Category Archives: Ghosts

The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 6, 1986

for previous chapters, click HERE.

Chapter 6: Elinor

1986

The psychiatric treatment was difficult for Elinor, but the physical therapy was even more painful. Learning to walk again after breaking so many bones and spending weeks on bed rest was excruciating.   Muscle atrophy was a condition Elinor had never heard of before the accident. After the accident it was a condition she hoped to never experience again. The only thing that helped Elinor through the physical pain of her sessions was thinking about numbers – the one area that had always made sense to her.   She often found herself counting ceiling tiles, floor tiles, the dots on the wallpaper, the squares of the windows panes – anything within her line of vision. She’d count them horizontally and then vertically and then multiply, divide, and simplify them until every surface of the room she was in had a lone digit associated with it. This practice distracted her from the debilitating pain and sorrow she felt on a daily basis. After months of therapy passed, Elinor finally began to move forward. I didn’t see Elinor (and she didn’t see me) for quite some time after the fire. Continue reading

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The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 5, Class of 2004

for previous chapters, click HERE.

Chapter 5: Stewart

Class of 2004

People in Stewart’s quiet Chicago neighborhood had always gossiped about the Jameson girl. Annie and her behavior had been a long running source of chatter, but after her death, most felt sympathy for Stewart and his grandparents. The Jameson’s were a sweet old couple who never ceased to wave at their neighbors. Stewart’s grandfather would mow his neighbors’ yards and collect their papers when they went away on vacation. Stewart’s grandmother always prepared and hand delivered a dish and dessert for her neighbor’s special occasions – babies born, graduations, a move-in or a going away party. The sympathy that the neighbors felt after Annie’s death transcended to the neighborhood kids as well; before Stewart’s mother died he was an outcast – the kid whose mom was a drug addict…the “weirdo” who had to live with his grandparents. The uncontrolled bladder and emotional outbursts hadn’t helped his popularity either. Stewart had always been a bit socially awkward and suffered from anxiety and anger issues. After Annie’s death, he became the cool kid who had watched his mom kill herself. Many of the kids had questions, and suddenly, everyone wanted to sit next to him at the lunch table and hear about what happened. Continue reading

The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 4, Alternate Scenario – 1985

Chapter 4: Elinor

Alternate Scenario – 1985

I’ve met people in the midst of tragedy many times before. Survivors of airplane crashes, earthquakes and battlefields are often surrounded by the dead. These survivors will see me at the time but often have no recollection of our encounter as soon as they have been moved to safety – but Elinor remembered me quite well.

When Elinor woke up from her coma after the accident she would scream and thrash and rip the tubes from her arms and the bandages away from her surgical incisions. The doctors or nurses would always come with their tiny sharp needles and inject her IV bag. Continue reading

The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 3, Meet Stewart

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Chapter 3: Stewart

Meet Stewart

My first encounter with Stewart Jameson was much different than that of Elinor Lewis. Stewart is what his mother Annie often referred to as a “whoops”. He had beaten the odds during her pregnancy and was born a healthy nearly eight pound baby. This was not the result of the way she had cared for herself during pregnancy. Annie was twenty when she got pregnant with Stewart. It wasn’t her first pregnancy, it was at least her third or fourth. She’d lost count. To say that Annie was addicted to drugs would be an understatement. She’d do anything for a fix, including selling her body. She had no idea who Stewart’s father was. It was only when she was no less than seven months pregnant and could feel the baby wiggling around for most of the day, that she decided to get off the streets and move back to her parents for a while. Continue reading

The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 2, Meet Elinor

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Chapter 2: Elinor

Meet Elinor

Elinor Lewis is a complicated woman; her obsession with order can sometimes hinder her ability to, if you will forgive my cliché – “live in the moment”. There is one thing I can say about Elinor though, and it’s the reason I’d like to tell you her story. She gets it. She knows life is not a guarantee. I believe the reason for her outlook stems from the first time we met.

It was the winter of 1984. She was eighteen years old and home from her out-of-state school for winter break – it was her freshman year at university. Elinor’s parents would spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s away on a resort vacation every year. Elinor had decided not to go; she wanted to see her friends, “hang out” she’d said. Several of her friends were at her family home one Friday evening. Most of them drinking, laughing, remembering funny stories from their pasts and sharing new stories of their college adventures. Continue reading

The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 1, Meet Death

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Chapter 1: An Introduction

Meet Death

Death can really muck up your plans. Or so I’ve heard.

I generally go about my day, doing my job, meeting new people, checking names off my “to do” list. Today should not have been any different, but I decided to take control of a situation I had no business being part of.

It’s the end of January and I’m standing in the lobby of the cancer center at one of the nation’s leading research hospitals – we’ll get to my reason for being here in just a bit. Deceptive sun floods through the double door entry and glassed ceiling above. I say deceptive because I know the temperature outside to be at least ten degrees below freezing.   Near me is a friendly receptionist stationed at the information desk. Her perfume smells sweet, almost of spring flowers, which is odd on such a cold wintry day. Middle-aged with big hair, dangly bracelets and an ill-fitting blouse that causes a battle between her cleavage and shirt buttons, she kindly gives first-time visitors directions. She smiles each time and often comments on the weather. She compliments them on their jackets or scarves or shoes; it’s her way of easing their stress. I conclude that she must not be a native of the city. She speaks a little too loudly and with a trace of a rural accent. This is a good occupation for her, she performs well. Continue reading