Halloween 2022: The Ghosts that Don’t Exist

“Mawmaw?” Celine closed her eyes and shook her head. It was no use. It never was. She opened her eyes again and crossed to the small dinette table in the alcove next to the kitchen. She sat and watched the woman across from her.

Mawmaw was stirring the tea in a china cup painted with red roses. Smaller versions of the flowers decorated the rim of the fluted saucer the cup sat on. Mawmaw was wearing a floral printed dress with a starched white apron tied over it. It was the only thing Celine ever saw her wearing, unless it was Sunday when she put on her “good” dress and hat for church. Her gray hair, tinted “old lady blue” by her long-time hairdresser, was curled and pinned around her face. The scene was familiar to Celine. She’d seen it almost every time she visited Mawmaw. Chores done, Mawmaw sat at the small table, had a cup of tea, and relaxed before she started making dinner. Every day for almost a week, she appeared in the alcove, stirring her cup of tea. If Celine looked away, even for a moment, when she looked back, her grandmother and her tea were gone.

“I know, Mawmaw,” Celine whispered. The woman lying in the hospital bed didn’t move or open her eyes. The family had moved Mawmaw to the hospice wing of the hospital a few days ago. Everyone was very nice, and Mawmaw was getting the best care possible, but there was no escaping the tension in the air. They were all waiting for the end to come.

“At least the house will stay in the family. That’s what you really wanted, wasn’t it? And I love that old house. Thank you.” Her parents told Celine her grandparents were leaving the house to her years ago. She’d moved into the place after Pop died, to help Mawmaw out. The heart attack a week ago put Mawmaw in the hospital, and the doctors all said there was nothing left to do. Her heart was just too weak to recover. Mawmaw had been in a coma for a few days, but Celine stopped by every day after work to sit and talk to her, just like she would if Mawmaw were still at home.

The day Mawmaw slipped into unconsciousness was the first day Celine had seen her in the kitchen. It was also the first day the people Celine hired came to update the kitchen and bathroom. At first, Celine thought it was a trick of her mind, brought on by stress and just being tired. She loved her job, but it meant long hours with short deadlines. And she wanted to make sure she got to see Mawmaw every day. So, she got home late, ate whatever she picked up on the way from the hospital, and really didn’t get enough sleep. Celine figured the apparition was a waking hallucination of some sort. But when it appeared every day since, she began to think there was more to it. If Mawmaw weren’t still lying in the hospital, Celine would have thought she was seeing a ghost. It wouldn’t surprise Celine to find Mawmaw’s ghost here. She’d lived in this house from the day she married Pop until the ambulance took her to the hospital last week. It was the only place she knew, and if she was going to haunt anywhere, this house would be the place. Now, Celine wondered if Mawmaw was watching what was happening to the house she’d taken care of for so long. It needed the work, but what if Mawmaw didn’t like it? And was hanging around to let Celine know she didn’t approve? Celine shook her head, and leaned over to kiss her grandmother’s cheek.

“I’ll be back tomorrow. Just wait until they’re finished. You’re going to love the house even more.” She left the hospital, and headed home. She wondered if Mawmaw’s ghost would be waiting. “You’re being silly,” she told herself as she drove out of the parking lot.

Because you can’t be a ghost until you’re dead. Everyone knew that. A person can’t be haunted by a ghost that doesn’t exist yet.

Can they?

Copyright 2022 M.A. Kropp