From far beneath our home

I have a story to tell. It’s not mine, though perhaps I knew of this when I was much younger. It was given to me by my mother, about her father and a house we all shared.

My grandfather was a pragmatic man, often seen with a cigar in his mouth and a drink in his hand. His were not the ways of whimsy.

He had fought in World War II, running away to join the military when he was fifteen. He saw things, though I never knew what, and that made him tough, unflappable. When he returned Stateside, he met my grandmother and the two of them later married. They lived a nomadic life, running a restaurant in one town for a few years, a farm in another. My grandfather was always on the move, even after ensconcing his family in some house or another throughout the midwest. That was just his nature, I suppose, always trailing the Next Big Thing. That’s what brought him to Colorado.

When his first two grandchildren came along, my grandfather became “Poppop” and he settled a bit. By that time, he and ZZ  lived in a yellow brick rancher with my aunt and a pair of Siamese cats in Colorado Springs. My mom and I lived with them. As far as I remember, it was wonderful. I was close to my mom, my aunt and especially my grandmother and I sure did love my Poppop. I still remember his smell, even after all this time. Nonetheless, I intrinsically understood that Poppop, though a jokester, was not prone to flights of fancy. Nothing rattled him. He showed anger, but never fear, never worry. He had an explanation and a plan for everything. He was a solid, down-to-earth man.

Many Colorado towns are built over old mines. Miners would stake their claims, dig their holes, and once prosperity hit, a town would grow up, buildings rising from the rocky ground like weeds. As time passed, the mines shut down but the towns continued to grow and spread until they were over the top of these abandoned man-made tunnels in the earth. There are some years, especially in wet springs, when sidewalks, houses, entire streets will sink suddenly down a collapsed mineshaft.

And there are also nights when the souls of miners who perished under the earth, away from the sun, far from loved ones, resurface to find their ways home. Poppop met one of these miners.

Chelton road

Our story takes place in this neat, quiet neighborhood.

After ZZ & PopPop moved into the little yellow brick house, the women-folk of the family started feeling things: a malevolent presence, something bad. Poppop laughed at his wife and daughters, made fun of them, did not believe them, yet, still, they warned him: there was something not right in the house.

He was a land salesman at the time and early one morning, he was getting ready to go to work. He finished his bathroom ablations, smacking aftershave on his newly-smoothed cheeks, then he crossed the hallway and walked into the living room, no doubt thinking of the day before him. As he turned toward the kitchen where the coffee waited, he happened to glance to his right and saw someone sitting on the couch. Not someone who lived in his house, though. There was an old miner, sitting, waiting. He looked at my grandfather…and then he faded away.

Colorado miners

“Skip 750 ft. under ground in Colorado mine”
Are any of these men currently haunting people in their living rooms?

The man who felt no fear, who mocked his family for their otherworld sensitivities, who never ran away with his imagination had just seen a ghost and it freaked him out. He was so alarmed, he rushed to tell ZZ what had happened, admitting she’d been right, the house was haunted.  He was still visibly shaken or, as he may have put it, “scared shitless,” by the time my mom heard his tale. I imagine she felt rather smug seeing her father in a tizzy over a ghost when the rest of the family had been living with it all along.

After enough time passed, he stopped talking about his experience. In fact, he never spoke of it again. But he also never tried to convince anyone that ghosts don’t exist again, either.

As it turns out, the ghost of the miner was just passing through. It wasn’t the source of the hateful feeling found in the house. No, that one stayed and you’ll hear more about it next week.

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8 Comments

Filed under My Dearly Beloveds, My journey to writerhood

8 responses to “From far beneath our home

  1. Tyler J. Yoder

    Ooooh, very well written – and what an intriguing set up for next week.

    Also, your PopPop seems like a very solid, dependable man – the sort who make reality a little more real just by being in it.

    • Merci, mon ami!

      You know, Poppop was solid but nothing like dependable. He was actually something of a cad, really, more concerned with his own adventures than with the results those adventures had upon anyone around him. He was a funny guy…big-but-true stories, rules didn’t apply to him, and he always found his way out of trouble. He was a gambler (literally) and probably had girlfriends in cities all over the country; he and ZZ divorced when they were in their mid-50’s (I think) because she was fed up with his galavanting ways. Actually, I don’t know the reasons behind their divorce; neither of them ever spoke of it to me but he did move in with a girlfriend right away.
      He believed children should have manners but he admired us when we were wild heathens. He taught me to smoke a cigar and drink whiskey. He also reprimanded me for not being ladylike on a regular basis. He was scary sometimes and he was fun. He was a drunk who’d go missing and then just show up weeks or months later. When we were little, he’d let us lie against his solid, round belly and fall asleep and then he’d carry us to bed.
      I cried all through “Big Fish” because Albert Finney’s character reminded me so much of the Poppop I thought I had, though not necessarily the man he really was. But he was a little bit like that character in real life, too. It’s funny that a liar and a cheat, a part-time con man, would lack imagination, would be so grounded, right? And even if no one else saw it, he loved his family so very much.

      My aunt will hear no evil spoken of her father. I think she still sees him as the Albert Finney character. My mom…I’m not sure she’s come to terms with her feelings about him. I think she loves him and resents him and is still angry at the things he did to his family whether he meant to or not, whether the slights were perceived, or not. She’s kind of the Billy Crudup character, looking at her dad and seeing beyond the charm. And I think my uncle probably feels the way all boys feel about their fathers, but again, he’s never spoken to me about it so I don’t know.
      And me? I didn’t care. I’ve never cared. All I know is that he was my Poppop. He sent me a late Christmas card when I was in Korea. It was the only card he’d ever sent me in his life and it was the last because he died shortly after I received it. I never got to tell him goodbye so I have to tell stories about him, some of which are grand and some of which are not but all of which come from a huge well of memory and gratitude for my grandfather. You are 100% spot-on: He made reality a little more real just by being in it.

  2. This is a great story…and the pictures…wow!

    • Why thank you!
      The picture of the miners came from the Library of Congress. I like to use their stuff cuz I’m a librarian and it makes me feel cool. 🙂

  3. Your writing is mesmerizing. Whether it’s about your Poppop, Ghosts, or that Damn Uterus.

  4. Love this post! Your Poppop sounds like a real character. No one’s perfect but anyone who can inspire such obvious affection as you have for him can’t be all that bad. 🙂 I love the timely spooky element as well! I look forward to having my pants scared off by your next instalment!

    • You hit the nail on the head: Poppop was definitely a character. I got a lot of my character from him, I think. 🙂

      This week’s post isn’t super scary but it’s the scariest of the lot, I think. After this Wednesday, I only have one more ghost story! 😦 Well, until next year, I mean.

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