Ghosts and giants

  I thought I saw her today. A small wo­man with short blond hair. 


I thought I saw her today. A small wo­man with short blond hair.  She was hur­ry­ing along Pine Street. My moth­er. I was rid­ing on the 2 bus when I thought I saw her. It couldn’t have been Mom. She’s been gone quite a while now. Maybe I only thought I saw her. But it sure looked like her. Her birth­day was on March 7. Maybe our memor­ies are like alarm clocks set to go off at cer­tain times to make cer­tain that we don’t for­get people we love.

It’s not un­usu­al for me to think I see loved ones long after they have gone. I don’t know how many times I think I’ve seen Dad driv­ing around town. His white hair peek­ing out from the Jeff cap tilted on his head.  Wear­ing his tan Mem­bers Only jack­et. Ser­i­ous be­hind the wheel. Ready to curse out what he called “Sunday drivers.” Saw my sis­ter, who passed away late last June, strolling in Ritten­house Square.  

She’d been in Ritten­house Square maybe once or twice, if that, in her en­tire life.  But I saw her there.  As clearly as I see the liv­ing.  

Am I play­ing the part of that kid in “The Sixth Sense?”  I don’t think so. None of my “ghosts” ever talk to me or 

ac­know­ledge that I’m there.  They just go about their busi­ness, whatever that busi­ness is when you’re gone.  You would think if they were ghosts they could at least wave or nod in my dir­ec­tion.  Some­times I catch up to these vis­ions, and they don’t look any­thing like the people I have mis­taken them for. Mis­taken iden­tity, not ghosts.  It’s the times I lose them in a crowd or see them rid­ing a bus that passes me by — when I nev­er do see who they ac­tu­ally are — those are the times that haunt me just a little.  And then I settle back in­to whatever routine I’m in that day.

It’s the same way when we see loved ones in our dreams. Vivid.  Like they’re reach­ing out to us. Some­times to com­fort us. Some­times to warn us. So real we could touch them. Dreams that stay with us through the rest of the day.  I think they both­er us — or I guess you could say haunt us — more than if we’d seen them on a busy street corner.

I re­mem­ber one time — I guess I was 8 or 9 years old — walk­ing some­where with my par­ents. Something was both­er­ing me and I blur­ted it out. “Sup­pose we’re just part of a gi­ant’s dream?,” I said to them.  Both of my par­ents looked at me kind of puzzled. Mom was al­ways the more ex­press­ive of the two. I think Dad al­ways thought I was kind of weird, but I al­ways knew he loved me … even when he showed it by shad­ow box­ing with me, much to my an­noy­ance.  

“Does that thought scare you,” she wanted to know.

“Well, yes,” I re­mem­ber reply­ing.  “What hap­pens when he wakes up?”

I’ve re­vis­ited my child­hood con­cern from time to time dur­ing my life (I think Dad was right.  I am kind of weird).  I don’t al­ways find the thought of be­ing part of a gi­ant’s dream fright­en­ing any­more. Some­times when life gets tough or some­body gets elec­ted pres­id­ent who you think has us on the road to de­struc­tion, it can be com­fort­ing  to real­ize  that all the scary things were just part of the dream of some gi­ant. When the gi­ant wakes up, we wake up from our night­mare and van­ish in­to noth­ing­ness. Some­times noth­ing­ness can be a good thing, can’t it?

Have you ever been in a hos­pit­al with a loved one who’s just died?  I was once.  It was on a sunny day in May.  The fam­ily packed up his things and put them in a bag. We left and walked out in­to the blind­ing sun­shine of a beau­ti­ful spring day that had just been rendered mean­ing­less. I sensed that all of us felt as if we had left our loved one be­hind.  For years after I passed that hos­pit­al, I would get the urge to take that el­ev­at­or up to his hos­pit­al room. Just to look in­side the room and sat­is­fy my­self that he wasn’t still lay­ing there. I nev­er did. But it was then that I real­ized that death doesn’t al­ways bring clos­ure. Maybe noth­ing brings clos­ure.

The day was over­cast. The wind still had a bit of winter’s bite. Like most hu­man be­ings, I put de­press­ing thoughts out of my head.  Con­cen­trated on the few things I had to pick up at Trader Joe’s.  Soon,   the sun peeked out from be­hind a cloud. I thought about the fact that in less than a month an­oth­er base­ball sea­son would roll around. The chances of late-sea­son snow di­min­ished by the day.

Trader Joe’s was crowded. They were out of the chunky no-stir pea­nut but­ter.  I found the fresh tast­ing or­ange juice.  The one I love so much.  “Gently pas­teur­ized” to ex­tend the shelf life.  

Life was good.  Maybe the new guy in the White House would fig­ure out just enough about gov­ern­ing so we could sur­vive his four years in of­fice.  The ghosts had dis­ap­peared.  And the gi­ant was still sleep­ing. 


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