I was driving to work and listening to Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”.  It made me remember an commercial for the Museum of Natural History that I think had this as the theme that I watched when I was a little kid in our t.v. room which was also my father’s office.   There was a leather couch, fake wood paneling, an electric typewriter on a rolling stand covered with my Dad’s legal forms and piles of onion skin, notary stamps, Winnie the Pooh hard-cover picture book he needed to use to write on, carbon paper, the irreplaceable black book of all the landlord’s multiple dwelling numbers.  I’d sit very very close to the t.v.  The commercial had quick cuts of the faces of the mannikins of American Indians in their giant canoe which was in the great hall that faced out onto Amsterdam. That hall is associated in my emotional memory with vastness, echoes, the heat of public buildings in ny, the melted water from snow, loud voices of children on school trips.

The music made me cry in the car a little, or I should say I welcomed it — it was like getting in touch with my body or my self or something more basic, giving myself a bath, breaking through.  The word I could think of was “haunting”.

I wondered if finding music haunting and believing in ghosts was the same thing.  I wondered — yes we say that it’s just us making things feel haunting that there’s nothing out there that is actually haunting, but I didn’t really believe that was true.  I was haunted.  I wasn’t tricking myself into thinking I was haunted.  How is that different from believing in ghosts?

I recently lost my mother and my father in a two year period and I like to say as a joke that I am “out of parents”, but it’s not really funny, and not really a joke.  Something is tickling at the edge of my mind or deep in my emotions that I can’t quite understand mentally.  I don’t think it is the spirits of my parents.  But something is haunting me, enough to make me cry, or at least, welcome the ability to cry.

Maybe it has to with the fact my mother and father took me to that museum, and now they’re gone but the museum still remains?  Not that.

I took them to the museum at the end of their lives and still expected them to know where to park. They had no idea where to park!  The rain was coming down like a swimming pool from New York’s december sky and I couldn’t see anything.  I dragged them in a wheel chair to the cafeteria.  Who knows why.  We saw some dinosaurs.



6 thoughts on “Haunting

  1. geegee says:

    When we are young, our parents are the protectors that help make our world feel grounded and secure. Perhaps what we feel when our parents are no longer with us is the haunting feeling of no longer being tethered.

  2. I’m sorry about your loss. I’ve lost two parents in the last few years, too, so I know how it feels.

    When our parents are gone, part of *us* is gone, too. Our selves don’t end at the edge of our skin: they include all the people we love and who have loved us. They’re part of who we are. When they’re not with us anymore, it feels like we have an arm or a leg missing. And we are haunted by the phantom sensations of their presence, whether or not our loved ones are with us externally as “ghosts.”

    Last Friday, I had an experience similar to yours. I drove past a corner on which used to sit an old, deserted house. My Dad was not a tall man, maybe 5’7″. When I was five or six and he drove me to school past that house, he often joked that he had originally been 6’4″, but that a ghost had flown out of the house and bitten off the bottoms of his legs. Dad had retracted his feet up to his knees so he didn’t lose them. I never believed the story, of course, but we laughed together about it. And every time I drive past that corner, I think of Dad.

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