Shortly after my introduction into the field of hypnosis, I went to dinner with Grant on Christmas Eve 1973. A few days earlier, he had announced that his divorce would soon be final. He was monstrously depressed over it. At dinner, he seemed distraught that his little boy didn’t realize their last Christmas in a whole family was already over. I thought of my own father and how desperately I had longed for him to come and take me away from the life with Mother. I remembered walking down the street, holding his hand, in my “important sounding” boots. How special I felt! My heart ached for all of them. The guilt nearly suffocated me.
I had asked Grant not to do this. We ought to be strong enough to put aside our own wants for the sake of others who were innocent. But if I reminded him now, he would feel even more depressed and morose because I was not “giving him full support”. I couldn’t win.
My guilt grew until it became a powerful sensation of unreality closing around me separating me from all the other people around us, the tables full of talking, eating, laughing people, the bustling waiters, the music, the clatter of dishes and flatware. I couldn’t hear Grant’s voice any more. I was swept back to the time I was a little girl waiting for her father to come home and hold her. But he never came.
Children tend to blame themselves for the absence of a beloved parent. They take on the role of sin-bearer for their family. All the guilt becomes theirs alone.
So, I was guilty. And now, I was double, even triple guilty!
Grant must have noticed my distance and changed his tactics to draw me back.. Now he seemed happy to be with me, gazing at me across the table with glowing eyes in a deep, sensual way with a nearly supernatural intensity. I seemed to be listening to something speak that was not quite human. I felt confusion and tried to look away several times, but I was repeatedly drawn back to his eyes as though they were powerful magnets I could not resist.
There actually seemed to be two of me. In our months together, even when I was sure I was “in love” and announced to my grandparents that we wanted to marry, I had still held some reservation, some part of myself inviolate and reserved. Even when Grant repeated that it was Fate, it was Destiny, for us to be together, I had always held myself back. When he had enumerated the strange synchronous things that were, for him, “signs from God,” that we were soul mates, I always had some small doubt niggling at the back of my mind. Grant asked how could I explain the fact that his name was a traditional name in my family or that his military ID number was the same number as my grandparents’ telephone number?
And the unspoken evidence: he was Polish.
Now, these two parts of myself came into open conflict under this massive and overwhelming guilt. There was an inner “push” of images, impressions. I could turn away now and drown in my guilt, or I could yield and be at peace. I felt a brief echo of my former resistance: “No! Danger!” But I brushed it aside under the hypnotic intensity of his gaze.
Looking deep into my eyes he said: “You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.”
Yes, a hope of redemption! I realized that Grant had paid a deep price to love me. He had sacrificed his family. The only way to save us both was to hand myself over to him body, mind and soul. The moment I yielded, I felt immediate relief from guilt and a deep conviction that what he had done was right, and that it was indeed a Grand Destiny for us to be together.
Romeo and Juliet had nothing on us! Heloise and Abelard were amateurs at love in comparison!
At that moment, all my senses came alive in the riot of sounds, odors, colors and movement in the room around me. My skin tingled and felt more alive than it ever had before! Everything was permeated with the consecration of love, and I was full of pride and awe to be so privileged. I was renewed, at ease, and calm. Sensations flooded through me animated now by a new sense of purpose and being that I had never known. Everything had become a sacrament of beauty and I gazed in awe at Grant, feeling an enthusiasm and passion for him that I had never known before.
He had rescued the Princess in the Tower. And a princess pays her debts: usually with her heart.
A few months earlier I had met a girl about my own age while out bike riding along the river a block from my grandparent’s house. Paula was working in a nursing home while attending nursing school and was very bright and lively. We had become instant friends though I didn’t see her often due to her heavy schedule. As it happened, as Grant and I were leaving the restaurant, walking across the parking lot, I heard a horn honking and Paula was slowing down on the street to wave at me. I ran over to say a quick “hello,” and she urged me to drop by and see her for a few minutes because she was alone on Christmas Eve.
I felt immediately sorry that she was all alone on the holiday. In my new state of cosmic bliss that mandated I love everyone, I urged Grant to stop by Paula’s for a few minutes before he took me home. He agreed, and we drove from the restaurant to her apartment.
Paula had some supermarket eggnog and a bottle of rum, so we toasted the holiday, each other, school, my hypnosis certification, and whatever else we could think of. Pretty soon, I was unburdening myself to Paula about how difficult it was for Grant and me without our own place to be together.
Well, Paula had the solution to that! She quickly produced an extra key to her apartment, and presto! Problem solved. Since she was so seldom home, we were invited to make use of her digs any time we liked.
Grant had an even better idea. Since he was still working in the next county and had not been given a transfer yet, he proposed that he would pay half the rent if he could have a space to keep some of his things, and a place to bunk on the weekends. This way he could come to Tampa on Friday night and stay until Monday morning, and we could spend more time together if he had a sort of “base” that was close by.
Paula liked the idea because of the financial considerations, and they settled it right there and then. Somehow I managed to shove the uneasy feeling I was getting under the rug. After all, Grant was doing this to be with me, right?
I was really riding on a fast horse with all my new friends, new ideas, and new activities. After years of painful isolation, it was truly culture shock. But I liked it! And I wanted everyone else to be happy too. I wanted to bring all the people I loved together into one big, happy group so that no one would ever be as lonely as I had been for so many years!
My particular concern was Carol. Her life had been almost as bleak as my own. She seemed fragile and needed a lot of attention. I invited her over at every opportunity and we had lunch together frequently. We went shopping together; to the library together; to lectures and symposia. She began to blossom and became involved in all kinds of activism. I wasn’t too much into being an activist of any kind, but I observed it and enjoyed her successes vicariously.
I’d decided to go heavy on the science courses and signed up for biology and anatomy and physiology. Soon I found a work-study job as an assistant in the biology lab. I did double duty as curator of the lab and tutor to other students.
Carol was working as an assistant to one of our psych professors, and on moving day a group of us showed up to box up the files and get Dr. Frank moved. We formed an assembly line. I was in charge of taping boxes as they were set in front of me. I was taping in the usual particular, painstaking way that I did everything when Dr. Frank came to stand beside me and watch. After a few minutes she made a comment that I have never forgotten: “You know, there are some things that aren’t worth doing perfectly.”
I was pretty shocked by this remark because somehow, I had come to the idea that anything worth doing was worth doing as well as one could. The idea of conservation of energy for important things had never occurred to me.
The new campus was right in the heart of Tampa’s Latin Quarter, Ybor City, and had attracted a comprehensive staff of outstanding art instructors and the art department rapidly became the central focus for an Ybor City subculture of bohemians and artists of all kinds. The area was a bona-fide historic district with charming Cuban style architecture rather similar to the famous French Quarter in New Orleans.
Many of these buildings were converted to restaurants, clubs, artists lofts and studios, sandwich shops, second hand book and clothing stores, all the shops that seem to spring up overnight to serve a good sized student body and numerous academics.
Eva was “into” art more than anything else. I took an art course with her: printmaking. I loved the physical work that went into operating old printing presses, but the art part of it didn’t interest me overmuch. I had always been able to draw about anything I saw, accurately and stylishly, but it seemed to be a useless talent and I wasn’t interested in spending any study time doing it. Eva was talented in the same way, and we soon found ourselves at the center of many art discussion groups either on campus, or in one of the local clubs or restaurants. And, somehow, many of the professors, the art instructors, and the resident poets all ended up gathered around our table, talking excitedly and laughing gloriously.
Naturally, in artsy circles, the conversations were often about metaphysics, psychology, consciousness, art and perception, art and expression, and so on. I was surprised to discover that actually, I wasn’t radical enough! I hadn’t yet declared that God was entirely dead nor had I admitted that man was the product of this marvelous, though definitely accidental, universe!
Carol, of course, embraced the death of God with fervor, and constantly cited the proofs and evidence that it was so. I remember riding with her in her car one day down the Avenida Republica de Cuba while she declared that she simply could not believe that I still held on to the idea there was consciousness that existed in a purely ethereal state. Clearly, consciousness was only apparent and not actual. It was the result of evolutionary processes. The mind was a vague “something else” that interacted with itself in a social contract sort of way that had evolved from the survival of the fittest of the individual cells. Those cells that could gather together and work together survived, and their interactions and communications with one another were what we perceived as our consciousness.
I decided not to argue the issue because, of course, nothing I said would have been considered proof. Every example I gave was countered with a reason it was clearly just a result of evolutionary variables. Carol’s arguments of the time were based on theories that were later more fully developed in the books of Richard Dawkins, such as “The Selfish Gene” and “The Blind Watchmaker”. They are, indeed, very clever and convincing, with only one real problem: the idea that a single atom exists at all is completely inexplicable in these terms. No matter how cleverly these arguments are constructed, and how far back into our evolutionary history they go, they can never, by their very nature, go beyond the instant in which the first atom of matter came into being. (They furthermore, cannot explain the leap of the gap between dead matter and life itself, in the simplest form.)
Dawkins and other proponents of this idea glibly slip past this point with the assertion that physics, or explaining the existence of atoms, is not in their purview. Either they fail to fully grasp the implications of this issue, or they know their own limitations and won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. The end result: their arguments are built on no foundation at all.
And that was my point. The only problem with my point was that I wasn’t sure that there was any real evidence for consciousness that was conscious! Maybe this consciousness of the universe was just a geometry of space that accidentally gave rise to atoms without intent. So, does consciousness exist as consciousness, in any kind of structure – albeit an ethereal one – beyond matter; after the death of the body?
That question troubled me. Yes, I had read endless case histories that seemed to demonstrate the existence of consciousness. But I also knew there were other explanations. Even if these other explanations did not follow Ockham’s Razor as the simplest, they did follow it as the most material, assuming a strictly material universe.
I realized that I could do some little investigating on my own.
After our hypnosis training, Eva and I were curious to test the limitations of the mind with this new tool. I have to laugh when I think about our experiments because they are really quite silly in retrospect. We figured that if the body is a manifestation of thinking, whether in esoteric or physiological terms, we ought to be able to produce some obvious, measurable change. For instance, experiments had been done in increasing breast size and they’d seemed to work! Eva and I didn’t happen to be interested in that particular process, but I was drawn to the idea of “enhancing” eye color. Could we use hypnosis this way?
We tried. We read the literature on the subject and obtained standardized suggestion protocols to use. We had no shortage of volunteers from among our acquaintances willing to be our guinea pigs for these prescribed therapeutic routines. I can’t say we had any significant results, though several of the subjects did call and tell me that they were certain there was a difference. I looked and looked, but never could see any.
It was then only natural to extend this type of experimentation to issues of the mind itself. I obtained as much material on these things as I could and, again, there was no shortage of volunteers for the “past life therapy”. Amazingly, many people were willing to pay!
I’ll never forget the day I was working with one fellow who wanted me to hypnotize him out of being in love with a particular girl who had no interest in him whatsoever. He was sure it was a past life attraction, and if I would just take him back to it, he felt certain he could resolve it and be free of his obsession.
Everything was going fine. He went to a “past life” where he was able to identify the same dynamic with the soul of the same girl. And, yes, sure enough, she was treating him with disdain. Well, I kept encouraging him to go forward so that we could get a complete handle on the scenario before we did any therapeutic work, and soon he described himself as walking into his study. (He was a Victorian gentleman of some means, naturally!) I asked: “What are you doing now?” And his response: “Putting the barrel of the gun in my mouth!” This nearly gave me heart failure!
Fortunately I was able to bring him back to ordinary consciousness with no harm done.
Having dealt with more complex issues in the years since, I can affirm this is really a minor situation in hypnotherapy, but it was most definitely disturbing the first time I encountered it. It’s one thing to read cases about people who describe their early life, previous lives, and even death, while under hypnosis, but quite another thing to be in the presence of such drama with only a manual and a script as a guide.
Carol was curious about these experiments, even if she didn’t believe for one minute that real past lives were being experienced. She wanted me to try it on her. I didn’t think she would make a good subject because she was so skeptical of anything mysterious. But, curiously, she was a somnambulist. She went immediately into a very deep trance. Actually, over the years I have learned that those who are very “narrow” in their views tend to be the most easily hypnotized. Perhaps it is a part of their narrow and limiting realities that they are literally hypnotized into them by their environments and training?
Under hypnosis Carol described a life as an African shaman storyteller. She even spoke in some strange other language that may or may not have been an actual African tongue, but I have no way of knowing for sure. (I do still have the tape!) She then moved into another life during the time of William the Conqueror and said I had been there with her, only as a Norman, and she was only one of the local Gauls. Apparently there was some deep resentment of me in that time, as she told it, that still affected her in the present life. I was quite surprised by this because I had no inkling that Carol had any negative feelings toward me at all. I truly had come to adore her and to really enjoy our many stimulating discussions on so many topics, even if we never fully agreed with each other.
Grant, of course, wanted to get in on the action. He produced several interesting past lives including one as a Native American warrior left behind by his tribe to die, seriously wounded in a battle with the white man. In another, he was a Revolutionary War soldier who languished in a hell-hole of a prison, tormented by British soldiers until finally he escaped. His last life had been as a soldier killed in the Civil War, and on that one he was able to give names and dates and truly graphic descriptions that impressed me with their accuracy.
Was all this real, or was it an artifact of something else? I didn’t know. I couldn’t swear one way or the other.
In the middle of March 1974 I awakened in the night terrified and with the old feeling of having been thrown off a cliff. My heart pounded and I was drenched in sweat. As I lay there, trying to orient myself, feeling that something was terribly wrong, I heard a car pass on the street outside. There were only Venetian blinds on the windows, and whenever a car passed at night, I could watch the movement of the lights across the room, filtered through the blinds. There had been no light. Not only that, but there was no light from the street lamp outside. I was blind. Literally.
Well, I didn’t want to get into a panic. Maybe the car didn’t have its lights on. The street lamp could be burned out. That was also possible. So, I reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. Nothing. I was still in total and complete darkness. I thought: perhaps the electricity is off. That would explain why the street lamp is off.
I got up and groped my way through the house to the bathroom and turned on the light switch. Nothing. Complete darkness. I went to the window and pulled aside the curtain. Nothing. Total blackness. No ambient light at all. Even on the darkest nights, there is some ambient light from the city, the stars, from somewhere! But I was in complete blackness.
I called my grandmother and asked her if the lights were on. She assured me they were. She was very upset when I told her that I could not see, but somehow I persuaded her that I was not in any pain, and it would be better if we just waited until morning to see the doctor. She got me back to bed, and I went immediately to sleep. In the morning I awakened with my sight restored, but I was violently sick – sick beyond anything – and every morning after for days.
My grandfather was even aroused from his drugged stupor to notice my mad dashes to the bathroom early in the morning. I had no idea what was going on, but somehow I think Grandpa knew. He suggested that I had better go to the doctor right away.
I did. I was pregnant.
I was alternately terrified and thrilled. On the one hand, it might be a little inconvenient, but babies are so wonderful that inconvenience is a small price to pay for something so precious! And it wasn’t like I was only 16 and facing a major disaster; I had a fiancé and we had plans to marry. This only meant that we might do it sooner. And that wasn’t such a bad thing either. Being married and having a family and maybe going back to school to finish after the baby was a little older. Sure! I could do that!
I wish I could remember the conversation I had with Grant about this, but for the life of me, I can’t. The only thing about it that I can remember was that the idea of a baby plunged him into the most awful depression imaginable, and all the feelings of guilt in me bubbled back to the surface. He reminded me of all the suffering he had gone through already; that he had already had a family that he had given up. Somehow I got the impression that a family was a burden that kills love, and if I was a burden to him, with a baby, he might give me up too. Again, I gave in to him to relieve this internal pressure.
Carol helped me make the arrangements for an abortion.
I cried myself to sleep and dreamed of little babies with fat knees and pudgy little hands and soft hair and sweet breath. I got up the next morning and let Grant take me to the hospital where a doctor and nurses were waiting. This was before such procedures were easily available in walk-in clinics, and it was going to be done under general anesthesia. I held in my tears and pretended I was wise in these things. I let them put the needle in my arm and I went to sleep. March 28, 1974.
I woke up hearing one nurse talking to another: “There was no baby. I can’t imagine who told her she was pregnant.”
What?! What did she mean “there was no baby?”
Where did the baby go? Did it mean that I didn’t kill my own flesh and blood? Was I safe from this evil? But, no, I must be crazy. I went back to sleep, and later Grant took me home. In retrospect, my symptoms of pregnancy may easily have been due to the fact that I had a cyst on my ovary but I didn’t know that then. All I understood at the time was that I had at least intended to have an abortion.
Of course, I couldn’t tell my grandparents what I had done. I had only Grant to comfort me for a few hours until he had to go. He reassured me that, when all his affairs were straight, when he had time to recover from the trauma of his divorce, we would marry and have a baby. It just wasn’t the right time.
Of course he was right. And I wanted what he wanted. I was being foolishly emotional.
In a day or two I was up and about my daily routine. I went to school. Eva noticed I was pale. She asked. I told her. Her eyes got tight and her jaw clenched, but she said nothing except to hold me and tell me I must have done the right thing because it was the thing I did. Eva was having her own problems. She, too, was getting a divorce.
Carol came to the rescue. She nursed me, talked to me, comforted me and encouraged me to get out and back into my usual activities. But it was difficult. For some reason, I was not healing. Day after day I continued to bleed. It was spotty sometimes, and sometimes it was heavy. I had constant pain in my lower abdomen and in my low back. The doctor gave me pills that were supposed to stop the bleeding, but all they did was make the back pain worse. It did slow down, and I had the idea it would get better gradually. It just takes time.
My pediatrician had started me on diet pills when I was 14. By now, I had been taking them pretty steadily for over 7 years. Yes, they kept my weight down, but it was obvious I was paying a high price. As my body had adjusted to the dosages, I had required more and more amphetamines to sustain the effect. I was now seeing four doctors, none of whom knew about the others, keeping myself medicated with four different prescriptions. All were the highest dosages available.
The medical profession was becoming aware that maybe diet pills weren’t all they were cracked up to be, but this information had not yet been released into the public domain. So, I was literally an addict and didn’t fully realize it. My nerves were terrible. My hands shook, I couldn’t sleep well at night, my digestion was a complete wreck and everything I ate made me sick. So, I was given a prescription for Seconal to help me sleep, and Donnatal to help my stomach, and Valium to help my nerves. There were other pills I don’t remember, all prescriptions from these different doctors, all of them hard narcotics.
But, somehow I managed to keep going. I could take a take a pill to wake me up, calm me down, help me eat, and put me to sleep. As long as my supply of pills held out, I was okay.
I wasn’t the only one being drugged by the medical profession. Grandpa had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. So, the doctors, in their infinite wisdom, prescribed tranquilizers, muscles relaxants, and diuretics. Valium, Meprobamate and Lasix. Of course we had faith in the doctor’s good judgment.
Grandpa had been rapidly deteriorating since he began taking the pills prescribed by the doctor. He would sit in a chair in his bedroom for long hours, leaning forward with his hands dangling in front of him, occasionally drooling and his eyes completely blank. I was extremely distressed by this and repeatedly suggested that his medication was responsible, but no one would listen to me. And, eventually I became convinced they were right. It was just the fate of old people to become like zombies.
Mother’s current husband was a building contractor. The Farm had reverted to weekend use and needed some maintenance, so mother and the new husband were going to take Grandma up to the Farm for a week. I was left to take care of Grandpa. I got him put to bed that Friday night before Grant arrived, thinking that we would just stay around the house and watch TV. I didn’t think that I ought to leave Grandpa alone.
But, when Grant arrived, he wanted to go out. I was nervous about leaving Grandpa alone, but Grant assured me that he would be okay for just a few hours. I worried the whole time, and Grant kept telling me that I was ruining his evening. But I couldn’t help it. He finally gave up on me in disgust and took me home.
When I got back, as soon as I came into the house, I could hear Grandpa calling me weakly. He had fallen inside the door to his bedroom, against the door, and there was no way I could open it to get inside. I went outside and found an unlocked window and climbed up on the fuel oil tanks and came in that way. After a month of bleeding, I found that I wasn’t strong enough to pick him up.
There was another door from Grandpa’s bedroom that opened onto the porch. I went back out through this door, came back into the house, and called an ambulance. The EMS people came and got Grandpa onto the stretcher and took him to the hospital. I called my mother at the Farm to see if there was anything else I ought to do. She said she’d call the hospital and find out if it was necessary for them to come back right away. After about an hour, she called me back, telling me to go to bed and not worry about it. Grandpa had only suffered a cracked rib and he was going to be fine.
The next morning, Mother called to reassure me that Grandpa had been in the hospital with his high blood pressure before and this was just another similar episode. They’d give him medication, bring his blood pressure down, and everything would be fine. He must have just gotten a little dizzy when he got up to go to the bathroom, and the only damage was the cracked rib. He’d be fine and home in a couple of days. I was enormously relieved.
Since it was a weekend and Grant was bunking at Paula’s, I asked him to come stay with me since I was alone in the house with Grandpa in the hospital and Grandma at the Farm with Mother. I thought he would jump at the opportunity for us to be completely alone together, and was surprised when he tried to excuse his way out. In the end, he had no real reason except some vague thing about having already made plans to do his laundry. I pointed out that he could easily do it here at the house, and he reluctantly agreed to come as soon as he “got his things sorted out”.
I felt an intense stab of fear race through me. I had a sudden vision of Grant and Paula being intimate, but I quickly erased that thought. Paula had been a good friend to both of us, and I was certain of Grant’s love. Hadn’t he given up everything for me?
Well, sure. But for some reason he couldn’t give up getting his things “sorted out”.
Grant didn’t show up until later in the afternoon. I wanted to go up to the hospital, but he had accepted a dinner invitation from a friend on our behalf. He kept telling me everything was fine and that I should not be so upset over what was clearly just a very small issue. He then pointed out that it was completely unfair for me to be irrational and to spoil his weekend with my unreasonable fears for my grandfather. Again the guilt. I was making him unhappy after he had sacrificed so much for me. I agreed to go to the dinner and tried to push my fears away. I had made it clear that I was going to the hospital to see my grandfather that evening after dinner whether Grant came or not. He grudgingly agreed and after dinner, we headed for the VA hospital at the north side of town.
When we got to the hospital, I went into my grandfather’s room and didn’t recognize him. I was completely shocked. In just two days he had changed so much that I didn’t know him. At first, I just simply thought it wasn’t him, that I had mistakenly walked into the wrong room. So I called out softly: “Grandpa?” He opened his eyes and as soon as he saw me there was some sort of transformation. The light came back in his eyes, the animation of the face came back, and it was him again.
His oxygen mask had slipped so that it was across one of his eyes, and I tugged on the straps to straighten it. Both his hands were strapped to the side of the bed and I was positively and completely horrified to see my brilliant, strong, incredible, wonderful grandfather, tied to his bed like an animal.
Grandpa grabbed my hand with his poor dear hand with the missing finger, and it was still so strong. He was clutching my hand as if drowning and I was the only lifeline there was. He said to me: “You’ll take care of Grandma, won’t you? She needs you.” And I promised.
Then he said: “Take me home, Lolly. Take me home.”
But I couldn’t. How can you just take somebody out of the hospital without going through a whole deal of refusing medical advice and so on? This wasn’t like other times when I had snuck deviled crabs into the hospital because he complained about the terrible food! Not only that, I did not have authority to take him home. So, I tried to be cheerful and make a little joke about his cracked rib, and how it was really going to be stiff when he got home in a day or two.
In the next instant, a hunted look came into his eyes and he asked me to untie his hands so he could get to the bathroom. I told him I couldn’t do that because the nurses would be after me.
“I’ll call.” I pushed the button for the nurse, and we waited. And waited. He obviously had to go, and it seemed only reasonable to me that when a person has to go, and they need assistance to do so, that someone should see to it that it gets done. The idea of an elderly person being subjected to the humiliation of wetting themselves because no one was going to help them never occurred to me.
I went out into the hall and tagged the next passing nurse and said we needed some help in here. Pretty quickly a nurse arrived and the first thing she did was bustle around telling me I had to leave because visiting hours were over. Clearly my interference was not wanted.
I kissed Grandpa on the cheek and told him he would be okay until he got home. We would have deviled crabs to celebrate. And I was hustled out.
And suddenly, as we were standing in the elevator, I knew I would never see my grandfather again.
I began to cry uncontrollably. I cried all the way down the elevator, out of the building, across the parking lot, all the way home in the car, and into the house. I was shaking and sobbing and just couldn’t stop.
Grant kept telling me there was absolutely no reason for me to be in such an irrational state to carry on this way. I kept trying to stop crying, struggling and gagging on my own tears. Racking sobs were erupting out of some deep well inside me. Over and over again he told me that everything was going to be all right. I had nothing to worry about. But it wasn’t working. I was rapidly becoming hysterical with grief even against my own will and inclination. I had never in my life felt this way.
I went into my room and, with shaking hands, managed to open the bottle of Seconal and took two. My eyes were so full of tears that I couldn’t see. I felt completely foolish, completely out of control, and I knew that my behavior was illogical.
How could I know that I would never see my grandfather again? That was nonsense! I needed to get a grip on myself!
Grant agreed to sit with me until I was ready to go to sleep. So, he sat on the edge of the bed and I gradually began to calm down a bit as the Seconal started working.
We were talking when suddenly Grant said, “Shush!” I froze and listened. I heard a sound. Someone was rattling the doorknob on the side door of the house. We heard the sounds of the deadbolt coming undone, and the door creaked open. It had a very notable and particular squeak in the hinges. All thought of crying ceased. My heart was beating ninety miles an hour. Someone was breaking into the house!
Grant got up to search my room for a weapon.
Suddenly I realized what I was hearing. I heard my grandfather walk in the house! I heard it as clearly as I have ever heard anything. He had a very distinctive walk, and there was no mistaking it. And Grant heard it too.
We felt relieved because we didn’t have to face a burglar, but we were still in a panic. How to explain to my grandfather why Grant was in the house, with me, in my bedroom?
Obviously, somehow, Grandpa had gotten out of the hospital and had taken a taxi home. Grant was ready to slip into the closet at any moment. We expected Grandpa to come to my door and tell me he was home.
But apparently Grandpa had other ideas. I heard the cupboard door in the kitchen, the one that backed against my bedroom wall, creaking open. Grandpa was fumbling around in the china. I could hear the cups and saucers rattling. The cupboard shut with a dull thump and I could hear pots and pans being shuffled and the water running. I realized that Grandpa was making a cup of coffee. I had heard the same series of sounds every morning, for so many years, and had witnessed the coffee making ritual so many times, I could predict the next sound.
Well, that was a relief. We decided that while Grandpa was busy in the kitchen, we would sneak Grant out the side door. We crept out through the living room to the dining room where the door to the kitchen was on the left and the door to the porch was on the right.
But something was wrong. There was no light shining across the dining room from the kitchen! How could Grandpa be making his coffee in the dark?
Puzzled, we tiptoed to the kitchen door. All was silent and dark. The sounds of the coffee ritual had ceased. We switched on the light. There was no pan on the stove, there was no cup and saucer on the table. There was no one there.
How could that be? Had we completely lost our minds?
Grant whispered, “It’s a burglar, he’s hiding in the room off the kitchen.” Looking around for a weapon and finding nothing, Grant picked up a big cake pan from the sideboard to use as a shield. He approached the door into the adjacent room, my grandmother’s bedroom. He suddenly leaped through the door, flinging it back at the same instant, spinning around to look in all directions as quickly as he could.
No one was there.
Not to give up so easily, he picked up the walking cane from the corner of Grandma’s room and went through the entire house, turning on every light as he went. He opened and shut closets, peered behind doors, under beds, and literally everywhere that anyone could hide.
Meanwhile, I stood shivering in the kitchen clutching a knife I had taken out of the drawer. If the burglar slipped back in there while I was alone, I was going to be ready. As I stood there, I glanced up at the clock on the kitchen wall – a very fat chef with a clock in his huge belly – and saw that it was just then five minutes after one o’clock in the morning.
Grant finally gave up after he had searched the house three times, and besides, it was time for him to leave. But that was okay with me. I didn’t need to cry anymore because I knew. Grandpa wanted to come home. And he did. He just didn’t bother to bring his body with him.
In the morning the phone rang. A hospital official asked to speak to my grandmother. I explained that she was in the country and could I take a message? After verifying that I was a member of the family, the person said that they were sorry to have to tell me that my grandfather had passed away during the night. I only asked: “What time?” Around 1:00 a.m. was as close as they could come. It was May 19, 1974.
I still grieved over my almost baby, whether there was a baby or not. But that is not terribly unusual or special. Yes, I had a huge burden of guilt that Grandpa had fallen while I was out. I also felt guilt because I was certain that if I had taken him out of the hospital, if I had stood up to the system, he would still be alive. But that is also fairly normal.
The one thing out of the ordinary was the fact that my grandfather had “come home” at the time he died. More than that, I had received forewarning even though Grant had tried to convince me that it was nonsense. What is more, the phenomena had been experienced and witnessed by another person.
Was this proof of consciousness?
It was most definitely different from reading about cases that were written up in dry, technical language. Even if I had come to some conclusion in my subconscious mind that my grandfather was going to die, based on some physical clues, how could I then explain the auditory effects we both heard? Was the fact that a third party had, in my presence, also experienced this visitation any kind of evidence?
It was as though I had asked God a question and he had permitted me to receive an answer at the same time my grandfather died.
To bring me some small comfort…
Grant was very good to me through the funeral arrangements and even agreed to be a pallbearer, so a very difficult time was gotten through with the least amount of difficulty. I found that if I took extra diet pills, I could work harder, and if I was working, I became exhausted, and if I was exhausted, I didn’t cry so much. But that can only go on so long. Eventually, my hands shook so badly and my nerves were so taut that I had to increase the tranquilizers just to be able to talk coherently. I could barely keep any food down; I hadn’t stopped bleeding for a single day in over three months.
I was, in short, a wreck.
I didn’t know how truly dire my condition was. I have always had this ability to keep working, to keep going, to keep doing no matter how sick I am, right up to the moment of total collapse.
When an animal in the wild is weak and wounded, the vultures begin to circle waiting for the imminent end. Sometimes they land and begin to tear at the flesh of the still living creature, thus hastening death. Just so, the predators moved into my life.