“I’m remembered the way my asshole older brother Mike remembers me. I’ll always be a child, and never the accomplished adult I was. I’ll never be taken seriously, not even by my parents. Most of my friends will remember the vibrant and funny man I was, but the public remembrance will always be of an awkward kid who couldn’t catch a ball and danced to old Gene Kelly musical numbers. I was an entertainment lawyer working for some of the biggest production companies in the movie business. I was engaged to an amazing woman. I had a dog. Now I will be remembered forever as the weird kid who danced down the street with an umbrella. I only did Singing In The Rain Once. Just once.”
I listened as the Ghost told his story to us. Nigel the Ghost and I, at Nigel’s bequest, had gone to visit the cemetery where he was buried. There was ran into his friend Keith. It had been a bad day for Keith. Someone had come by his grave and left a small Teddy bear wearing a yellow rain coat.
“I didn’t even want to be buried here but Mike insisted. Of course my parents and sisters caved. They always caved. I wanted to be buried in Southern California. I’d lived there for twenty three years. It was my home. I didn’t even want to be buried. My girlfriend wanted to scatter my ashes in the ocean like I had asked. But no, they filled me full of chemicals and threw me into an expensive box and buried me in the hot ground here on a 104F day. Everyone sang along to musical numbers at my funeral. It was embarrassing.”
“I’m so sorry Keith,” I said to the Ghost. “Is there anything we can do?”
“Yes, make sure my friends, my real friends, come to the trial during the sentencing hearing and talk about who I really was. I wasn’t an awkward kid. I was an adult who loved to surf when I wasn’t working, I painted landscapes with oil paint, and I adopted a shelter dog, and I was in love with the most amazing woman in the universe. I raised money for art museums, and homeless teens. I did so much more.”
I took down some notes and promised Keith I’d help him out. He stood in front of us, not in the formal black suit he’d been buried in, but in ratty paint covered shorts, and a white tee shirt with a drawing of his Australian Shepard Bosco on it Keith had done with a black Sharpie pen.
“Get my clients out there. Get the famous ones,” he said.
Then he smiled in a sad sort of way and vanished into the hot summer air.
Nigel looked over to his own grave a few feet away. The cactus I’d planted there a few years back was now blooming.
“I never did ask you why you planted the cactus there,” he said. “Are you trying to keep grave diggers or crying maidens away?”
“I planted the cactus because you’re so prickly Nigel,” I said.
Nigel tried to look insulated but instead he tilted his head up and laughed.
How we see ourselves isn’t always the way others see us. In turn, how others see us isn’t always the same.
As a parent I will always fondly remember when my children were precious and amusing children, or funny and snarky teens with big dreams. But now that they’re grown I will always see them as who they are now, and will look forward to seeing who they shall become.
Everyone deserves to be known for who they are. We can look back. We can look forward. But the best thing you can do for someone is to see them on their own terms right now.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman