Last Father’s Day, I posted a brief missive about my biological father, a man I’ve never met. Rather than rehashing that this year, or posting yet another sappy-happy Hallmark card cookie-cutter clickbait communiqué about fatherhood like the ones you’re likely to see on any other website today, I’m going to tell you a different story this Father’s Day.
Once upon a time, I was married. The marriage wasn’t a very happy relationship, but it had its rare moments. At one point, the ex-wife and I were hoping—desperately hoping against hope, in all honesty—to welcome a new life into the world… but those hopes never bore fruit. Without going into the details (there really aren’t many to go into) the ex-wife had an ectopic pregnancy, and the fetus was dead before we knew the fetus had even existed.
We never told anyone else about the failed pregnancy. We never even had a chance to name the child, though we had several candidate names prepared. If God gave her a name at her conception, only the angels know her name.
Fast forward in time a few months. My grandmother, Beatrice (we all called her “Franmerry”), laid on her deathbed at my aunt’s former residence. Almost one year had passed since my mother—my grandmother’s middle child—passed away due to heart failure, and my grandmother spent many of her last hours lost in that special delirium that the dying pass through, that enigmatic place between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead, while staring at the enlarged photograph of my mother that was featured at her memorial service. Now and again, my grandmother would momentarily return to awareness and briefly reflect on the photograph, forgetting she had already made the same remarks only moments before. Now and again, she would slip back into that other world, and all we would hear from her were murmurs of people long lost to this world.
Now and again, she would straddle the line between worlds, speaking with me calmly and plainly while referring to people who were very far away and people who had not been alive for some time as if they were in the room with us. All the while, the ex-wife sat in a far corner of the room, watching and listening, being as supportive as she could be. At that moment, we were the only ones in the room with my grandmother.
At one point, Franmerry looked over at the ex-wife and asked her, “Who’s that little girl sitting in your lap, honey?”
My ex-wife immediately broke down in tears.
Though I don’t usually buy into many ghost stories as our frail human senses are so notoriously unreliable that a slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats, I do believe in ghosts. I don’t know if my grandmother had truly seen the ghost of a little girl that day or if she had seen yet another hallucination caused by her dying synapses misfiring, and if the apparition was real, yet visible only to my grandmother given her unique mental state, I honestly can’t say if the ghost was truly the spirit of my unborn child or not.
I still think about that incident quite often, though, just as I still think about the child that never had the chance to be. What kind of father would I have been? Would I have been a disciplinarian, or would I have been a pushover? If the child had been born in a loveless marriage, how would the eventual divorce have affected the child?
Perhaps there’s a reason the child never came to be… yet her ghost still haunts my thoughts seven years later.