My family owns a cottage on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. My grandfather spent his summers there as a child, as did my father, myself and then my children. It’s a peaceful place; set right on the water with a beautiful sandy beach. The cottage did not have many modern day conveniences. Even in 1960. There was a bathroom with a 1920’s claw-foot tub, toilet and sink. If you wanted to shower, you went outside to the bath house. There’s electricity and running water. That’s it. No television, no phone.
Instead, we were graced with old books, board games, a poker table and a screened porch which was the entire length of the house. There were creaky old wooden floors and all of the furniture was from the 1920’s. It was rustic and had that ‘old library’ smell. For me that was a bonus.
My grandfather passed away when I was sixteen years old. Nine years later, my father died as well.
One Friday afternoon I decided on a whim to spend the weekend at the cottage with my then 9-month old son. After packing, stopping for groceries and bait and making the 2 hour drive, my son and I were seated at the enormous table having dinner. Afterward, we retired to the porch where I rocked him in my arms and sang to him as we stared out over the moon-rippled water. It was a perfect evening.
My son began squirming in my arms, so I sat him down to crawl around on the floor. I began humming to myself and before I knew it, my son was nowhere to be found. Hearing the pitter-patter of his feet inside, I realized he had pulled himself up on something and was walking around it.
Going to investigate, my footsteps were abruptly halted by the loud crashing sound of the shutters on the windows upstairs. But there was no wind. Every fiber of my being bristled and to this day, I don’t really know why, but I am convinced it was my grandfather.
Having been startled by the noise, my pace quickened until I crossed the threshold from the porch into the house. I heard the ancient creaking of my grandfather’s rocking chair in motion and drew in a sharp breath, inhaling the ghostly scent of my grandmother’s cornbread. Turning toward the sound of the rocking chair, my heart leapt into my throat. My baby boy was sitting on my father’s lap, in my grandfather’s rocking chair. My father’s apparition did not appear as anything I would ever have thought a ghost would look like. He was as solid as you or me. However, his movements did not issue forth any sound at all, apart from the rocking chair. I could hear my son cooing, the rocking chair rocking and ambient noise. Everything else was silent, including the locusts and crickets outside. I couldn’t even hear the crash of the waves.
The dizziness that consumed me threatened to shut the lights off but somehow, didn’t. I looked directly into my father’s eyes. The emotion that was invoked simply by the softness on his face was almost unbearable.
“Dad” His name caught in my throat and swelled. “How can you possibly be here? Am I dreaming?”
Though my heart was pounding, there was a familiar tugging at the recesses of my memories. A wave of nostalgia cast me forward on its surge and refused to release me. It wrapped me in a blanket of gratefulness for having my father back, if only for a moment. Somehow, I knew this.
His steely blue eyes were softer now, ethereal almost. When he looked at me, it was as if he could read my thoughts. There was an almost imperceptible energy or frequency that I could feel inside my head.
“I can’t stay. I wanted to hold my grandson just once.” He spoke the words; they were audible, but his mouth did not move. Without even realizing it, my brows furrowed and that lump in my throat tightened.
“Why? Why can’t you stay for a little bit longer?”
“I can’t. I have to go.” He stood from the chair and edged closer to me, reaching out for me. I stepped into his embrace….and the next thing I remembered was waking up in the morning.
Some say I was dreaming. If I was, it was a lucid dream, at best. But deep down…I know the truth.
Rayne Cullen is the author of the upcoming series, ‘The Sea Hants’. She has also written and published several magazine articles and short stories. Rayne was born in Richmond, Virginia and now spends most of her time in Los Angeles and Montana, though she travels between the coasts frequently. Rayne is also a blogger and conducts interviews with both authors and musicians.
Rayne has also been a singer for over 30 years and has been fortunate enough to perform and record with various well known musicians. Though she is not in a band anymore, she is still a session vocalist and records and performs with several different artists. Rayne has also written over 150 songs, to date.