28 March 2010

Day 1: A History of Ghosts

Currently Reading:
A History of Ghosts by Peter H. Aykroyd.  ISBN: 9781605298757.

I picked this up by browsing through the shelves of the Wood County Public Library where I volunteer and reap the benefits of a well stocked public library.  Peter Aykroyd is the father of infamous Dan Aykroyd, who happens to be an actor in one of my favorite feel good movies, which of course is Ghostbusters.  The movie is only barely older than I am being released in 1984, whereas I was "released" early in 1985.  This is a movie that would probably would not have done as well if it had been released at any other time in history, but the 80's were full of optimism and downright goofiness, if any movie captures the spirit of the 80's that movie is Ghostbusters.

But I'm not here to talk about movies, as much as I love them.  Aykroyd's book so far appears to be more about his observances of his father as a person and as a Spiritualist.  While my relationship with my father isn't what I would want for anyone else, it has significantly shaped my life, but what this book makes me think of more is my relationship with ghosts.

Regardless of whether they are "real" or not, I think we all have our own ghosts or spirits that we carry around with us.  I don't necessarily mean "skeletons in the closet," but the effect that other people leave on our lives, whether they're still living or dead.  For the longest time I was haunted by the ghost of my father's brother, Uncle Buster.  Buster attended Berkley University sometime in the 60's, he was intelligent, funny, collected rocks, and everyone loved him.  And that's all I know about him, or think I know about him.  Uncle Buster shot himself more than a decade before I was born.  And I say that he haunted me, because he haunted my entire family.  Every year around Thanksgiving, my father would sink into an unbearable depression, one year he was even hospitalized.  As I grew older I found myself also becoming depressed around that time of year until I was about 19, six years after my parents had been divorced.

What likely made Buster such a good ghost was the fact that we never talked about him, no one in my father's family ever mentioned him.  I once even questioned my grandfather about him when we went to clean both his grave and the grave of my grandmother, the exchange went something like this:

"What was Uncle Buster like?"
"He was a good boy.  A good boy."

Now I have my own ghost to carry with me and it seems that Buster, while still in the back of my mind, has left me to haunt someone else.  In college I met a young man named Matthew Gribbin.  We came from completely different backgrounds, but he was so energetic and kind that we hit it off instantly, as he did with almost everyone.  In 2005 we decided to become room mates because neither of us particularly liked the idea of rooming with someone of the same sex.  Matthew became like a brother to me, something I thought I would never feel for anyone again.  My own brother and I had become estranged after his struggle with drugs and violent outbursts.  We only just began speaking again about a year ago when his son was born.

So Matthew and I were close, we had our moments where, both being emotionally sensitive, we couldn't handle each others' baggage.  We eventually separated as room mates but I always carried him in my heart as someone to strive to be more like.  He was more Christian than any other Christian I've met, a true Christlike person who would give you the shoes off of his feet, if he had any, which he often didn't since he preferred to go barefoot.  It was with great sadness that I learned of Matthew's suicide in April 2007, only a month before we were both supposed to walk and receive our diplomas.  I had graduated in December 2006, but decided to attend the ceremony, because I thought he would be there.  I vaguely remember the last conversation I had with him, most likely over instant messenger, where I asked if he was going to be at graduation.  His initial response was no, but I told him I wanted to see him walk and share in the joy and pride of getting through a program that was intense in only the way an Antioch education can be intense.  By the end of the conversation he agreed to go to graduation.

This was the only promise he never kept to me.  I don't blame Matthew for what he did.  I don't even think he took the easy way out.  I think for him to make that decision it must have caused as much pain as it ended, because he knew how much we loved him.  For him to believe that he wouldn't receive any more relief from a new cocktail of drugs for his bipolar depression means that he was in such incredible pain and suffering that I am relieved that he ended his life.  Not in the sense that I'm glad he's dead, because I have missed him every day in the last three years that he's been gone, but I'm relieved to know that someone I love so much is no longer in pain, and that I no longer have to wonder if tomorrow is the day he decides to stop living.  He's already made that decision, and now I can love his memory and all the things he's done for me and everyone else.  But he still haunts me.

Matthew Gribbin
March 11, 1985 - April 8, 2007

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