Being that this is Halloween month, it’s time for a ghost story. This is a story that my mom used to tell back before she, too, became a ghost. (Miss you, Mom. And Dad. And Brother. I’m the only member of my original family unit who still doesn’t know what it’s like “on the other side.”)
The little girl woke up to see a man standing in her doorway.
It was dark in her room, and there wasn’t a lot of light from beyond the doorway. All the little girl could see was an outline of the man’s figure. He came forward into the room and spoke her name, and his voice was familiar. It was the voice of her favorite uncle. “How is my little sweetheart?” he asked her.
She rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Okay,” she told him.
Her uncle came closer, but not too close. “I’m sorry to wake you up, but I wanted to say goodbye. I’m going away for a while, so I’m not going to be able to see you so often.”
“Oh.” The little girl didn’t like that news. He was the one who always brought her candies and new dolls. “Where are you going?”
“On a trip.”
“Are you going to be a long way away?”
“A very long way away. That’s why I woke you up, sweetheart. I wanted to say goodbye before I leave.”
“Okay.” She was just a little girl, and didn’t know what to say. “Goodbye.”
Her uncle seemed to want to come and hug her, but wouldn’t allow himself to. This was odd. He sounded very unhappy, too. “Goodbye my little sweetheart. You take care of your mommy, now. Okay?”
“Goodbye. You go back to sleep now.”
“Goodnight.” Her uncle backed away from her, edging toward the door.
The little girl settled back into her bed, and glanced for a moment at the clock. She could just barely make out the time. It was after 11:00 PM, very late indeed. When she looked back up at the doorway, her uncle was gone.
The little girl went back to sleep.
In the morning, her mother was unusually silent, and spent a lot of time staring off into space. She’d burnt their breakfast eggs. While the little girl was eating, she suddenly remembered her uncle’s late visit. “Mom,” she asked, “where is uncle going?”
Her mother seemed shocked by the question. “What?”
“When he was here last night, he told me he was going away. Where’s he going?”
“Uncle was here? Last night?”
The little girl nodded.
“When?” There was an edge to her mother’s voice.
“It was really late. My clock said after eleven.”
Her mother went pale, and her mouth hung open. It took her a few moments to say anything. “Your uncle loved you very much. I don’t doubt he stopped by here to say goodbye to you.”
“Where’s he going?”
Her mother fumbled with a pack of cigarettes, pulling one out and putting it in her mouth. Her hands were trembling when she lit it. The flame wiggled and she had a hard time keeping it at the tip of the cigarette. “Your uncle went to heaven, honey.”
“Heaven?” The little girl didn’t understand.
“He was killed in a car wreck last night.” Her mother began crying, and so did the little girl. It wasn’t until a few days later, after the funeral, that she overheard her mother telling relatives in a hushed voice about the late night visit from the uncle. The other relatives gaped at the news, astonished, and gave the little girl strange glances. It was then the little girl learned that her uncle had died at about 7:00 PM that fateful evening, while driving home from a restaurant. The person who had come into her room at 11:00 PM could not have been her uncle, unless…
That little girl, as you probably guessed by now, was my mom. She swore up and down that this was true.