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The Ghost of Aunt Sarie

October 26, 2008

It is not often I write a story that falls into a couple of writing prompts, but this is an exception. Writer’s Island has “breaking 

through” as this week’s prompt. Slice of Life Sunday features “No Stone Unturned,” which my story was orginally written for. I’m not going to say I believe in ghosts, but I leave my options open at the end of this slice of my life.

So many wonderful writing blogs to choose from. I am hoping to get a story done for Sunday Scribbings this week also once I decide what to “brag” about. 

 

The Ghost of Aunt Sarie

 

Aunt Sarie was 99 years old when she died in my grandma’s living room on August 12, 1959. She came to live with grandma at the beginning of summer following the death of her only spinster daughter. I went to live with grandma for the summer the weekend after school let out in early June, as always. I was sitting on the front porch when a sheriff’s car pulled into the driveway. I ran to the backyard to tell grandma a policeman was in our yard. “Oh, that’s probably Aunt Sarie. Her daughter died a few weeks back and she has no one to look after her. Poor old soul, she’s in such bad shape.”

Aunt Sarie was my grandma’s great-aunt and my grandma was her sole living relative. She was very ill and spent her days confined to a wheelchair or the twin bed placed in the living room for her. I can’t recall her actually speaking words, but only making humming sounds. I was given the job of looking after Aunt Sarie when grandma had outside chores. It was a very easy job as Aunt Sarie never tried to move without grandma’s help, just only sat in the wheelchair or laid in the bed. In the beginning, I was kind of afraid of her because she was so silent and still, and white, and very, very wrinkled.

Aunt Sarie always wore nightgowns and towels for a diaper. I would peek around the door from the kitchen when grandma was changing her and hold my hand over my mouth so grandma wouldn’t hear my giggles. Of course one time she did hear me and I had to stand in a corner for disrespecting my elders. “It is not nice to make fun of old people.” Grandma said. “Aunt Sarie can’t help the shape she is in. It is my honor and privilege to take care of her. Maybe someday someone will need to take care of me when I am old. It would really hurt my feelings if some little whipper snapper laughed at how bad off I was.”

For the next two months, I spent my time watching Aunt Sarie by reading to her and coloring in a coloring book. She liked seeing my pictures and would make her humming sound with a funny looking smile. Grandma taught me how to feed her and I would feed her lunch each day. I was getting used to the very slight movements she made which signaled she needed a drink or wanted to be pushed outside on the front porch. We were getting along very well, that is, until my sister Toupey came on Sunday, August 9.

My sister took an instant disliking to Aunt Sarie, mostly because so much of everyone’s time had to be devoted to her, instead of Toupey. As soon as grandma would go outside to do her chores, Toupey would start making fun of Aunt Sarie and giving me a hard time because I wouldn’t go outside to play with her. Grandma knew better than to trust Toupey to look after Aunt Sarie, which only increased my sister’s dislike for the frail little woman. Looking back, I guess grandma and I both should have known a time would come when Toupey would have an opportunity to inflict her vengeance on poor old Aunt Sarie.

On Tuesday afternoon, grandma went out to hang clothes on the line. She hadn’t been gone very long when I needed to make a dash for the outhouse. When I returned, Aunt Sarie was gone. I asked Toupey where she was. She said grandma had come in and had taken her out to sit on the front porch. “Grandma’s going to watch her now, so let’s go down to the springhouse to play.” We went out the side door and ran to the springhouse. The bottom of the springhouse had a water pit that was fed by a spring. It was always cool and damp down there, so we played in the top part of the house. We had been playing a good half hour or so when I heard grandma calling for us. I immediately knew something was wrong by the tone of her voice. We started to run for the house when Toupey stopped and yelled, “You’re gonna be in trouble now.” I kept running towards the house, knowing somehow, someway, Toupey had done something that she fixed so it would look like I did it.

When I got to the house, grandma fearfully asked, “Where is Aunt Sarie?” I looked around the porch and replied, “I don’t know. I thought she was with you. Toupey said you brought her out here so we could play.”

“No, I didn’t. I came in a while ago and Toupey said you took her outside to sit on the porch.” grandma said. I explained I went to the outhouse and when I came back Toupey said we could go out to play since you took Aunt Sarie outside. “Toupey! Toupey come here this minute.” Grandma screamed.  Toupey finally came running, “You need me grandma?” She so innocently asked.

“Where is Aunt Sarie?” grandma demanded. “ahh, ahhh, I don’t know. Cricket said you took her outside to sit on the porch so we could play in the springhouse.”

“That is a lie Toupey. You tell me right now where she is!” grandma insisted as she grabbed Toupey by the arm. “But, grandma I don’t know. Cricket was watching her. I don’t know what she did with her.” She responded as she began to cry.

Now grandma grabbed both of her arms at her shoulders and shook her. “Stop your lying. Tell me right now what you did with Aunt Sarie. She is old and very sick. Tell me right now or as God is my witness, I will beat you until an inch of your life!”

“I didn’t put her anywhere. But Cricket said she put her in the broom closet because she was tired of watching her all the time.” Toupey no more than uttered Aunt Sarie’s location than grandma was off running back into the house. I followed close on her heels. Sure enough, there she was, her wheelchair stuffed into the broom closet. Toupey had taken the assortment of boots, shoes, buckets, brooms, and mops out of the closet, pushed the wheelchair in, and then put all the things she had taken out of the closet on top of and around Aunt Sarie as she sat huddled under the debris, humming.

“Oh dear Jesus, how can one child be so evil?” grandma cried as she began removing the mops and brooms. She finally got Aunt Sarie out of closet, telling her how sorry she was that this happened to her. Aunt Sarie kept humming and grandma said she must be in shock for having something so horrible done to her. I helped grandma get Aunt Sarie into bed and cover her with blankets. Toupey sat on the couch, and for once in her life, kept her mouth shut. Grandma washed Aunt Sarie’s face and hands with a warm cloth until she fell asleep. Then she took Toupey into the kitchen and washed her mouth out with soap for lying. Her punishment for being so mean was being sent to bed for the rest of the day and evening, with no supper.

Aunt Sarie woke up at supper time but didn’t want to eat. After the dishes were done, I sat by her bed and read to her. Then I colored a picture with a dog and a cat and gave it to her. She smiled her funny smile but did not hum. She fell asleep with my picture lying on her chest. The next morning she didn’t want to get out of bed and only took a sip of water. Grandma called the doctor because she said Aunt Sarie didn’t look good. The doctor said he would be by around lunch time.

Toupey helped grandma fix lunch while I sat by Aunt Sarie coloring. Once lunch was ready, Toupey came into the living room to get me. I told I would be in as soon as I finished my picture for Aunt Sarie. Toupey, obviously aggravated by my wanting to finish coloring, came over and grabbed my arm to pull me up off the chair. Then the most unbelievable thing happened. Aunt Sarie’s arm came up off the bed and her hand grabbed Toupey’s wrist. Her bony, white wrinkled fingers clenched Toupey’s wrist and she would not let go. Toupey started screaming and grandma came running from the kitchen. I was so startled, I fell off my chair onto the floor. Grandma’s eyes were wide open in disbelief at what she saw. Aunt Sarie who didn’t have the strength to even feed herself somehow was able to grab Toupey.

“Get her off me! Get her off me!” Toupey cried. But Aunt Sarie continued to hold tight, her eyes glaring at Toupey while she hummed. Grandma tried to get her fingers loose from Toupey’s wrist and was completely amazed by her strength. Then grandma tried to get Toupey to calm down and stop screaming. All of a sudden, Aunt Sarie let loose of Toupey’s wrist, her arm dropping to the side of the bed. And then she went to sleep. The doctor walked in a few minutes later to find the three of us standing in the center of the room. Grandma was still trying to calm Toupey down and I just stood there looking at Aunt Sarie’s still, silent body. He went over to the bed, sat the chair upright that I had knocked over, and sat down to tend to Aunt Sarie. Grandma told Toupey and I to go into the kitchen and eat our lunch. Just as we walked through the doorway, the doctor said, “I’m afraid it isn’t going to be long now Martha.” Aunt Sarie died three hours later while my sister and I played in the springhouse.

For many years after her death, Toupey would wake in the middle of the night screaming Aunt Sarie wouldn’t let her go. Since we three sisters shared a bedroom, I was always the one to get to her first; telling her it was alright, that she was just having a bad dream. One hot September night, after I had returned home from spending a week in the hospital due to having my appendix removed, I had a difficult time falling asleep. We had the only window in the room open to let in any possible breeze, although there didn’t appear to be any air moving that evening. I always slept on my right side facing out towards the room, but due to the surgery, I now had to sleep on my left side facing the wall. Between the warmness of the room and my unusual sleeping arrangement, I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, even with taking the pain medication the doctor had sent home with me. I had laid looking at the wall for sometime when I realized Toupey was humming. I though it was odd she would be humming since I had never heard her do that before. Then she began screaming and thrashing around in her bed. I slowly and carefully turned over, the incision on my right side prevented anything else, and looked in the direction of her bed. I saw what appeared to be a white nightgown blowing in the window. Toupey was really screaming by now, but I could not just hop out of bed as I had done in the past. Everything seemed foggy to me and I didn’t have a sense of balance. I guess the pain pills had taken hold of my system. Before I could get out of bed, mom was there, trying to calm Toupey down. Toupey was sobbing hysterically, “She wouldn’t let go of me! Aunt Sarie won’t let me go!”

I have thought about that night many times. Did I see a nightgown moving in the window? Or was it the curtain moving in a breeze? But, it was so still that night. I have always wondered which it was.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2008 7:11 am

    O my goodness! What an amazing story! I read every word carefully and thoroughly enjoyed it! I would like to believe a nightgown was moving in the window! Karma has many strange ways!

    ~~Thank you Gemma for stopping by. Each time I think about that night, I go back and forth over what I saw. My sister was very mean in her younger years and most times I like to think Aunt Sarie is getting the last word. Cricket

  2. October 26, 2008 9:11 am

    What a mesmerising tale. Toupey was obviously filled with guilt for what she did to poor Aunt Sarie and maybe that caused the nightmares, but maybe she was actually being visited by Aunt Sarie’s ghost. A very spooky story, indeed. Loved it!

    ~~Yes Selma, I believe you are right. I doubt if my sister will ever forget Aunt Sarie. I haven’t talked to her about it in over 40 years, maybe I’ll bring it up the next time I see her. Cricket

  3. October 27, 2008 12:54 pm

    Is Toupey still as ornery as she was as a child? If she is I hope Aunt Sarie grabs her again. Great story, well told!

    ~~ Hi Eve, Actually my sister calmed down for quite a few years. She was a wonderful aunt to my children, although I will admit I kept watchful guard. Her husband died several years ago and she has never gotten over the loss. Now she is angry and very hurtful with words. I feel sorry for her. Cricket

  4. October 27, 2008 2:52 pm

    Wow….that is some story Cricket. Truth really can be stranger than fiction. I bet Aunt Sarie is still visiting you and wishing you well; your grandma too. We should never ever allow the sick, old or challenged to be taken advantage of. Sadly, that is too often what happens. Wonderful story and well written, albeit very sad. G

  5. October 28, 2008 5:19 am

    What a story!! I’d say Toupey was dealt with by Aunt Sarie, for her impatience and cantankerous ways… very engaging read! 😉

  6. October 28, 2008 12:25 pm

    Sizzling story. Toupey was quite a bad girl. Maybe she deserves the nightmare. But then, aunt Sarie you go ahead and rest in heaven.

  7. October 29, 2008 10:39 am

    What a great story!

  8. Linda may permalink
    November 1, 2008 4:08 am

    What a great story. I really enjoyed it and your writing style.Well done.

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