Dear Mom, the dead relatives stopped by for a cuppa.

(I only know what a cuppa is because of Orphan Black – Season 2 coming soon! OMG I’m shaking… Vikings is like, killer enough! You go Lagertha.)

So my mom has known me my whole life. She knew I saw ghosts way back when. The truth is, she does too, she just doesn’t like to talk about it.

And as my husband, Oscar, the ultimate skeptic, has experienced some of what I’ve experienced because he lives with me, says– It’s like this- You didn’t ask for this. You don’t go on television. You don’t try to make money off of this. You hate it. You don’t see this ability as a gift. You see it as a curse.

Right. It is a curse. I hate it. But sometimes it has its perks. Take my dead relatives, for instance. I seem to be their first stop on the road to the beyond.

So I had this cousin… We’ll call her Deidre. She was my second cousin? I’m not sure how the cousin system works. (My husband and I are distant cousins.) Deidre was my father’s first cousin. She was older than my father, as in eight, ten, or twelve years older. She always liked me. Why? Because we were both wild childs. I know childs is not a word but it sounds better than wild children. I was a difficult teenager. She had been a difficult teenager and boy oh boy did she live a colorful life. I can’t even tell you. No, really, I can’t. It’s kind of a family secret. Let’s just say it involved notorious bad guys.

Anyway, she was drop-dead movie-star gorgeous, outspoken, independent, tough as nails and she got me. She totally got me. So despite the significant difference in our ages, we were very close. She had two children, also much older than me. I was good friends with her son, not so much with her daughter.

When she was older, not old, but older, she got lung cancer. Yes, she’d smoked a whole lot and she’d always been married to one smoker or another so she had a lot of nicotine exposure. Smoking was big back in those days. I have to admit she did look cool with a cigarette in her hand. When I was fourteen I took up smoking for an entire year, trying to look as cool as Deidre.

In the end I didn’t like the way it made my hair smell so I quit. And I never managed to look as cool as Deidre.

Something weird happened to me when Deidre died. There I was in the checkout line at the grocery store, minding my own business, reading a copy of People Magazine (because what else are you supposed to do in a long checkout line) when out of the blue I couldn’t breathe. I really and truly could not breathe. I felt like I was gonna keel over and die right then and there. I must have been weaving around because the guy behind me grabbed my arm and asked, “Are you all right? Do you need to sit down?” He started waving for the manager.

But as quick as the feeling came over me, that’s how fast it left. By the time the manager reached us, I was fine, but very shaken up. I had no idea what had just happened. And by the way, there was a clock right above my head and I glanced up at it– don’t know why but I did. It read 3:15 (Pacific Standard Time).

I managed to get my groceries checked through and I headed home. Pulled into the garage, grabbed a couple bags and walked into the kitchen. There, reflected in the large window over my kitchen sink, was Deidre. No shit. Deidre. It was winter and it was cloudy outside so I could see her reflection clearly. She was leaning against my refrigerator, looking all sexy-gorgeous, arms crossed over her chest, giving me this sly knowing smile.

I looked at my refrigerator. Couldn’t see her. I looked back at the window and there she was, clear as day.

I said, “Deidre…”

She blew me a kiss and vanished.

I dropped my grocery bags onto the table and called my mom.

“Mom! What happened to Deidre?”

“She died. She just died.”

“When did she die? When?”

“Maybe fifteen minutes ago?”

“But what time? Do you know what time she died?”

“Maynard, what time was it when Diedre died? 5:15. Your father says 5:15 (Midwestern Standard Time). Why?”

(Ah, so that explains the grocery store episode.)

“Because she was here. I just saw her. She was in my kitchen and she looked fabulous.”

“Maynard… Deidre just visited Julia. And she looked fabulous. Your father wants to know if she asked about him.”

“Tell him no. She didn’t say anything but she looked great. Is (her son) there?”

“Yes.”

“Can I talk to him?”

When I told him I’d just seen his mother he was quiet for a couple heartbeats, then he said, “Well, if she was gonna come see anyone I guess it would be you. That makes sense. Thanks for letting me know.”

I never saw Deidre again. But boy, she looked amazing. God, she was gorgeous.

When my uncles died, my father’s two brothers, they both showed up as well. The first was kind of funny because he was, well, to put it nicely, he was a difficult man. He had issues. He was wild and crazy and creative and super smart and ambitious but always angry and frustrated as all hell with both his professional and personal life. And believe me, it showed. This was no secret. We all loved him but we tried to stay the hell away from him. He died young as well. It was sad but he lived such a hard life I guess it wasn’t totally unexpected.

So there I was, vacuuming up in my bedroom, and who should appear but Uncle Moonpie. Yes, he did have a nickname from the time he was a kid and while it wasn’t exactly Moonpie, that’s what we’ll call him for the purposes of this blog.

I switched off the vacuum.

First of all, he looked happy. I never ever remember this uncle looking happy in real life but now he was super happy. Maybe ecstatic is a better word. And he wanted to chat.

He said, “I’m visiting everyone, heading west first and then east. I want to let you know how much I love you and how well I’m doing.” He said, “For once I’m fine. Tell them to watch for me.” And then he vanished.

Now, I have to be honest. My sisters couldn’t stand to be around him when he was alive. So I figured I’d better warn them. I called my youngest sister first.

I said, “Uncle Moonpie is making the rounds. He’s headed west then back east so he’ll hit you later today, I guess.”

She said, “Oh crap. Did you tell him not to stop here? I don’t want him showing up here. I don’t need the aggravation.”

My middle sister, with whom he’d once had a screaming match, said, “Call him back. Tell him not to come.”

That’s not how this thing works.

In any case, I think I was the only person who saw him. Nevertheless it was important for him to make the rounds. It was something he needed to do before he moved on.

My other uncle, my father’s oldest brother, was a real sweetheart. And he was the funniest man– could keep us all in stitches. Everyone adored him. But he had a difficult time at the end of his life.

He’d been a bombadeir during WWII. I’m not sure, but I kind of think his plane was named the Daisy Mae from the Li’l Abner comic strip. His plane was shot down over occupied France. My uncle was injured when they parachuted out– hit in the head by shrapnel. The French underground managed to hide the crew for a time and they found a doctor to treat the worst of my uncle’s wounds, but eventually they were discovered by the Nazis. His pilot put up a fight and was killed. The rest of the crew were taken to a POW camp. I can’t remember which Stalag. I’m sure my dad remembers. My uncle spent two years as a POW. Weighed 90 pounds when the Russians finally liberated the camp.

At the end of his life, he suffered from some form of dementia, perhaps because of the pieces of shrapnel still scattered about in his brain. The doctors couldn’t do an MRI for obvious reasons (metal in the brain means no MRI) so nobody really knew what was going on. But he did become agitated at times, even violent. I suspect he was reliving the moments when his plane was shot down, when they all bailed out, when he was hit in the head, when his pilot was killed, and the trauma of the POW camp.

I knew my uncle was dying – my mother kept me informed of events up in Canada. What I wasn’t prepared for was his visit when he died.

It was late. I’d gone to bed, my German shepherd, Louie, lay next to me. (He was a cuddle bunny.) I was just drifting off when the bedroom door flew open, banged against the wall, and my uncle ran in. I bolted upright, heart pounding. Louie freaked and took off with his tail tucked between his legs. (Thanks loads, Louie.) I wanted to run after the dog, but I couldn’t. My uncle kept pacing back and forth, all around my bed. He was so agitated, so upset. He was mumbling to himself. Frankly, he was scaring the crap out of me. He swung his arms around like he was throwing punches, like he was fighting off invisible attackers. It was so upsetting. I was in tears.

At last he seemed to calm down and I took the opportunity to bolt out the door and find my husband. He was in his office along with the dog, who cowered beneath the desk.

I said, “Can you come upstairs with me? Uncle (we’ll call him Uncle Kewl) is in our bedroom and he’s freaking me out. I don’t want to face him alone.”

So like a good little hubby, Oscar trooped upstairs with me so Uncle Kewl and I could have our conversation. By the time we reached the bedroom, my uncle was sitting on the bed.

He asked, “What am I doing here?”

I explained to him that he must have died.

He took that in and it was like a light turning on. There was clarity. He said, “I’ve got to see my family.” And just like that, he was gone.

Gosh. So many of my relatives have come back. My grandmother comes all the time to check up on me and on my kids. My grandfather used to visit. Haven’t seen him in years. I hope he got to be reborn back into our family. I’ve even seen my mother-in-law. She’s lookin’ good, like Rita Hayworth back in the day.

So… enjoy the ghost stories. Maybe I’ll have another on Monday. My work of nonfiction, One Foot In Heaven, Journey of A Hospice Nurse, will be free beginning next Tuesday. Tell your friends! I’d give away a million copies if I could.

one foot in heaven

 

 

 

 

 

A Gentleman Ghost.

We had a great Fourth of July.  Rode our horses up the north side of the canyon, crossed the river– which if you’ve ever crossed a racing river on horseback you know how fun it is– headed up to the old logging trail on the south side of the canyon to check on the cattle and returned to Sweetgrass Ranch and our bunkhouse.  We cleaned up and drove to meet our daughter and son in law over at their ranch.  We had a light lunch before we loaded up a few cases of ice cold beer and moved on to a barbecue at the next ranch over.

This is kind of like Amish country – any excuse to get together and talk weather, cattle, hay… I grew up in Iowa.  Weather, livestock and crops are the main topics of discussion at any gathering- far less depressing than talking politics and the state of the world let me tell you.  So while the adults shot the breeze, drank iced coffee and beer and played horseshoes, the kids swam in the pond, climbed trees and rode make-believe horses. There is nothing cuter than little kids in cowboy boots.

After a delicious barbecue, (and I did get the yummy recipe for iced coffee), we returned to my daughter’s house for a glass of wine and then drove off in the dark to Sweetgrass.  I do mean dark.  Super dark.  Single-track rough rock road, deer, antelope, elk, bear… Oscar stayed alert.  Besides he had to open and close gates.

We arrived in the dark and picked our way to the bonfire and the fireworks. Guitars were played, songs were sung, dances were danced, beers were drunk– not by us.  I just want to make that clear.  Neither Oscar nor I had more than a single glass of wine all day.

Eventually we returned to our cabin, the Bunkhouse.

The Bunkhouse

The Bunkhouse

It’s one of the original buildings, the former home of the ranch hands.  The Bunkhouse is a large one-room rustic cabin with a free-standing wood stove and a private bath.  It’s great because it’s far from the main ranch house and the rest of the cabins so it’s super quiet– until the horses arrive at 5:30 a.m., but the sound of horses doesn’t bother me much.  It’s actually kinda soothing.

Before the singing even ended, Oscar and I drifted off to sleep.  I woke at some point, have no idea what time it was.  I only know it was so dark in the cabin I could not… literally could not… see my hand in front of my face.  I tried.  I’ve never experienced such a thick heavy oppressive darkness in my entire life.

I got out of bed to pee.  Left the lights off, reluctant to wake Oscar.  I shuffled my feet along the floor in the direction of what I hoped was the bathroom, holding my arms out in front of me, waving my hands maniacally, worried I’d trip on the trunk at the bottom of the bed or hit my head on the edge of the closet or slam my knee into the cast iron stove.

Disoriented and lost in the darkness with no notion of where the bathroom was, I suddenly heard the bathroom door creak open.  Creak all the way open.  And I knew where the bathroom was.  And I knew for certain Oscar and I weren’t the only occupants of the Bunkhouse.

(I’d already suspected we weren’t alone because of a shadow I’d seen against the shower curtain our first night in the cabin – the shadow of a man in a windowless room when Oscar was nowhere around.  But I figured, what the hey…)

Anyway, I backed up until my legs hit the bed.  I said, “Honey, sorry but I have to turn on a light.”  He mumbled something, but didn’t wake.

Sure enough, the bathroom door, which had been closed tight when we went to bed, was wide open.  I walked over and closed it.  I spent the next ten minutes coming at the door from all angles, trying to get it to open again.  I even hopped up and down.  It stayed closed.

So I went on in and peed.  Then I opened the main door to see if I could let a little more light into the cabin, latching the screen door to keep out critters like grizzly bears.  Oscar thinks that’s silly because a little latch isn’t going to stop a grizzly, but to my way of thinking that little latch gives me just enough time to hide beneath the bed.

I was pretty freaked out, but I climbed back into bed and turned off the lamp.  I figured it had to be a nice ghost.  I mean I really was lost in the room, hadn’t a clue where the bathroom was, and he showed me where the bathroom was– opened the door for me like a real gentleman.

But here’s where it gets even more weird.

Oscar is not a ghost person.  It’s one of the things I appreciate about him.  He doesn’t see or hear ghosts and on those occasions when I do he makes me feel normal again.

He woke up sometime later.  He too noted how pitch black it was in the cabin. He flipped on his digital watch.  It read 4:00 a.m.  Just then he heard the door to the tack room– which is right next to our door– open and close.  Real quiet-like.  And he got chills.  Oscar never ever gets chills.  He turned on a light, got out of bed and closed the main door to our cabin.

We both woke up when the weary wranglers stumbled into the tack room at 5:00 a.m.  Oscar asked if anyone had been in there an hour earlier and they all shook their heads.

Everyone at breakfast talked about how unusually dark the night had been, as in couldn’t see your hand in front of your face dark.  Thus ensued a discussion of the various ghost sightings around the property.  Apparently there have been quite a few.

When I went back to the Bunkhouse I made sure to thank the ghost for his consideration.

 

 

 

Final Thoughts.

(So now you know I cuss like a truck driver.  It’s not genetic.  My children don’t cuss at all.)

I’ve always been weird. I was a weird kid– ask my mom.

She called me after she saw the movie, The Sixth Sense. Here’s what she said:

“I realized as I was watching the movie I recognized that child, he was you. I felt like I was watching my own child and I finally understood what you tried to tell me all those years, why you did the things you did. I’m sorry I was so mean. I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

It was a breakthrough in our relationship.

The Sixth Sense got a lot of stuff right. It was pretty hard for me to watch the movie because I lived it. The writer got a few things wrong though. But I guess I’ll leave that for another post.

I’ll say this, if anyone thinks it’s fun or cool to interact with ghosts, it ain’t.  It’s not something I recommend as a lifestyle.

Thus ends one true ghost story. I’d tell you another one but it’s even scarier. Thanks for reading.  Julia

Because you’re asking– Why on earth did you stay?

Here’s a post script:  My husband, who’s been home sick for three days, has been reading the serial. Last night he and I discussed our reasons for staying in the house because in hindsight it seems like such a dumb thing to do.

At the time, while we weren’t poor by any means, we were a young family with limited savings. His job in Utah didn’t begin until mid-October, but he wanted to get us settled in before school started. Although we had a couple offers on the table, we hadn’t yet sold our house in Phoenix. We didn’t have the kind of money that would allow him to be without work for three months, so he stayed with his employer in Phoenix and maintained the house — sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag.

We had borrowed $5000 from his parents to move from Arizona to Utah and we were paying both the rent in Utah and the mortgage on the house in Phoenix. We couldn’t afford to lose our deposit on the rental and be on the hook for six months’ rent – our lease was a one year lease but after six months it became month to month. And we couldn’t afford to move back to Phoenix.

So we stayed. I know, seems crazy, but we stayed. Or I stayed. Things had calmed down by the time he joined us.

Guess there was a method to our madness.

Let the Toilet Flushing Begin!

The week after my husband left was crazy. Not only was I busy with the kids – enrolling my son in first grade, finding a preschool for my three year old and arranging for babysitters – never could find a neighborhood teenager willing to come to my house– I had a ghost keeping me up all night, what with the dragging of chains up and down the staircase and his new trick – toilet flushing.

Yes, you heard right… toilet flushing. He seemed to like nothing better than to flush the toilet in the small half bath next to the master bedroom. Only at night. All night long. I saw him do it too – watched the handle depress and the toilet flush.

As a sop to the now subdued voice of Mr. Spock, I called a plumber.

“No, Mizz Barrett, ain’t nothin’ wrong with this toilet. All these parts is new.”

Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.

Added to that the ghost began to open and close the garage door. Sure, it’s possible someone else had a similar frequency. Except I drove through the entire neighborhood pressing my garage door opener and it never opened a single other garage door. When I called my husband and told him about it, he suggested maybe there was a radio tower nearby which emitted a radio frequency that opened and closed this particular garage door.

Uh-huh. In his dreams.

Nevertheless I called the garage door company. They sent a repair man. He could’t find anything wrong, but he reset the frequency. It made no difference. Up. Down. Up. Down. One time I headed out to the garage to put the kids in the car and before I could press the button to open the door, the ghost pressed it for me.

I didn’t appreciate the gesture and I won’t apologize for that.

Apparently Mr. Ghost had a thing for newfangled highfalutin’ gadgets like flush toilets and electric garage doors.

Oh, and by the way, I had a locksmith install a bolt (up high) on the door to the storeroom so I could keep it shut from the outside.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t said a word to the kids about my concerns, at some point during that first week my son developed a serious fear of his bedroom. He refused to go downstairs unaccompanied, so either I went with him or we leashed the dog and he dragged her downstairs. Believe me, the dog was not a happy camper. On more than one occasion she broke containment and raced up the stairs, leaving a, um, deposit on each stair. Not like Rosie at all. Rosie was an extremely well-trained, reliable, gentle, sensible two year old golden. She was in way over her head.

As was I. And we haven’t even gotten to the good part yet.

Tomorrow: My Son Breaks His Arm and The Ghost Kidnaps the Dog.

Incorporeal – Ghosts can fall in love.

You know, I’d wanted to write a ghost romance…oh…forever.  If you read Incorporeal, you’ll learn I was told my two publishers it can’t be done.  I was informed readers don’t want to read a ghost romance.

Are you fuckin’ kidding me?  I love a good ghost story.  Even better, I love a tragic ghost love story with an improbable HEA.  Because you know, if vampires can be all angsty and sexy and make humans pine over  them; if human women can find hairy nekked werewolves attractive (are they into crotch-sniffing?), then why can’t a ghost come back to life?  Why not?  Doesn’t love transcend death?

Jewish mystics proclaim the validity of transmigration of souls.  So do I.  Thus…Incorporeal, and soon to come, book two – In the Flesh.

Sara Wise is sick of ghosts. They’ve haunted her since she was a child, destroying her family, endangering her life. When an incorporeal being appears in her shower, she curses him soundly and orders him out, but this ghost is sticky. Not only does he invade her shower, he moves into her home, invading her dreams, sharing her bed. The reluctant Sara finds herself falling in love with a dead man.

Despite Sara’s objections, Natan de Manua isn’t permitted to leave. Protecting the woman is both his penance and his means to redemption. She’s not easy to protect, she fights him nearly every step of the way, except in her bed. Nathan may have come to regain his soul, but instead he risks losing his heart.

Incorporeal is my first self-published book.  Buy it here (Kindle) and here (Nook)!

A sneak peek at In The Flesh -