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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!
Clay City, Indiana