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My House Is Haunted

What I want to know is why
      When we moved into our home 12 years ago, people asked me if we had a ghost.
     “Of course not,” I scoffed. “Not every old house is haunted.”
      Just as often, I would hear, “Your house. It has this feeling to it, doesn’t it? It’s a very happy place. It’s very inviting and warm.”
       I’d agree. I might even add, “We’ve always felt that it chose us as much as we chose it.”
       Then, things began to happen. I’d hear a voice very close to my ear. I’d feel a hand on my shoulder. I’d hear footsteps or the rustling of papers in the next room. I’d smell the phantom odor of a lit cigarette in my smoke-free household.
       The most compelling evidence of otherworldly beings has come from my children. Twice, my daughter has seen people. I specify people, not ghosts, because she describes them as people.
       The first time she saw someone, she was about two and a half. She and I were in her bedroom, and looking past me, she said, “There is an old man in our house.”
        I knew no one was standing behind me. The wooden floors would have creaked loudly.
        “Well, he’s not here now,” I said, turning.
        “I know. But he was right here!” she exclaimed running into the hallway. “He was standing right here next to your laundry basket.”
       About a year later, I found my daughter sitting wide-eyed on my bed. “Mom, did you see her? There was a lady standing by your dresser and she was carrying tea. But she didn’t spill any.”
      “What did she look like?”
       “She was a brown person. She had black hair in a bun and an old-fashioned dress.”
       I don’t think any of the previous owners were brown, but I do know the house was once used as an old folks home. We live in an area with a large African American population. A black woman might have worked here and would have likely carried tea to infirmed residents living on the second floor.
      My daughter was not frightened by either of these encounters.
      My son’s experience was a bit more chilling and required action. He was four and had asked me to snuggle with him in his bedroom. I tucked him into bed and told him I would return after having a quick shower. We had had a long day, and I expected him to fall asleep before I returned.
      Instead, I found him awake, alert, but silent. I got into bed next to him and he drifted to sleep without a word. Then, I heard a woman’s loud, deep, breathy sigh close to my ear. I checked to make sure he was asleep. He was, and I promised myself that if he heard the sigh, I would claim responsibity.
      The next morning, he came bouncing down the stairs, “Mom, is our house haunted?’
      “Why do you ask?’
      “I heard a lady breathe last night,” he answered. “She was loud and she sounded like this,” and then he sighed to demonstrate.
       “Oh, that was me. I made that sound.”
       “No, Mom. You were in the shower when I heard the lady. That’s why I didn’t go to sleep. I waited for you.”
        Ah! So, the ghost had sighed twice.
        Later that week, he told me he had heard the sigh again and a woman’s voice telling him not to stand on a chair. Even eerier is that he was, in fact, standing on a chair trying to reach something on a shelf when she spoke. So she was a benevolent spirit warning him to take care.
       Still, I couldn’t risk her scaring my child. I went into his bedroom, sat on his bed and said, “I know you mean well, but I cannot have you frightening my children. Please don’t talk to them.” We haven’t heard from her since.
        A year or so later, my mother-in-law came to live with us. She had experienced a bad fall. Her mobility and speech were compromised. She had days when she could not speak at all and other days when she was confused by her surroundings and did not recognize family members.
       When she was verbal, she claimed to see my father-in-law, her late husband, in our house. She would ask me why Bob wasn’t joining us for supper and get angry with me for not setting a place for him at the table. Sometimes, she would ask about the tall man who was with Bob. I have no explanation for the tall man, but she seemed to see him almost as often as she saw Bob.
         My mother-in-law was ­Ecuadorean, and in many South American cultures, people believe that a soul will stay close to a loved one, lingering on earth before going on to heaven. Perhaps that is what Bob was doing in my house — just hanging out and making sure that his wife was being well cared for.
        A couple of months before she died, as we sat at the table eating lunch, she told me, “Bob is upstairs. Go get him.” She pointed up toward the second floor.
       “Mom, Bob is not upstairs,” I answered. Then, she said the most interesting thing. “When you see Bob, tell him I am ready to go home.”
       I took her into her bedroom and put her down for a nap, then returned to the living room to write. As I sat in front of my laptop clacking away on the keyboard, I heard footsteps upstairs — even though my husband and children were gone for the afternoon. If I went upstairs, would I, in fact, see my deceased father-in-law? The thought was frightening, but also intriguing. I went upstairs and stood in the hallway.
         I spoke.
        “Bob, if that is you, your wife is in her bedroom and she says she is ready to go home.”
         I felt a little silly saying that aloud because I believe my father-in-law was in heaven and not in my bedroom hanging out with “the old man,” “the tall man” or “the brown lady serving tea.” In fact, I want to believe they are all in heaven.
         It makes me wonder if God allows the deceased to visit earth — for whatever reason. Maybe they aren’t ghosts, but angels.