Love Songs From The Attic!
Love Songs From The Attic!
After my husband died of a heart attack in 2002, I never would have believed how difficult it would be for me to accept the loss of Tom. Looking back to that Christmas, a Christmas spent alone in tears, since that day three more Christmasís have come and gone. Though itís been said that time heals all wounds, my heart, my mind and my very being aches and misses him more than any words could ever express.
In the beginning, I pushed away friends, distant relatives and neighbors. I stayed to myself, comforted by memories and photographs of moments shared over the course of 16 years of marriage. In truth, our life together was much more than a marriage. It encompassed everything that other couples wished they could nurture and watch grow between two people in love. Tom never hurt me once and not once did he ever say something hateful towards me if we disagreed.
For those two acts of kindness I will never forget my husband. Sure we disagreed from time to time, but what couple hasnít? He shared his compassion, his smile, that look in his eyes that showed me that what I said was understood. He had a way with his eyes, his smile and touch that whispered I was desired even without my make-up on or when my hair looked a mess, as I sat on the couch in my pajamaís.
He made our life together feel new in a way like newlyweds feel during their first year of marriage. Perhaps what made our love more special and meaningful compared to other couples was the awareness inside both our hearts. ďWe didnít ever want to be apart or alone, to look back with regret at what we once had and the stubbornness that made love die.Ē So often couples donít discover what they really had, until after theyíre divorced.
We were partners and in the best of ways made each moment count, even more so after Tom had his heart attack. Those eleven days in the hospital seemed too short a time to say ďGoodbyeĒ to Tom and at other times it seemed that those eleven days were actually a year. Tears fall again as I pen these thoughts in this diary. A book I open each day and read my feelings once kept bottled up inside.
Many times Tom slept or was too weak to speak and when he would squeeze my hand, his eyes looked into my eyes so lovingly. I didnít see pain in his eyes, but happiness in knowing I was near him. When he could speak to me, it was with softness, and concern for the suffering I was going through, rather than what he was going through. His optimistic outlook I confess rubbed off on me, supported by Dr. Anderson and of course the nurses who practically never saw us apart.
I saw awe in their eyes when they would softly knock and enter to administer medicine, bring his meals or check his vitals. I wish I would have known that Tom would pass away in that hospital bed on December 21, 2002. I would have tried twice as hard to help him feel as loved as he made me feel. But I also quietly felt relieved that I hadnít known because I would have fallen to pieces with grief and he wouldnít have wanted to see me like that.
Couples donít know when a partner will Ďbe called home by Godí and many are cheated of the opportunity to say goodbye to the one they love. After the funeral, the hardest part wasnít driving back home alone with tears flowing so heavy I could barely see the road. The hardest part was turning into our driveway and seeing his red Ford F-150 truck parked in front of the garage. Oh my God, how my tears did flow.
It took several attempts to get the house key into the door lock and even more strength to turn the knob and step inside. Before I could lay the key ring on the stand beside the door, I fell to my knees and cried until I could cry no more. I donít remember much of that first week without Tom. I guess I was just overwhelmed knowing he was really gone.
Gone from my side forever. I moved out of that house a few months later and found a cute little house on the other side of town, close to the cemetery where Tom was laid to rest. Such a move was necessary both my heart and mind. I decided to walk every day to the cemetery, to kiss Tomís headstone and to sit beside it and share with Tom what I had been doing. It was good therapy for me or at least I hoped it was.
Slowly I was able to come to terms with my loss, but one can never fill the void in oneís heart from the loss of a spouse. The most we can hope for is to look to the future with hope rather then back to a marriage with regrets. When December 25, 2005 came around, just as I had done with each Christmas past, I put up no decorations, no tree and no lights in the front yard. Instead, I got out the photo albums that captured past Christmas moments with Tom.
Through the tears that I shed, I also smiled because the old saying, Ďa picture is worth 1,000 wordsí is absolutely true. But without me knowing, my life was about to suddenly change in 2008 in ways I could never comprehend or prepare myself for. For reasons I canít explain, in October of that year I moved out of that house by the cemetery and bought a tiny one bedroom house on a small twenty acre lake just outside of town.
I had been reading the newspaper and my eyes barely noticed the real estate photo but I couldnít look away from it. It was if I was being drawn to that house. But why? I called the realtor, got the specifics about the house, property and of course the non-stop sales pitch. To them, itís all about commission, commission, commission. This particular house had no bells and whistles charm. In fact it looked very unassuming to the eye.
Even so, there I sat in Mr. Richardís office watching his eyes sizing me up for his next sale. Things seemed to be going well, until I stated that I would like to look the house and property over. His smile suddenly faded and the once sparkle in his eyes vanished instantly. I felt uncomfortable. He was hiding something. I could see it written all over his face. I just didnít know what it was.
Was it a bad neighbor? Perhaps it was bad wiring. Perhaps a leaky roof. Maybe wood rot or the house being close to the lake? Nervously, I pressed him for an exact time that I could inspect the house. When I asked him if there was a problem, there was only silence. It was as if he knew there was something sinister about the house. He looked frightened. When I began to stand up, he motioned for me to stay, putting on his best fake smile re-assuring me there wasnít any problem with the house.
He offered to show me the house that afternoon, if it was convenient for me. Call it curiosity or foolishness, but I chose to see the house that afternoon. It was almost noon and I was hungry, so I asked if 2 pm was a good time for him. He told me that was a good time for him, but I still heard hesitation in his voice. As I sat in Millieís Cafť eating a BLT on rye, with my small green salad, I looked down again at the photograph Mr. Richard had given to me.
Physically inspecting a house really is no different than checking out a car and kicking the tires. After lunch, I could have driven home, to a park or gone shopping, but instead, I decided to drive straight to the property that seemed to call my name. As I parked in the driveway, my eyes gazed at the front yard first, then to the house and finally to the lake.
Golden leaves fell from the maple tree in front of the house and as they fell, the sunís rays of light made them look like angels falling to earth. It looked like it was going to be a cold crisp clear fall night. Right away I spotted the fireplace chimney and I felt a smile come across my face. Tom loved to watch the glow of the fireplace on cold winter nights as we snuggled on the couch, listening to love songs on our stereo.
I felt my heart skip a beat, a beat of sadness, reminding me Tom wouldnít be next to me when the fireplace was glowing if I bought this house. Houses look so sad when they are empty. Itís like they have a life of their own and are happy when someone lives within them. I shook off thoughts of winterís past and stepped out of my car into the brisk air.
I didnít plan on staying out in the cold until Mr. Richardís arrived, but I did want to snoop around without sales pressure. I also wanted to solve my curiosity as to why Mr. Richardís seemed so apprehensive about showing me this house. What was he hiding? With my coat pulled up tightly around my neck, I walked around all four sides of the house. I stared at the walls, the foundation, the porch steps, the roof and the electrical lines going to the house.
I did the same of the two car garage and even looked inside the garage since the door was up. Nothing seemed to look odd or out of place. All I could think of at that moment was the septic tank. Perhaps it needed to be pumped. Besides the house and garage needing a fresh coat of paint, everything looked normal. If there wasnít anything unusual on the outside of the house, then something inside the house must be the cause of Mr. Richardís nervousness.
No matter, I said to myself, I would check the inside of the house just as closely. Just as I was about to walk back to my car and turn on the heater, I looked up and noticed the attic window with a white lace curtain. Funny how I hadnít noticed it before. I glanced down at my watch and saw I had about 15 minutes before Mr. Richardís would arrive. As I sat in my seat enjoying the warmth of the heater, it wasnít long before I saw My Richardís car pull into the driveway and park next to my car.
His beautiful blue Mercedes made me and my Chevy Lumina look poor. When he stepped out, he held a large folder of papers in his left hand as he waved hi to me. As I stepped out of my car, he was already headed up the sidewalk towards the front door. That was when he stopped and glanced up at the white laced attic window curtain. I saw his optimistic smile begin to fade.
There was something wrong with the house. But what? That was when I reached his side and he looked down at me, smiled and headed up the porch steps to the front door. He unlocked the door, turned the knob and stepped aside, allowing me to enter the house first. As I opened the door I was caught by surprise with a gust of cool air. I stopped in my tracks. Not because it was a bitter cold air, nor because I was afraid either.
I donít know what my first impression was at that moment. Mr. Richard cleared his throat as if to encourage me to step inside and I did just that. Immediately a smile came across my face as I gazed at the living room that opened up into a beautiful, but small kitchen. I was captivated by the comfy, welcome home feeling that this room made me feel.
I know it sounds corny, but now I knew why the picture of the house in the newspaper seemed to call out to me. Patiently Mr. Richard let me wander through the house room by room without his memorized sales pitch to my relief. I have always hated sales pitches from people when I wanted to buy something. When I had finished looking at the pantry, my eyes turned to the ladder attached to the ceiling with a pull down rope hanging above my head.
Before I could ask him if he could pull the ladder down, I could see the apprehension in his eyes. I had to ask him twice if the ladder led to the attic. Without speaking, he nodded his head. ďI suppose youíll be wanting to look at the attic? Thereís not much to it, just a few boxes up there and dust.Ē he told me hesitantly. He was hoping I wouldnít press the matter further, but I did.
ďOf course Iíd like to see the attic Mr. Richard.Ē I told him. Reluctantly, he nodded, reached up and pulled on the cord and the ladder slowly came down. Mr. Richard went up first as each step on the ladder creaked under his weight. When he reached the top step, his huge hand opened the attic door and immediately a warmer than expected breeze caressed my face.
That breeze seemed so odd given how cold it was outside and that there was no warmth downstairs to warm the attic. As I looked up at Mr. Richard, he stepped into the attic I saw the light of the attic window filling the room with light. The warmth I felt must have been the sun against the window. He motioned for me to climb up the ladder, asking me to please be careful.
Love Songs From The Attic! Conclusion
When I too stepped into the attic, I saw maybe a dozen boxes stacked in a corner to the left of the window whose white laced curtains added a feminine touch to the room. Surprisingly there wasnít a speck of dust on the curtains or window sill. More unusual to me was the fact there were no spider webs on the window or in the attic corners. Perhaps it was the sight of looking at the lake that distracted me.
Maybe it was the maple leaves falling to the ground below. Whatever it was, something made me feel very comfortable in that attic. However, Mr. Richardís didnít feel as I did. He was more than just a little nervous. He was impatient for me to go with him back downstairs. I followed him back downstairs and watched him fold up the ladder as the cord swayed in the air.
Once again, we walked back outside. As I walked out into the yard, waiting for the realtor to lock the front door and look at the garage and property, I glanced up at the attic window and could have sworn that I saw the curtain move. But I knew it just was my imagination. After touring the rest of the property, Mr. Richardís asked me what I thought of the house.
I wanted this house, I really did. I wanted to call this my home, even if I was to live out my years here, alone. But something was still bothering me. I guess it its human nature or curiosity to ask about the previous owner, so I did. ďMr. Richardís, can you tell me a little about the previous owner of this house?Ē I asked. There was a pause of silence before he began to speak as if he was picking his words very carefully, which made me even more determined to know who the previous owner was.
Mr. Richard was short and to the point, not revealing more than he wanted to. ďThereís not a lot I can tell you Ms. Brown. The previous ownerís name was Jacob Stacy and he and his wife lived in this house, oh for twenty years I think. His wife passed away three years ago, no it was four. Jacob passed away last year. His son William has the title to the property and Iím handling the paperwork if a buyer is found.
I really canít tell you anything more.Ē he said. Was he telling me the truth or was there more he wasnít telling me? Then he walked over to the hood of his Mercedes and asked if he could go over some papers with me. The next few minutes were spent explaining the real estate price, terms, conditions and escrow fees if I decided to purchase the house. I asked him if I could have a few days to think it over.
With a forced smile and a look of disappointment he nodded and said, ďSure.Ē as he handed me his business card. The very next morning I left a message for Mr. Richard that I would like to talk to Mr. Jacobís son about the house. A few hours later, Mr. Richardís secretary called and gave me William Stacyís phone number. I called the number but got his answering machine.
I left my name and phone number and a short message about my interest in his fatherís house. It wasnít until I was in the middle of making dinner that evening when the ring of the phone startled me. It was William Stacy. Williamís voice was a fresh change from the cold and uninteresting voice of Mr. Frederick. William was relaxed, friendly and excited someone was interested in the house.
What was clear to me wasnít Williamís excitement of a sale, but rather, that someone would be living in the house that his father had lived in for so long. Over the course of an hour, with dinner put on hold, William shared with me many life experience memories of his father and Samantha, his wife. Twenty years of love and laughter and yes heartache too when Samantha passed away.
Being retired, Jacob had a love of music and had been an amateur songwriter of sorts. His only audience and devoted fan was Samantha, who felt blessed to be able to love a man who wrote and played love song after love song to her. Jacob didnít have the voice to go with the sweet soothing romantic songs he strummed on his guitar so easily for Samantha.
But William said it never disappointed Samantha for a single moment. When Samantha died from heart failure, William said it as if her death made a part of his father die too. He was a changed man. Such a huge void in his life was revealed. They say that when the bond of love between two people is that strong, that it isnít long before the other spouse also dies. William said his father died less than a year from the day Samantha died.
It was a peaceful death he told me. He had been writing a love song in the attic when he died that fall afternoon in 2004. If I had been standing up, I think I would have fainted or at the very least dropped the phone I was holding onto the floor. Now I knew why Mr. Richard had been so nervous and evasive with me about the house and the attic. As I sat in my recliner, absorbing all that William had told me, I remembered the attic curtain I thought had moved when I was outside the house.
ďDid I actually see the attic curtain move?Ē And the warmth in the attic. Was it merely the sun against the window pane? Why wasnít there a speck of dust in the attic? Why were there no spider webs? Were they all signs that the ghost of Williamís father lingered in the attic? My mind was spinning with confusion until the sound of Williamís voice on the phone brought me back to him.
I asked if we could meet each other to discuss the house further, but what my real reason was to learn more about his father. I told William that my husband also passed away in 2004 from a heart attack. He agreed to meet with me at Dennyís for lunch tomorrow. William was a charming gentleman in his 30ís, tall, neatly trimmed black hair and deep blue eyes.
Beside him stood his wife Emily and the three of us sat down in a booth and ordered lunch. Amidst the bites William shared memories of Jacob and his wife as I share the same of Tom and me. I donít know who cried more, Emily or I, but they were good tears. When the hostess brought the bill, William insisted on paying the full bill. I think it was obvious to the three of us that I would be buying the house.
The very next day I met with Mr. Richard at his office and began the paperwork. In about three weeks escrow was closed and the house was my new home. To my surprise, Emily and William volunteered to help me move in. How could I say no? Those first few days, like anyone else were chaotic. Boxes everywhere and no clue as to what to unpack first or where things should go.
Arranging, then re-arranging and still re-arranging more. Eventually, everything was put in the perfect place and I was worn out. I sat down in my recliner and drifted off to sleep. That was when something woke me up. It wasnít the sound of a passing truck or a knock upon my door. It was the soft melody of guitar music coming from the attic. A wonderfully pleasing romantic melody, ever so softly played, but clearly was heard coming from the attic.
From the very first moment I entered the attic, I had a feeling there was a presence in that room. I just couldnít describe or pinpoint where it was. Now I could. Nervously, I walked up the attic ladder and stood at the door as the music continued. But when I touched the door knob and opened the door, the music stopped. I had forgotten to ask Mr. Richard why the boxes were still left in the attic.
I felt tears in my eyes as their warmth ran down my cheeks. Suddenly an unseen hand brushed my tears away from my cheek. I almost fainted. With gentleness in my voice, I whispered, ďJacob, I know your pain and heartache. I too lost the love of my life. Youíre welcome to play your love songs. Youíre welcome to stay.Ē I said. That Christmas was my first real Christmas in years where I decorated, had a tree and lights, celebrating what Tom and I had shared.
Iíve never seen the ghost of Jacob. Iíve never seen anything supernatural occur, you know, like a cup moving across the counter. Jacob hasnít done anything to frighten me. To me, he has never left the attic where he died. But I do intrude upon his solitude now and then and spend time sharing memories when Tom was at my side. I canít tell if Samantha is with him. All I can say is that he composes and plays the most wonderful love songs Iíve ever heard.
© 2009 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)