Tag Archives: living

The Ghost

Time creeps

like ghosts at night,

blind, bleak, bloodless.

 

Twenty-five months gone,

dead months vanished

along with the living years

as if he’s never existed,

like those ghosts at night.

 

Not many parents

feel my pain

or my envy

for the pain is eternal,

ghastly,

one I’d not wish upon a foe.

 

If you have children,

pick one child from your flock

to be a ghost,

and if you have only one,

imagine that one a ghost.

 

Imagine a face alive only

in dreams and nightmares,

in a portrait upon a wall,

in a mirage in an elusive distance,

meagre memories,

flashbacks,

perhaps words from those who dare

to cite your loss.

 

I’ll never see my son again,

never to touch,

never to converse,

never to see him walk through the door.

I live with massive voids

and words unsaid.

 

I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell

where we’ll see loved ones,

where we’ll gather for an endless party.

I could be wrong—

how I’d love to be wrong,

I wish to be wrong!

I’d give my life to see my son again

but it’s too much make-believe,

a fantasy, not reality.

 

Days pass while

I breathe and eat and sleep

and dream and weep and laugh,

I’m resigned to images on the wall

and ghosts at night

and a hollowness in my heart.

Matt alone

In memory of my son Matthew, April 28, 1980-March 11, 2017.

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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Eight Months

 

The eleventh of every month
Brings a horrible reminder
Of your dreadful death,
Seven morphed to eight.

Every November eleventh
I’ve honoured the veterans,
I’ve stood at the cenotaph
To watch, listen, pray.

Today in my year of firsts
And every November eleventh,
I’ll not forget the veterans
And I’ll mourn again for you.

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Death in the Family,” by Tom Robson

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The title of this piece is the prompt for this month and comes from Tom Robson, author of Written While I Still Remember, a Patchwork Memoir.

***

Death in the Family.

There is an irony in this prompt which requires me to publish a story, on line, on the occasion of my eightieth birthday. Achieving this milestone brings the reminder that death looms large. Yet I am the exception that proves the rule that the males on either side of my family tree don’t last too long in this life. Both grandfathers just made it to seventy. My father’s body succumbed, before he reached sixty, to the long term effects of wartime malaria and breathing in noxious substances working at an oil refinery. Uncles passed long before their spouses, while  many of the females lasted well into their eighties and even ninety. Perhaps I have inherited a preponderance of their genes.

More irony. At birth I was not expected to emerge without damage. Birthday minus one, through to delivery I had refused to somersault, seeming determined to be born feet first. In 1936, even at the prestigious St James Infirmary in Leeds, extended breech births to first time mothers were risky. Perhaps the fifteen minutes of fame that fate entitles us to, were the first minutes of my life when the medics saw that I was alive and apparently undamaged. My mother often told me that I cheated death when I was born.

I was never allowed to deal with death and loss as a child, teen and young adult. In consequence, funerals were alien experiences and occasions to be avoided.The first funeral I attended was my fathers, when I was 34, married and with a family of my own. My children did not attend their grandfather’s funeral.

To put this avoidance in perspective, I grew up in wartime Britain. Every day, death was in the news. Two uncles were taken. Conversation around their deaths excluded myself and my young cousins. But all three of us heard our grandfather’s ale-stimulated opinions of the U-boat attacks, the navy that refused to stop for survivors and the blame that could be attached to Churchill almost as much as Hitler. But he did not argue about our evacuation to the countryside after another son was killed in an air raid, before he even enlisted in the army.

After the war, there was a polio outbreak  where we lived. It took the lives of a few children but there was no gathering of schoolmates at the burial service. Fear  of contagion was more powerful than the need to grieve during  that particular summer vacation.

In my early years of teaching my best friend was killed in a car accident. I should have read the eulogy I prepared but I could not bring myself to attend the service and face friends and students at the school where we both taught.

The surprising consequence was that my stumbling excuse that I couldn’t deal with the ending to his life, was understood by many of our friends and colleagues. My generation of Brits kept ‘a stiff upper lip” but often it was because we avoided confronting death. Many understood. We were discouraged from being in the presence of its aftermath. We did not intimately know death. We did not confront it. We did not talk about it.

I was sixteen when my father’s mother was eighty. In her declining years she would spend time living with which ever of her children agreed to take care of her. She would live with one until it was agreed that another wanted her or felt guilty enough to take a turn. My father was her youngest and I was the youngest of her many grandchildren. We had been close in the war years when my mother and I spent time living with and helping her.

That winter of 1952-3 she came to the warmer south of England to live with us. I gave up my bedroom to sleep on a cot in the “front’ room; that vestige of Edwardian lifestyle which was only used when people who had to be impressed came to visit. This teenager quickly spoiled its pristine appearance.

We had our Christmas dinner at my nearby aunt and uncle’s house. In the evening we were joined by various family friends. My aunt and her mother were avid card players. The preferred game was Partner Whist. Aunt Mabel organized sixteen or twenty of her guest into two person, teams to compete for the 1952 Christmas Cup.I partnered my grandmother. This delighted both of us.

I am not sure whether we won because we were the only sober couple, the only pair who treated the game seriously or whether my aunt cooked the results. My grandmother was almost delirious, still talking about how well we had played as we took her home and persuaded her that it was way past her bedtime.

On Boxing Day morning, we let grandma sleep in. My uncle arrived on his bike about 11:00am. He was making his Boxing Day round of visits to friends and relatives, enjoying a drink at each stop. He would be sleeping at one of his visits when he could be persuaded that he was no longer capable of riding his bike to the next ‘pit stop’

As he arrived we could hear my grandmother moving around and I was eventually asked to tap on her door and tell her “Bert is here!”

I did this and when there was no reply I opened the door, assuming my hard-of-hearing grandma missed my too gentle knock.

Grandma was in an untidy heap on the floor, her dead body reflected in the mirror on the wardrobe door.

I cried for help in a voice strangled by sobs. My father came and ushered me out of the room, calling on my mother to look after me and for Bert to help him.

After the doctor visited and signed the document certifying that she had suffered a fatal heart attack, the undertaker had been called and my uncle sent home to comfort his wife, daughter of the deceased, I had to be attended to.

To this day I do not understand why I was removed from the presence of my grandmother and why I was left alone and unwelcome at her funeral. I vaguely recall a statement from one of my parents that “it was better if I stayed away. It was not…” ;and the rest of the reasoning has gone but it was something like”funerals are no  place for children!”

I was sixteen. I was trying to believe that I was no longer a child. I had spent many days and nights, of the six years my father was away at war, at his mother’s home in northern Leeds, where she would be taken, by train, to be buried. I did not realize then that I needed to say goodbye. I only knew I was sad and I wanted to be there.

Instead, one of the many calls that Boxing Day afternoon, on our new-to-us gadget, the telephone, was to my friend Pete’s mother, asking if I could stay with them for a few days. Less than four hours after her death I was delivered to the Appletons, sat down at their late lunch of Christmas left-overs and given my choice of playing pieces for the evening game of Monopoly.

There had been a death in the family. Someone I loved dearly had passed away. Why was I not invited to say goodbye?

My grandmother left a reminder. I love to play cards. The only thing I do left-handed is deal cards. The only thing my father did cack-handed was to deal cards. My right handed grandmother, who taught both of us to play, also dealt left handed. I’ve been reminded of grandma many times in the sixty five years since she left, when asked, “Why are you dealing  left handed?”

* * *

The Spot Writers – our members are:-

RC Bonitz:         rcbonitz.com

Val Muller:                   http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A MacKenzie      https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson     https://robsonswritings.wordpress.com/

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Key”

The current challenge for The Spot Writers is to use three of the four words: radio, dress, attic, photo. This week’s writing comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Her most recent publication, BETWEEN THESE PAGES, is a compilation of 18 short stories. The book is available on Amazon and Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/329083

http://www.amazon.com/Between-These-Pages-ebook/dp/B00DP3RDOA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1372780978&sr=1-1&keywords=Between+These+Pages

***

The Key

Augustus slammed the journal on the table. It’s blank, fill it up, he said. Tell me what life is all about.

I stared at the leather book. A strip of elastic held the cover closed. What is this, I asked.

I flipped the cover. The pages were empty.  I don’t want this. My thoughts are my own. Private. I looped the elastic back over the cover and threw it back at him. You fill it up. I’ll read your words rather than you reading mine.

Aghast, Augustus’ eyes bulged. I discerned a tear, though why he’d cry over me was a mystery. My doorbell had just rung; we had just met. Augustus stood there when I opened the door. For some reason, I invited him in and led him to my kitchen. Sit down, I said. I’ll make you a cup of tea.

My name’s Augustus, he said.

I’m Florentia.

That’s when he produced the book—the journal he carried inside his coat, hidden from me. Perhaps he thought if I had seen it, I wouldn’t have invited him in. But I would have. I didn’t know the mystery of journals then, didn’t know their power. Didn’t know they harboured secrets—all of our secrets.

When I threw the book at him, he left. Not a thank you for the tea, glad to have met you—nothing. Just got up, waddled to the front door, and disappeared. His cup of tea sat on the table, untouched, as if I had served a ghost, an invisible man. The journal lay behind on the floor—the only reminder Augustus had existed.

I stared at the brown leather journal after Augustus left. The book was easily recognizable as a journal, for it had no lettering on the spine or on the cover. The taut elastic across the front cover was another clue it was something other than a novel.

I tried to turn away from the journal, look somewhere else, but the blank pages drew me toward it, as if a magnet lay on the first page. I couldn’t touch it again. My fingers would surely burn if I did; that was my greatest fear.

I sucked my fingers, as if they had been singed, despite the fact I hadn’t touched the object, then dried them on my lavender dress. The lace edging caught in one of my fingernails, tore it. I picked at the nail, more to keep myself occupied and my mind off the book of empty pages that waited for words to make it whole.

It was necessary I go to the attic—climb those many creaky stairs and enter that dusty storehouse of treasures and memories. Though it had been numerous years since I had been there, I remembered it well: The sole small window, like an ornate framed photo adorning a blank wall, breathes life into the airless room; the trunk sits below the window.

Similar to a cloak of many colours, the trunk holds memories, shades of lives and living preserved forever—until the key is inserted into the lock. Until then, the lid remains closed. I alone possessed that key.

Hidden from view and held within folds of the silky fabric draped over my body, the key’s hardness weighed upon me. Augustus, despite my unwillingness to know the truth—to face the truth—had awoken something in me, had stirred a desire. The key, too heavy to carry any longer, became weightier the longer I dwelled on the situation. The attic beckoned. I had no choice but to face my demons. I’d have to go to the attic, unlock the trunk. Then—and only then—could I write my story.

*** 

The Spot Writers- our members: 

RC Bonitz
http://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller
http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie
https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

 

 

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