I'm thinking it is time for me to try my hand at a memoir. The story of the places I have lived since my separation would be a good one. I think there have been 11-15 but I can't be sure. Let's just say I am at my 13th abode because that will work best considering I am living with a ghost.
Why do I move so much? Finding long term habitation on a low income basis is tricky at best. Plus I'm a jumpy one. I hate putting people out. So my latest shelter is a renovation for rent deal. I get to put some of my Gulf Coast rehab experience to use, a house gets ready for sale, and I have a WAY bigger place than I could ever afford. I'm only there for a few months.
Why am I living with a ghost? You'll have to ask him that. His name is Chris. He died in the last year or so. It is his home I am renovating. He liked airplanes, his wife, trains, his wife, his home, and his wife. He and his wife accumulated a lot of stuff in their time together. We don't use the H word. Chris does not like the H word. Let's just say it was a great big, thousands of pounds, kind of accumulation of stuff and leave it at that. Chris seems uncomfortable with the removal of his many, many things.
Why do I believe in ghosts? I don't. I just believe in Baker who haunted my grandparents' house for years until my grandfather died and they headed off to a dining room table in the sky where they could laugh for eternity. Baker was my granddad's buddy. I think Grandmom was glad to see him go.
And I believe in Chris because I live with him.
Baker was a prankster, particularly when guests were visiting. Chris messes with a lot of doors. All of them, really. Closes, opens, locks... Chris is in charge of doors. Chris leaves stuff in the kitchen floor at night. Chris makes me feel like I am not alone sometimes.
Am I sober? Yep. Could this all be me? Yep. Do I find that creepier than a ghost? Yep.
So: Chris the ghost it is. I have put up little altars made of their things in various rooms. The living room has little figurines, a monogrammed box of his wife's, and a candle. The dining room has assorted crafty things around the candle because his wife was the queen of crafty. The bathroom has some of her thimbles. His office has pictures of him and his planes.
The children are not allowed to use the H word and I dropped it from my vocabulary. We choose to say that they were nice people whose house and stuff got the best of them. The closet doors stay open. The stuff in the kitchen floor gets picked up in the morning. I leave some lights on at night. I stay out of the garage which is definitely his zone.
When I come home I say, "It's me, Chris."
When I leave I try to remember to say, "All yours, Chris."
There are a gajillion "What ifs" here. What if it is the disembodied personality of the wife who has Alzheimer's and lives in a continuous care facility? What if it is a ghost who lived there before? What if I have a brain tumor that has altered my perception? What if it is alien life monitoring me? What if I am just lonely? What if I should get a TV or internet?
I'm good with that. Well, not with the brain tumor, but I mean that I am not hellbent on a belief in ghosts. I AM a jumpy one, however. Chris helps to not let my anxiety run away with me. Chris keeps me from the terror of living all alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Chris keeps me from jumping out of my skin at every floor creak and heater burp. Chris keeps me from being discouraged that I am sleeping alone on the living room floor of a house that has a LONG way to go before it is ready for sale and I am responsible for every step of that long haul.
The lesson I have learned by living with Chris is that I can manage my fear in some wild ways. I think that will be a very useful tool for the second half of life. Mythology worked for humanity for thousands of years for a reason. Maybe what I need as I face a life without a marriage I thought I would have until I died is not concrete answers to my fear-filled questions about the future. I can sit up every night boo-hoo-ing into self-help books or I can work on the house and live with a ghost for awhile. Maybe that's enough for now.
Pass the paint can, Chris. We gotta' finish this ceiling.