There are all kinds of ghosts and it seems that lately I have been more inclined to deal with the ghosts and hauntings of my childhood, of my young adulthood, and even of times not so long ago.
Everyone says all families are dysfunctional.
Go ahead and play the music video. You'll figure out why soon.
If you read yesterday’s post or have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know I grew up in a home with a mentally ill mom with an addiction problem and suicidal behavior. So yeah. A bit dysfunctional.
My first day back in LA last week I arrived at the airport in the morning on a red-eye. By 10 AM I had my rental car and was tearing up the 405 headed north. I was on my way to the cemetery to deliver leis to the ancestors.
The feelings aroused by hitting the road on a glorious sunny Southern California day overwhelmed me to say the least. I had not been on my own on the roads of what felt like a past life in a couple of decades. I got off in Granada Hills to find the house where we had lived until I was 10, before we moved to the beach. While I was prowling the streets, looking for my first home ever, I was listening to a country music station and Miranda Lambert’s song, “The House that Built Me” came on.
Seriously. Sometimes the Universe has a perverse sense of timing.
My friend’s death (at 47 years old) the week before combined with the nostalgia for my past, and the remnants of my memories came flooding in like a hurricane. How can one describe the layers of all one’s former selves drifting in and out, together and yet separate from this person I’d become?
It was difficult to tell whether all the old me’s were the ghosts or if I had become a ghost just drifting through my past.
And there were still the ancestors to deal with.
My father’s death eight years ago was a difficult time for my sisters and me. It turned out that while we had all painted my mom out as the bad guy for so many years (a concept encouraged by both my father and his family), in the end, dad was no innocent. A much better liar than my mom by far and just as manipulative. For anyone harboring a life of lies, here's a warning. Death and dying sometimes have a way of bringing everything to the surface.
It took me a long time to truly forgive him. I wish I could say I was a better person, but the truth is I was mad at him for a couple of years, and those were his last years.
Even worse, I was left with a gaping hole in my long secure feelings for my Uncle, my grandmother, and all the rest. These loved ones had been my force of resilience through my childhood and teen years and I credited them for my coming out of it all somewhat OK. But I found myself upset with them for not protecting us from him. For encouraging us to believe that everything wrong was my mom’s fault. For their trusting dad to take care of us and do right by us when he was not capable of any such thing. He was their son, their brother, they should have known better....
I had spent my life putting these beloved ones on a pedestal and it was painful to feel abandoned by them, even though none of them were around to explain.
Does it make me sound like a horrible person to say this aloud? To write it, even anonymously?
As a 53 year old woman I see what a narcissistic perspective I had at the time.
But it was more the 13 year old inside of me that was hurt than the middle aged woman.
The Eternal Valley Memorial Park is the resting place for my father, my Uncle (dad’s older brother and my grandfather figure), my paternal grandmother, my Aunt, and my Aunt’s husband (uncle by marriage).
I had not been back since my father’s funeral in 2003.
As I laid the leis on their resting places and said my prayers for them, all the love in the world came flooding back in. I knew I was loved, their love was what carried me through some crazy times. All the rest did not matter anymore.
Of course they had to trust dad back then, to give him a chance to do the right thing. It did not matter that he was not able to live up to their hopes for him. Giving him a shot was a generous and noble choice.
I felt a peace I had not felt the last time I was there.
Later, I thought as I headed back towards Santa Monica, later I may go by my Uncle and grandmother’s house.
Perhaps I might even stop and walk to the side of the garage to see if my three year old footprints are still in the cement there. If the owner of the house comes out, I'll explain I just need a reminder of a favorite memory.
For more ghost stories,head on over to Jen at Sprite's Keeper.