is dead, I doubt somehow that he'll show up, unless he's visiting younger daughter and she doesn't have the words to tell us...

I'm not sure whether I believe in ghosts or not. I've had enough creepy experiences to make me wonder, and know plenty of intelligent people (such as my daughter, my sister, and even my mother, among others) who say without a hint of melodrama, that they've seen, felt or heard something.

I like to push such thoughts from my mind, particularly when I'm house-sitting a large old home by myself, except for younger daughter. I've one more night in this particular house and the Resident Fan Boy flies in from Hades to help me house-sit the second residence tomorrow (which only has an ancient dial-up computer, so you may not hear from me until I'm hauled back to Hades in about three weeks). Last night was a relatively cool evening after a run of unusually hot days for Victoria (including a 40 humidex, fer Gawd's sake; Victoria never gets a humidex above 33... and smog????), so I slipped into the hot tub under the Garry Oaks, and listened for the Symphony Splash as the sun set, because often the music drifts for miles if the wind is right. Unfortunately, someone was having some sort of rave closer by, so all I could hear were the rhythmic thumps and crunches of the techno stuff.

After a short soak, I drifted around the house in the routine that has emerged during our stay: checking the intercom by the front door which has been crackling like a popcorn-maker since the worst of the heat-wave, despite everything I've unplugged; checking the side door which has mysteriously unlocked itself, despite my diligence, at least three times; drawing the blinds against the encroaching dark. Much later, I tuned the radio for company, and was gathering the courage to switch off the bed-side light, when I saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked and saw nothing and realized I was too weary to be scared. Haunt someone else, whoever and whatever you are, I thought, as I faded into sleep.