My mother and father purchased their family home in
Southern California and raised my younger siblings there. I was already married with a child of my own and a second on the way. My father had been in poor health for some time, and despite having a pacemaker implanted, he suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. Before his death, he agreed to turn the existing carport into a one-bedroom apartment for my grandmother, and with the help of my uncles, she finally had a lovely home close to her daughter. This may not seem like an important point at this stage of the story, but it plays a role later on.
My father passed away doing what he loved best, watching television in a bedroom that my mother had made into a comfy den. After finding him face-down in the shag carpeting, Mom was haunted by that image for months. Her usual happy demeanor faded, and she became withdrawn. Together with my sisters, I approached Mom about selling the house and making a new start. Clearly the place was filled with too many memories, good and bad. Despite promising my father before his death she would never sell, she reluctantly agreed.
My mother was an immaculate house-keeper and the home was nicely decorated. To avoid scaring away potential buyers, we encouraged Mom not to divulge that someone had passed away in the house. We weren’t trying to be sneaky, just logical. I think by law, now you have to come clean. It wasn’t long before someone made an offer. A lovely lady who took in foster children purchased it and wanted immediate occupancy. We all hurried to get Mom and Granny moved as quickly as possible. Then began the problems...
Mom wanted to move closer to my brother, and at that time, there was a housing boom in progress in his area. At almost 70 years old, she camped out overnight to be first in line for one of the few houses left for sale in the development of her choice. The purchase of her new home was contingent upon the sale of her existing home because my father left no provisions for her support other than a small Navy retirement.
Before the sale on the family home could be finalized, Mom discovered that a building permit had not been drawn on the apartment. After much worry, as is my mother’s nature, and what seemed to be endless paperwork, the problem was remedied. But then her real estate agent informed her state law dictated a residence must have either a carport or a garage. Now she had to invest money she could ill afford in something she’d never enjoy. She sighed with relief when it was completed. We all did. Surely everything was in order now.
Planning her move, she arranged for a rental truck, and all her children took time from work to help. Two days before the scheduled move, the agent returned with more bad news. Her current property didn’t have an easement to use the only driveway to the house. The original owners had taken out the front drive and put a gate in the back leading to a cemented parking area and the
NEW carport. The businesses behind the house refused to grant her access after twenty-five years. Mom had to go to court to fight for her rights and luckily won the case. I shudder to think what would have happened if she hadn’t. All the problems can be captured in a few short paragraphs, but in reality it took months before everything was resolved. Luckily the purchaser wanted the home enough to persevere, and the developer holding the deed to her new property showed the patience of job and gave her a time extension even though her new place could have sold many times over. Mom was finally able to make her down payment a few days before someone else ended up with her new home.
After literally losing half her hair and at least twenty pounds from stress, my mother appeared in ill-health and had returned to her depressed state. Once we relocated her, we assumed she would bounce back, but instead she suffered guilt from selling after promising my father she wouldn’t. She was certain all the hassle happened because her broken oath to him. As the weeks went by, she became more excited about the new house and less involved in her negative thoughts, until…
The woman who had purchased my mother’s old house called. She wanted to know some things about my father and hoped Mom wouldn’t think her insane. My mother found it very strange as they had never conversed about him at all. Erma, the new tenant revealed to Mom that my father’s spirit lingered in the house, and cited the exact places he’d frequented most—the kitchen stool where he had his morning cereal, the bedroom and the den, which according to her, remained ice cold despite the warmth in the rest of the house.
On certain occasions, Erma’s dog refused to enter the bedroom, growling as if someone strange was in there. Mom was totally shocked that Erma knew exactly how my dad had spent his remaining days, but when she said, “I know this is a very inappropriate question, but could you tell me about your late husband’s bathroom habits… especially, if he rested his hands in a certain spot?”
I’m sure Mom gasped. My dad had always had a weight problem, and up until his death was a big man. The bathroom had a window ledge above the toilet where he always leaned. Mom had used only a valance above for décor because of his habit. Of course, she had to know why Erma would make such a strange inquiry. Erma’s response was, “I was taking down your valance to put up curtains of my own, and a voice behind me asked, ‘Now, where am I going to put my hands?’” That was confirmation enough for Mom that Dad was still there.
My dad lived with Erma for a few years and she didn’t appear to mind. It seems that she was used to being a cross-over point for departed spirits, and wasn’t frightened by them. My mother never made a trip back to the old house although I’m sure it crossed her mind on many occasions. Erma called one day and told her that Dad had at last gone to his final rest and was at peace. She had finally convinced him it wasn’t his place anymore and he should follow the light.
As for my mother, I had my doubts about her strength because my Dad had always been the pillar of our family. When he passed, I expected her to become helpless and dependent on her children, but I was wrong. The quiet, indecisive woman I remembered from my youth became determined and verbal. She stood up for her rights, and despite all the obstacles put in her path, she faced each and overcame them. When I expected the least from her, she delivered the most. We still joke about the time Dad lived with another woman for a while, but Mom just reminds us how very thankful we should be for the nice lady who showed my Dad the way home. I’m sure if he could speak to my mom, he’d tell her what an amazing woman she is. She’s eighty-five and still going strong, and I swear she’s going to outlive her kids.
Be sure and come back tomorrow for more about Astro-Soul, my experiences, and some more personal encounters of the weird kind.