We were finishing lunch, sipping our coffee, when my aunt turned our conversation to ghost stories. I’d heard many of the stories before. They were the ones of my grandmother being a “ghost whisperer.” Anyone who had ghost problems in the little town of Elkpoint in eastern Alberta called my grandmother.
She would drop everything, come over, and have a talk with the ghosts. The ghosts would listen to my grandmother and shuffle off to either haunt elsewhere, the spirit world, or their final rest in heaven. I paraphrase heavily here, but that was the essence of what I got from my grandmother when she told the stories.
There were a few stories I hadn’t heard, which was one of my great-grandmother Lundgren roaming around their small farmhouse after she’d passed on. My grandmother, for reasons never explained, couldn’t convince her to leave. Perhaps she liked her company?
None of these stories seemed that earth shattering to me, and then my aunt Marlene narrowed her eyes as she fixed her gaze on me, and said, “Well, then there was the one where you were in the crib, that one was pretty scary.”
“How did I get involved in a ghost story?” I asked.
“Well,” my aunt said slowly, seeing she had my undivided attention, “your mom was staying at the farm with your two brothers and you. I don’t know where your dad was, but we were in the upstairs bedroom.”
I’d seen that farmhouse when I was younger. There were only two large bedrooms upstairs. The place was tiny. The downstairs had a small front parlor, a large kitchen in the back, with a little room off the kitchen closed off by a curtain that was my grandparent’s bedroom. The outhouse was of course…out back.
My aunt sipped her coffee and continued. “I was on the bed, telling your mom I didn’t want to go to the school dance. Your mom was telling me to not be such a wallflower and go. Then, all of sudden, she upped and grabbed you out of the crib and told me to grab your brothers and follow her downstairs.”
“What was the matter?” I asked.
“She wouldn’t tell me until we got downstairs. She looked pretty white. She said she saw the ghost of her old boyfriend. He was standing there, looking down at you in your crib with his hat in his hand.”
I think I finally breathed again at that point. “Did you know my mom’s old boyfriend’s name?” I asked.
My aunt shook her head, “No, I don’t recollect that.”
I slumped back in my seat. “My mom told me I was named Lyle after a young man she knew who went off to war and never came back. I wonder if he was the ghost?”
“No idea,” my aunt said.
I drove them back to their home, hugged my aunt, and thanked Tom for his hospitality. I liked Tom. I’ve liked all of my aunt’s husbands—the ones I’d met, anyway. I got in my vehicle and began the journey home.
A light rain turned to snow in the highest part of the pass. I turned this story over in my mind thinking of how I’d approach this latest information. I’d initially started on Three Soldiers Came Marching Home, but what if there was a fourth soldier? This one had died in battle and journeyed all the way back to Canada, to a bedroom to stare over me, the child that bore his name.
The thought was eerie. Was my namesake an ethereal ghost? There was only one way I could find out. I had the email address of my cousin Marvin Jackson in Oregon, USA. My cousin Marvin is the son of my aunt June, the oldest sister of the Hansen family.
Aunt June lived in a care home and was approaching her ninety-first birthday. Marvin visited his mother every Sunday. She was now slipping into dementia. She couldn’t remember what she had for breakfast, but she could remember almost every detail from the past. The problem was, sometimes the past can get a bit clouded, and I’d experienced this phenomenon with my mother as she slipped into dementia in her last few months. People and places could get mixed up.
I sent a quick e-mail off to my cousin, asking him if he’d ask his mom if she happened to know if I’d been named after my mother’s boyfriend who went off to war and never came back. I also wanted to know his last name, if she could remember it.
I had visions of getting his name, then running either a war records search or an obituary search in the local paper in a few cities, to see if there were any surviving relatives.
I saw myself, finding this ghost’s war record, where he’d disappeared in a hail of gunfire at Normandy or was missing in action somewhere in Italy. All of this was rattling around in my head as I journeyed home. I had to put the story on hold. We were heading off on a much-needed vacation and looking forward to swimming and snorkeling in the Pacific off the islands of Oahu and Maui.
I packed my things, my computer and flip-flops, and we headed off. I was thinking, with my Cousin’s answer I might start my search while on vacation. I’d utilize Google to run my story into the ground, find this ghost, and enjoy a few Mai Tais. How foolishly I was lulled into a sense of complacency.
We left on May 3 for Honolulu; I didn’t get an answer back from my cousin Marvin until May 9. He always saw his mother on Sunday. May 8 was Mother’s Day and was also the day of our thirty-fourth anniversary. I opened my computer on the morning of May 9 to see my cousin’s answer. His answer would rock my world.
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