February 17, 2012

The Haunting (Part One of the Grandma Project)

The idea of haunting is a strange thing and one that I often wonder about.
There are those dark and creepy movies where a spirit is almost a physical being, wreaking havoc and misery. In these movies, the spirits can metamorphasise into any form- they are skilled spooks, trained to terrorise and take retribution.

Alternatively, there are those tender tales of a soul left to trail the earth and gaze with woeful eyes at their
loved ones (who cannot see them) from across the room. Does anyone remember the fantastically cheesy movie 'Ghost'?

I think we'd all like to imagine that when someone dies they are still with us, almost physically, or that
we can see and speak to them. This idea has forever inspired and spurred stories. It is an endless throb,
an unanswered question in our mysterious existence.

And so I'd like to tell you all a secret.

From time to time... 

I am haunted.

Now don't go jumping to conclusions. In my haunting there is no havoc, there is no blood and there is certainly no Whoopi Goldberg touching me up. My haunting passes from time to time like an old friend. As I make a cup of tea and watch the colour deepen to the perfect shade of conker brown. When I touch the jewellery that she passed down to me. When I see a particularly marvellous shade of mustard yellow. All the little things that remind me of her.

For me, haunting is bittersweet. It's not always pleasant. There was one particular period of time where my haunting was almost unbearable. For almost a month, I would see her everywhere, which was
alarming because normally she's always in my head or dreams or somewhere very close to me.

As the train would start to pull away from the station she would sit on the other platform amidst the blur. Her face plump, waxy and white and her hair, without colour, framing her expression, which was always one of waiting, like she wasn't aware of me. As if she still existed but in her worst, fragile state.
My Grandmother was always so graceful and neatly presented. At least until the last years of her life where the curls fell from her hair, the rich brown slipped into a stark white and her fringe lay bluntly across her blank face and almost expressionless hollow eyes tinged with sadness.

This is how I saw her.

If I turned my head to look back at a bustling crowd, she'd be there, stock-still amongst the swarm but blink and she'd be gone as quickly as she came; swept away with the tide of people.
Turning a street corner and she'd be there ahead of me, on the corner. Utterly stationary.
Wandering through the supermarket she would flood my vision momentarily; eerily still among the vegetables; halted in home baking; static by the sandwiches. Snatching my breath away each time and churning my stomach into little knots of guilt.

Now I know that I am not responsible for her decline and I know that we couldn't have taken care of her ourselves but sometimes my imagination prevails and I find myself thinking that I could have done more. I could have left my A-levels to support her full-time. Why not? She moved in when we were born and supported us so why shouldn't I have done the same? But it's a different kettle of fish. The immense contrast of a baby bursting into the world, to an old woman withering away from it.
I won't go into all the details now of what could have been but rather, return to my original point.


So yes, my Grandmother haunts me. However, it's not like the movies. I don't think that my Grandmother still exists as a separate entity or as a blurry mist that hovers over me but rather, as a figment of my imagination influenced by an external, earthly force. I'm sure she haunts each person that ever remembers her. Her memory causes her to exist. She continues to live.

The real question is, if this is my opinion of haunting, what happens when everyone who knew her dies?

Well, that's another blog entry, isn't it?

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