©2021 Michael Raven
She taunted me from beyond the grave. She had always claimed that was one of her skills. We all laughed when my aunt or grandmother would make such declarations. “If you… [insert offending act], then I will come back and haunt you.” No one took it at face value, it was just something some people in my family said as I grew up as warning not to do certain things with them or their belongings after they were dead. I’ve used it. “If you have a funeral for me, I will come back and make you regret it”. I don’t want funerals. Memorials either. I want to leave as I have lived and, for most people, that has been as a dust mote in their eyes that they can’t wipe out, though they endeavor to make me invisible unless they need something. No mock turtle tears; no false words. No regrets that they try to amend as my corpse or ash sits before them. But I wouldn’t do it if I could and someone decided they needed these things. What would I care?
She came back last night. In all honesty, it was a bit of a surprise. I thought she’d moved on; and, maybe she had mostly. It wasn’t anything that I think I had done that drew her back other than so that she could get the last word in. My aunt was that kind of person. Had to get the last word in, hard to let you know just how inferior you were compared to her. I think that’s all that it was. She was one of those people who gave generously to the rest of the family to buy their affection and, if for a moment you forgot just how great she was, she’d make sure to remind you. If you didn’t worship the goddess she was, you went on her shitlist. I was at the top once I realized her generosity came with multiple strings attached, and once I threatened her place as the only college graduate with a degree in science or mathematics (the only other was a customized degree, not a “real” degree in her mind) in the family. It may have been the cancer in her head at the end, but she made sure to let me know she was still the first and that she was better than me. I was a stupid male, so I could never be as good as her, because women were superior in every way. Maybe she was right — but that’s not the way you talk to your nephew at another nephew’s wedding unless you want to bring him down a few notches or just to be mean. She was much more mean than people admitted.
So she slipped into my dreaming last night.
It was a laughable and childish scene. My mind put her in a 60s era children’s sundress — not at first, but as her temper tantrum continued, the dress grew from her. She started sucking her thumb.
But she had to get the last word in — as she always did. I’d had the audacity to write her off after she died. My memories were never very fond after I quite worshiping her and she realized I had stopped. Already the black sheep of the family, she skewered me at every chance she got. Put downs through my teen years, mocking in my 20s. She had wealth as a single woman and often gave my cousins loans to bail them out of debt. I asked for a small loan to help start a small business (not a bailout) and she sneered. No, I had stopped the worship, I was not worthy of monetary generosity. I was not singing hymns in her name.
So she came last night, pointing out all the things she found fault in me. She had quite the laundry list and most were not new — funny how you know what folks think of you in their backhand complements and “teasing” when there is real malice behind the jests. A few were new, but not surprising. And I listened as she grew more infantile in her mannerisms and dress, transforming into an over-sized toddler of grief.
I smiled sadly and, after she’d exhausted her list and started to repeat it, I walked away. I let her have the last word — as worthless as it was.