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I will never again leave a letter lying around in which I have spoken ill of the dead.
my father, Fred B. Wells, died on April 10, 1972, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hillsboro, Wisconsin. He had been a brakeman on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway for forty years.
The next year I traveled to England Wales, and Scotland, returning to my home in Janesville, Wisconsin. He had been a brakeman on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway for forty years.
The next year I traveled to England, Wales, and Scotland, returning to my home in Janesville, Wisconsin, On September 30, I started a letter to Dad’s cousin Lois Jewell who lived in Anaheim, California, to tell her about my trip.
“There is such a chauvinistic attitude among the men over there,” I wrote. “The deodorant ads are slanted for women only, and only the women have to pay to use public restrooms. ” And,” I added ,” I can sure see why Dad was such a stubborn Englishman. He came by it naturally, just like the men in that country now.”
I found myself growing sleepy about midnight, so I left the letter, unfinished, on my desk and went to bed, I hadn’t been asleep long when I was awakened by the sound of my father’s footsteps in the hall- not the slow, shuffling, arthritic footsteps of his last few years but the quick, impatient sounds he had made as a young man, I turned on the bedside lamp and frantically shook my husband, Bill.
“Did you hear that? Someone is in the house.’ I couldn’t bring myself to tell him I recognized the footsteps. But they had ceased abruptly when the light went on.
“You must have been dreaming,” Bill said. “Turn off the light and go back to sleep.”
I did- but again the footsteps started. I thought I would faint with far as I snapped on the light. Bill had heard the sounds and now he got up. Grabbing a baseball bat from the hall closet he searched carefully through the whole house. He found nothing.
I was afraid to turn off the light.”It’s Dad,” I told Bill.” I know it is . I recognize the way he used to walk. A burglar wouldn’t walk that fast. He’d walk more stealthily.”
“Nonsense,” Bill retorted. “Your father is dead- and there are no such things as ghosts.”
I lay for at least an hour with the light on, my heart thumping, Things stayed quiet, so I finally turned off the light. Immediately the footsteps sounded- this time right alongside the bed.
When another sinister sound began I flipped on the light. Horrified, I watched the dresser scarf on the bedside table flapping up and down on both sides, like a bird about to take wing! Almost hysterical now, I poked Bill and pointed to the flapping cloth. Seeing this, he did not protest when I left the light on for the rest of the night.
At daybreak I finished the letter and sealed it into an envelope. The presence never visited us before the night I wrote the letter, and has not returned since. In my own mind I know Dad was disturbed by my comments about him.
He was a good and loving father who never laid a hand on me, but he could be stern with anyone who talked about loved ones in a demeaning fashion. He had let me know I had said the wrong thing about him in my letter. His ghostly visit taught me never to speak- or write-ill of the dead.