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The Trouble With Ghosts.


"Where there's a will, and there is a fucking will, there's a way, and there is a fucking way."

                                              -Teddy Bass, Sexy Beast


One winter night, long long ago, my mom put me and my brother in our early 80's snow shit. It was the hot K-Mart stuff made of burlap and painter's plastic and fake fur from a fake fur company down some industrial street in semi-urban China; the kind of stuff that doesn't breathe. At all. This was pre-breathable. Pre-Patagonia/Pre-Old Navy/Pre-whatever merciful winter stuff kids might get today. My jacket zipped up to my neck and if I was lucky: I didn't catch my waddle of throat skin in there and feel the mighty sting of a trillion pissy wasps trying to eat the core out of my Adam's Apple.

It was the hot stuff and it was all we knew and she put us in it/sealed us up in our own juices/opened the font door/ and took us down the front steps for the very last time.

We left him alone there, my dad. We left him alone there, probably asleep; probably nicely buzzed and passed out. I don't remember, really. I do remember that he didn't follow us out. He didn't call up after us as we waded through the snow, towards the corner where the bars were. He didn't holler anything like "Come back," or "I'm sorry," or whatever.

He didn't say stuff like: "You're not taking my boys away fom me!"

We just walked out/shut the door behind us/and went away. In my big winter boots lined with mildewy drywall insulation, I felt my toes get cold. It felt really weird, the walk, because Mom didn't have time to throw socks on our feet. One second were in the pajamas, getting ready for bed, the next: we were being zipped up and dropped into the boots without socks.

It felt cold and strange on my feet. Strangely liberating too. As if I'd discovered some new way of walking around out in the frozen world, some new naked way of kicking down the winter streets, my one glove tucked up in my mom's glove. My brother's glove tucked up in her other one.

I remember staring up at the street light as Mom dragged us around the corner. In the super quiet: I remember looking up at the billion tiny flakes falling slowly through the ball of light. I remember actually pretending they were vast galaxies of burning stars that we were flying up through.

The three of us soaring out in space.


We got to my Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop's around the corner in like three minutes, I guess. My mom-mom was at the door waiting/peering out/ plowing the snow with her evening eyes. Pop-Pop was still up too, which was weird. But there he was, in his chair by the eagle lamp, a can of cream ale on the table.

He smiled at us as we peeled off our coats and kicked off our boots.

I put my little nude foot down in a melting wad of slush on the carpet.

"Hi man!", he said. "Want some ice cream?"

I did. And I had a bowl. And it lasted for a lot of years, too.


There is a story behind every story, I suppose. Your take. My take. We live the same shit slightly differently, coming in fast to the same bullseye from slightly different angles, like two or three darts launched by two or three different guys in the same bar, listening to the same jukebox. That's just how it goes when it comes to perspective, to the paradigm. The ladies at the bar sip their cocktails and watch three darts tap into the cork; some of them see where they land exactly. Some of them don't. But who really cares in the end.

We moved out here to Pennsylvania this year, me and Monica. We moved back to where my family is, with new kids that they could pick up and swing around and spoil with kisses and little cheap gifts they found at Target or at Rite-Aid. Mom-Mom is gone though. And my Pop-Pop too. They woulda loved the hell out of these kids and if they could somehow find a way to just show up for an hour on our big porch, dammit I know they would. Just to run their fingers through Violet's curls for a minute or two. Just to smooch Henry on his sour milk mouth and taste his hot living breath. Even a ghost would be delighted. And who knows: maybe that shit goes down all the time. How the hell would I know?

Anyways, months go by now where some of the grandparents love these kids and some of them simply don't. And I wanna fucking get in my car and drive to other states and kick down some fucking doors with the soles of my Timberlands and burst into bedrooms of sleep at three AM and grab people by the back of their hair to turn their faces around toward mine, a half inch from the tip of my beak, and tell them how sad I am that they keep fucking it up, not just for them, but for little kids too.

For little beautiful kids with eyes that shine and souls that glow and small hands made out of God Clay and Magic Blood and Celestial Bone: they keep fucking it all up.

The other grandparents show so much love. They screech with joy at the sight of the little ones. They send Halloween candy through the US Mail and their fingerprints are all over the wrappers and their hearts are all up in the melting chocolate. And they make me so happy/so proud.

But it's the other ones that get me.

I wanna haunt them all the live-long night.



And in all the worlds yet to come.

And I intend to somehow.


Reader Comments (9)

sigh. hello, Serge's beautiful words. i so much wish i could say i did not understand what you are getting at here, but i will tell you and maybe it will help just a teensy bit for you and for me? i will tell you that oh i most certainly do understand. but i will never understand the actions and behavior that you marvel at, it's incomprehensible. love to you and your family, keep them tight.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarian

This made me burst into tears.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlindsayc

Ok, I just got home from the bar and I'm in a different country, and I don't know you, but damn... I love you man!

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKJ

well...well you DO that! For the sake of the poor souls who are craving some kind of acknowledgment and TLC. My own grammup-inpensavainya was one scary old bird; one minute warm and welcoming and the just want to hide. Old lady hot breath with a whole lot of miserable attitude as if a little girl knows ANYTHING about breaking a dam faucet on purpose. Anyway, I get it. Sometimes I get weary at all of these birthdays for so many nephews and nieces and I can't keep up...but then remember a Grammupinpensavainya who, when she was warm, sent the best birthday cards and gave us each a buck when they made the yearly trip to Jersey to visit. do that Serge. All kids need more warm than bone chilling icy cold memories. :)

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Incomprehensible... this detatchment that occurs. I don't understand it, yet have just experienced it this past week from my sister. I found that I felt very sorry for her~

Dear adults, Life is hard ENOUGH! Love the kids. Love the kids 'til your solar plexus hurts-- it'll help 'em through the hard parts and the memories will be priceless.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

everyday I shake my hand at God for taking my mom away when I was only 14....she would have adored my son with everything in her. she would have been the best grandma in all the land.

but no. she's gone.

and do you know who is left. my dad. who doesn't give a shit. no calls. no cards. just indifference.

not fair at all.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

I cannot help but be incredibly moved by the raw emotion in this post. So many people live life numb... you, it would seem, would rather face the pain and as a result I think that you then feel incredible joy in life as well. Thank you for being real and for writing about it! Thank you for loving your children so much and for extending that love out to all children. You are awesome.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbikinimaureen

I get it. It's heart wrenching.

November 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDayna

I just barely read this, has been posted for awhile but didn't see it. I could never tell you enough that I am so grateful that my grandbabies have you for their daddy! You are an amazing wonderful man, and my daughter was so lucky to find YOU amongst all the rubbish out there... You get it! You see through so much, and the way you put it all into words is just amazing. You are my favorite son in law!!! ;)

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermama

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