“My people came see me last night,” my great-grandmother said as she sat in her chair working her needlepoint. Nick, my pet cockatiel, was sitting on the back of her chair watching her hands as she moved the needle and string through the cloth.
I was twelve years old and lying on the floor watching Star Trek on the television. I was so engrossed in the show that it took a moment for me to realize what she was talking about. Then it dawned on me what she was saying. I knew that all of her “people” were dead people, and that she often liked to talk about them visiting her at night.
“They said they needed me to come with them.”
When she said this, Nick sidestepped along the back of her chair until he was in pecking distance of the earring dangling from her ear. He gave it a few pecks and then turned his head sideways so he could watch it swing back and forth. “Grannanny,” as I called her, quickly turned her head and fussed at Nick, who retreated to his original position on the back of the chair. Then he settled in for the story. He liked to hear Grannanny talk about the ghosts of her dead relatives as much as I did.
“Who was it this time?” I said as I turned my head and looked up at her.
“It was Florine, John, my little boy Rudd and Nance. I woke up last night and they were standing in the corner of my bedroom. They wanted me to come with them.”
“What did you tell them, Grannanny?”
When I asked this, Nick turned his head and looked at Grannanny while the little tuft of plumage fanned out on top of his head. Nick got a little scared when Grannanny talked about ghosts visiting her in the night.
Grannanny said, “I told them I wasn’t ready. I told them I couldn’t go with them because you and Geneva need me.”
Geneva was my grandmother. We all three lived in the house together. Us and Nick, I should say. But Nick had grown accustomed to the idea of our house being haunted with the ghosts of Grannanny’s dead relatives.
When you’re born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina like my great-grandmother was, dead relatives visiting you in the night is often taken as a sign that your time has come. It’s as if the Grim Reaper contracts out the soul gathering duties to the dead relatives in a family. He doesn’t come for you in the night but instead sends close family members that have already gone on to the great beyond. They come for you instead.
On that night, Grannanny told her “people” that she wasn’t ready to go. For whatever reason they agreed and Grannanny was allowed to stay. But on one dark and lonely night years later, they would visit Grannanny again.
And on that night she went with them.