We live in a house inhabited by ghosts. Not the terrifying, sanguinary kind you see in slasher movies, not the friendly Casper type, not even the kind that's visible. Well, they kind of are visible, actually.
I'm talking about the objects we have that once belonged to relatives, many of whom are now gone. In our bedroom, we sleep in a double bed that once belonged to my Osborn grandparents. The two dressers in the room are part of the same set. There's not really anything too special about the pieces--other than my knowing that when I lie down each night, I'm resting in a bed I've known my entire life. There's something comforting about that, knowing what is holding me through the night.
Earlier this week I posted this image on Facebook--one of two identical old bookcases that once had belonged to those same Osborn grandparents. Over the years the shelves had separated, and they had sustained numerous bangs and bumps. For my birthday this year, Joyce took them to a furniture-restoration place and now--months later--they're back in the house, refinished, the poplar wood now more visible because of the more revealing stain the craftsman used. Again--I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not know these cases.
At the top of our stairs is a desk that belonged to my Grandmother Osborn. I can see her sitting there, writing letters, writing checks. For years, I used it for those identical occupations, but now, because of computers (and Quicken) it's more of a storage item.
You might be wondering at this point: Why does he have so many things from his Osborn grandparents?
When my grandmother died in May 1978 (my grandfather had died a decade earlier), she was living in Columbia, Missouri, where she and Grandpa had retired in a place that was then called the Lenoir Memorial Home. (It has subsequently changed ownership--and names.) It was a stages-of-care place for members of the Disciples of Christ, my grandparents' denomination (he had taught in a seminary, was an ordained minister, published articles and books). They had their own little brick cottage at Lenoir, and neither of them ever had to live in the nursing facility--a blessing.
Anyway, my parents were not too interested in my grandparents' furniture. They were nearing retirement themselves and so left the division of things to my brothers and me. My older brother, Richard, and I drove a U-Haul out to Columbia and amiably settled on who-would-get-what, stopped in Kent to deliver the things we would keep (see above), then on to Cambridge, Mass., with things for the other two brothers.
High on the wall at the bottom of the stairs is the cuckoo clock that belonged to my great-grandfather Lanterman (my Osborn grandmother was his daughter). I've written about it before--but it hung for years in my boyhood home; my parents gave it to me in 1978--the same trip when we went out to Missouri for my grandparents' things. It's hung on our wall ever since. Our young grandsons (6, 10) love it--and we love the thought that it will one day be with one (both?) of them.
In the front room--among the dearest of our family possessions. My grandmother Osborn's rocking chair. The finish has worn away on the arms, and I am moved by the thought--every time I look at it--that it was her arms that wore down that finish. In the picture--notice in the background the old spinning wheel. My parents acquired it and refinished it when they were first married (Oct, 12, 1939); it stood in their house throughout my boyhood. Now it's in ours. One day it will be in our son's. And then ...
... stop right here.
Our house is full of such family things--not just furniture, but china, books, pictures on the wall, and on and on.
And for me ... each one possesses the spirit--the ghost--of the person who once possessed it. When I sit, or lie down, or walk by--or even think about it--I hear a whisper from that loved one gone. And there is no more lovely sound in this sublunary life than the voice of such a ghost.