The first time he comes to visit it is in the time between restless slumber and awakening.
I am surprised to see him. He has been gone almost 20 years. I did not expect to see him in my dreams, let alone this semi-awakening state.
He smiles, his white teeth appearing between his black mustache, the impish almost dimple on the left side of his cheek puckering-in like the stem side of an apple.
He does not say hello. He does not even seem surprised at my surprise to see him.
“I’ve been worried about you,” my brother says.
“You’re dead,” I blurt out. In retrospect it might have been a little rude on my part but when a dead brother comes to visit unexpectedly, thinking straight is not my forte. Anyway, what’s he going to do about it? Not like he was still around and could whip me with a towel or stick me in a closet as was his yen when we were young and locked in sibling disputes over who was boss of who.
He is older than me. The only son, or as I used to like to say, “The son for whom the sun rises and sets.” Yeah. I wasn’t too mature where my brother was concerned.
My brother and his wife died in a car accident March 27th in 1997. There was a lot of angst and anger and sorrow and unfinished business in the wake of their passing. Having him pop in now, years later, without so much as a hello or even a postcard from the other side feels a tad disorienting.
And for that matter, who knew ghosts could worry?
“Not relevant,” he responds when I ask him about worrying ghosts. “I’m worried about you. You need to take better care of yourself.”
And then, he’s gone. Poof. Just like that.
But I do not question that he was real. That he really did come to visit. He was there.
The next time he comes back I am in the shower.
“Excuse me!” I squeal when he makes his presence known. “I’m in the shower!”
“So what?” he says without batting a single one of the jet black eyelashes surrounding his big brown eyes. “Spirits can’t see human matter. They only see the essence of what matters most. Did you get my message?”
“What? That you’re worried about me?” I want to shrug him off. To ignore him like I always tried to do in our growing up years.
My brother can be persistent and insistent. He can be dogged in his approach to just about anything. When we were young he once dragged me out of a discotheque in Germany where I was not supposed to be. Something about being 16 and underage he told me. I did not want to hear him and tried to go back. He got all his friends to come and make sure I didn’t.
“Yeah, I heard you.” I reply quickly reaching for a towel. I don’t care if spirits only see what matters most. He is my brother.
“Look. I’m not here about your vanity. Pride means nothing after you’re dead. I am worried about you. You need to take better care of yourself.”
And once again, he’s gone. Poof. Just like that.
Later, I tell my sisters about our encounter.
I heard his voice, my eldest sister tells us. Just the other day.
I wonder why he’s visiting, my middle sister asks.
It’s Christmas, I reply. George always loved Christmas.
And he did.
Just as he always loved us. No matter what. No matter where. No matter how difficult our encounters. He always loved us.
My brother came to visit. Twice.
In death as in life. My brother always had something to say, something to tell me about how I was behaving, or mis-behaving. He always wanted the best for me even when I thought he was being a pain, a pill, an interfering older brother who wanted to control me and my life.
I want to ignore him, just as I always wanted to when he was alive and pestering me with his silly game of ‘name that tune’ or thinking he can beat me at Scrabble.
I want to tell him I hear him. Finally.
I’ve tried every which way to re-conjure him up in my mind, and I can’t. No matter what thoughts I create, I cannot feel his presence though I can still hear him laughing all the way from the other side.
I’m hoping he reads my blog so he will know — Message delivered. Loud and clear, bro.
And then, I smile. He doesn’t need to read my blog to know I got the message. He’s watching over me, just as he’s watching over all the ones he loves.
It is his way.