The ghost of parenting past

this is a graveyardIt was a dark and windy night at the old farmhouse as we all found bedrooms and went off to get warm and go to sleep.  I had been to my friend Carina’s eighteenth century amalgam of charming rooms spilling onto other rooms, creaking staircases and a big country kitchen all sitting in a remote field in rural New Jersey many times, but I had never taken the little bedroom right off the top of the stairs.

And thus it was that in the middle of the night, with the wind howling through the trees and scratching at the cracks of the window frames, I awakened to feel that a presence was in the room.  I’m not really sure what happened next, but the best way I could describe it was that I found myself in a state that was neither sleep nor wakefulness, and in this netherworld I reached out and grabbed the presence that stood by the bed in the pitch blackness.  In this half-dream, or maybe it was only in my mind’s eye, I turned on the little amber reading light to find myself holding the wrist of a boy.  He was about ten years old with an open smile, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes and a wild tuft of bright blonde hair. 

He looked at me with playful innocence and I felt like I was peering into the soul of a Winslow Homer painting.  I released his arm and the boy laughed and then ran giggling from the room and down the stairs as if he were off to play “crack the whip” in the wheat fields.  After a beat my consciousness rose from sleep like a swimmer coming up for breath, and I found myself fully awake with a spooked shiver running down my spine and the hairs on my neck on end. 

Unlike in my dream-vision, or whatever it was, I had neither courage nor inclination to turn on the lamp, but rather pulled the covers up tight and used all the power of my mind to will whatever energies were about to go away.  It took quite awhile to finally fall back asleep and when I awoke the sun was shining on a beautiful day.

I made my way down to the kitchen where Carina stood making pancakes at the stove while other friends sat gathered around the big table.  Half-sleepy, I told my strange story and Carina froze; she literally had to stop cooking and sat down.

This farmhouse had been in her family for many years and she knew the history of the place.  She told us that the previous family had lost a child, a ten-year-old boy who died of sickness, in the very room I had slept in—his name was Adolph and he’d had blonde hair.


I tell this ghost story in my parenting blog in honor of Halloween, but also in honor of parenting.  For many years this story was just a good ghost story, and a happy memory of carefree life in my twenties running around doing whatever seemed fun at the moment.  Now, more than two decades later, I think of the anguish of Adolph’s parents losing their boy; and of the shock of a loved and happy boy not quite knowing that he’s dead, and thus haunting the old farmhouse.

Just as birth is both physical and also psychological, perhaps death too must be assimilated by the soul before one fully “gives up the ghost.”  So whatever the truth about ghosts, perhaps this Halloween is a good day to send a loving thought to all who have tasted loss—those of us who linger in states of traumatized half-life, whether as literal ghosts, or as surreal-feeling disembodied spirits whose wounds make us feel as if we float half-in and half-out of life. 

imagesPerhaps we cycle in and out of many lives, in this life, and maybe even in other lives.  But as long as we’re all here today, reading, parenting (in reality and in spirit), and loving let’s send love and compassion to all those who need it in order to come back more fully into their lives, their situations and their parenting—in honor of all our collective children, including those gone but not forgotten.

Namaste, Bruce


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One Response to “The ghost of parenting past”

  1. Chris Sorgi Says:

    In honor of all the children

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