View from the Porch

Gerry would have loved Cannon Beach. Here she is with friend Charlie Cotton in Atlantic City in the mid-1960s.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband misplaced his glasses. His very expensive prescription glasses, I might add, not his cheap drugstore readers. After turning the house upside down a few times looking for them and engaging in some Marie Kondo-level tidying, he proclaimed the eyeglasses hopelessly lost and said he was going to order new ones.

Not so fast, I said. They must be in the house somewhere.

A few days later he was pouring himself a bowl of cereal as an after dinner snack.

“This box is pretty much empty,” he said, preparing to ditch it in the bin under the sink. “Nothing left in here but crumbs.” I took the box from his hands, making some noises about the value of recycling. The box seemed a bit heavy.

“This doesn’t feel empty,” I said. I removed the cellophane bag inside the box, which did indeed hold crumbs. Between the liner and the cardboard walls of the box, guess what I found?

“Aha,” I said, holding up the glasses.

“This is your mother’s doing,” my husband said.

My mother left the planet 32 years ago this April. It was a few months after her boyfriend of 10 years succumbed to liver cancer. She was already talking about taking a cruise and getting a facelift. On the day she died, she was all set to meet a friend for lunch. She never made it out of her apartment due to a sudden and conclusive cardiac episode. I doubt she knew she had heart disease, or if she did know something, she wasn’t talking. For as long as I can remember, she wasn’t shy, however, about talking about death. One of her favorite things to say on the topic was that when she was gone, she wouldn’t really be gone. She intended to show up for annoying haunting purposes.

My mother is an effective ghostly presence. Sometimes I hear her voice in my ear, and I’ve definitely felt her energy. If she’s going to make herself known to me, I wish she’d relay useful information, like stock tips. Instead she seems to enjoy amusing herself playing harmless tricks and pranking my husband. My mother and my husband only met a couple of times in real life before she passed away. Not that I was asking for her blessing, but she made it very clear at the time she didn’t think he was the husband she had in mind for me. Years ago, during a period when he wasn’t exactly being the best husband, he was in a car accident that could have turned deadly. I remember when I picked him up at the hospital, the first thing he said was, “Right before the car flipped over, I saw your mother in the passenger seat.”

“Did she cause the accident,” I asked, “Or did she save your life?”

“I’m not sure,” he said.

Every year I try to pay special attention to my mother’s death anniversary. On that day, I post her picture on Facebook and recall her favorite things. She liked Chinese food, real jewelry, and going to the movies. I get a sense she likes to be remembered more on her death day than her birthday. She wasn’t keen on getting older and didn’t really like her birthday.

What she loves is playing naughty tricks, like hiding car keys or expensive and necessary eyeglasses.

I’ve learned you don’t have to believe in ghosts to be haunted by one.


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