The Shaking Bed

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My maternal grandfather enjoyed playing the guitar and  the mandolin. As his family grew, he built them a larger home with his own two hands. He was always a self-reliant, independent sort. When he developed heart trouble, he  ended his own life in a bout of depression. I was  about  seven or  eight  years old at the time of his death.

When I reached my mid-twenties, after a  hitch in Uncle Sam’s army, I had occasion to stay with my grandmother for a short time in the home built by my grandfather. There was a large picture window in the living room that looked  out upon the world. My grandfather had a  swivel rocker placed in front of the  window.

This was the only chair he  used in  the living room. When I came to stay with  my  grandmother, the old swivel rocker had been replaced with  an upholstered recliner, which sat pretty much in  the same spot where Grandpa used to sit. Often  in the evening after work, I would sit in  the  recliner and practice playing my guitar.

Sometimes when I played better than usual, I would feel someone enter the  room and watch me, yet I seemed to be alone. I just figured  it was Grandpa, and continued to play some of the older tunes I had  learned until I  tired of playing,  or my fingers started to get sore. It was  then that I would set the guitar aside and kick back in the recliner.

More often than not, I  would soon feel a cold pressure on my laps as if someone were sitting down on me. The coldness would go through my body and then it would feel as if I were sitting on someone’s lap instead of the chair, I assumed that I was again  sitting on Grandpa’s lap as I did  when I was a child.

The room I slept in was the  master  bedroom. As a  young, single man, recently turned civilian, I enjoyed visiting the local taverns on Friday and Saturday nights. My  grandmother, a devout Christian, very much disapproved of this behavior, and I guess Grandpa did too.

Whenever I  came home late (anytime after ten o’clock was late to  Grandma),  and had even two drinks  after work,  the bed  would begin to shake just as  I was about to fall asleep. I’d snap awake, fully alert, and it  would stop. Then again, just  as I would begin to doze off, the bed  would begin shaking a second time.

Finally, I learned that if  I said out loud, “Grandpa, I really need to get my sleep as I have to go to work in the  morning; you know how a working man needs his rest,” the  bed  would not shake anymore, and I could sleep until   morning. But this  worked only if  I did indeed  have to work  the following day. If not, the  bed  would shake me awake  up  to ten  or twelve  times during the night.

One time, I really had too much to drink. I arrived  home after  closing the bars  down,  and went  straight to bed .  Before dropping off to  sleep, the bed felt as if it  were spinning. Knowing that I was  going to get  sick,  I  got up  and headed for the bathroom.

I had left the bedroom door open, as it was winter, to allow the heat  to enter  my room. It was dark, and not  wanting to disturb Grandma down  the hall,  I didn’t  bother with a light. I walked smack into the  closed bedroom door! I opened the door and  headed  for the bathroom.

When I returned, I bumped into the closed  bedroom door again! I got into my bed,  and it began to shake  more violently then ever as  soon as I laid down.  I sat up,  and  the shaking stopped. I could see Grandpa standing at the foot  of the bed, arms crossed, watching me. I said, “Grandpa,  I’ve had too much to drink tonight and I’m sorry to be  coming home drunk.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and  I tried to drink it all away. That didn’t work, and this  will never happen again.” ( And it didn’t.) It was then that I saw him uncross his arms and smile at  me, shake  his head, and walk out of the room. I was able  to sleep peacefully the rest of the night, and that was  the last time I ever actually saw him.

One day I asked  Grandma if she has ever felt Grandpa’s  presence. “Many times,” she said. But she especially noticed  that he was near when she laid down on the sofa to take  a nap. It was  then that she felt invisible fingers  combing  through her hair, and heard Grandpa’s voice softly calling her name.

She said that she knew that he was  always  watching over her, and that he was  just  waiting  until it was  time  for her  to join him so  that they would be  together again. Grandma passed on two years ago, so I guess they are  together again now.

 Grandma-and Grandpa too, I guess-finally accepted  that I would  have a few drinks once in  a while. Grandma even said that according to the Bible and Grandpa a little bit of wine or whiskey was actually good for a person.

So as  long as  I stayed away from beer, and limited my whiskey to  five drinks or less, I could get a  restful sleep.  But if I even  had a  slight  buzz when  I returned home,  Grandpa would  keep me awake half the night shaking the bed!

Kevin Gardner

Clay City, Indiana

June  2000

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