Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z - Zodiac

Remember yesterday?  My father playing and singing music no one would have thought in a million years he would have played and sang?  Putting it into perspective, it would have been like Bing Crosby doing a nude scene.

In that same visit my mother had a cassette tape she demanded I hear.  One recorded in 1968.

That year, at the age of thirty-seven, my father suffered a massive heart attack.  The doctors gave him a ten percent chance of surviving, even so young.

My frightened mother sought out the assistance of an elderly astrologer.  According to the old man, the charts indicated that he would survive, despite the medical world betting he would die.

Though my father spent over a month in the hospital, he survived.

"What?" I asked, before she started the tape.  "The old man said Daddy would survive, and he did.  What's the deal?  You told us that at the time."

"Rock, you've got to listen to all of it," Mom said, rubbing her forehead, chain smoking.  "I didn't tell you everything.  And to be honest, I forgot until this morning."

Mom said he had been nearing ninety years old at the time, and his voice bore that out.  Getting past the Mercury in retrograde speak, he did indeed predict that my father would survive.  And that he'd never he'd never have heart problems again.

“Okay,” I reminded her.  "I'm cool with that?  What's got you bummed?"

“Just listen.  I don’t want to influence you.”

Mom asked several times about my father's survival and the old man exuded confidence that Daddy would survive, even against all odds.

“But here.  Here,” he said in a more animated voice, and it sounded like he tapped the chart several times.  “This is a time of concern.  He must be careful around this time.”

“His heart?”  Mom asked.

“No.  I told you his heart will be fine, but ... I can’t ... I can't see exactly what, but he'll need to be so careful.  So, so careful.  I see blackness surrounding him at this time.”

“What time?”  Mom asked.

He launched into astrological jargon about such-and-such reaches a certain point somewhere.

“But when will that happen?” Mom demanded.

Pause, pause, pause.  “About mid-June ... oh ... let me see ... about ten ... no ... not ten ... eleven years from now, I'd say.  Yes.  Definitely.  Eleven years.  Mid-June 1979.”

"You're sure?"  Mom asked.

"Oh, yes," the old man said, and I could almost sense his eyebrows rise through the tape.  "Oh, yes.  Watch for that time.  Be prepared."

My father died June 16th, 1979.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y - You've Got To Get Over Here!

Two years after my father’s death, my mother discovered his ghost on a reel-to-reel tape.
She called me one Sunday (my day off).  “You’ve got to get over here now, and I don’t want an argument.”

My mother rarely called me.  I would either stop by her house or call her.  But when she called, I listened.

Once there, she wanted me to listen to the reel to reel that he had recorded.

As I've mentioned, my father could play the guitar well, and would record himself from time to time.

I shrugged my shoulders.  “So?”
“Just listen!”

Also, as I mentioned in an earlier post, rarely did my father’s taste in music run this side of Sons of the Pioneers, and never to music of the 60s.

He detested the hippie movement and everything it stood for, believing those protesting the Vietnam War to be just this side of traitors.

Mom pushed the play button.

I blinked hard a couple of times.  My father’s voice, no doubt.  My father playing his guitar, no doubt.  The song he both played and sang.

“Blowin’ In the Wind,” by Bob Dylan.

One of the big protest songs of the 60s.  I loved the song, and played the Peter, Paul, and Mary version frequently.

His was more like this P, P, and M version.

I had no idea what to say.

“Maybe … maybe he didn’t understand the meaning of the song,” I suggested.

She crossed her arms.  “Wait ‘till the next one.”

He played and sang a perfectly respectable version of “If You’re Going To San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)” written by John Phillips and performed by Scott McKenzie.

The one on the link was just made a few years ago.

Clearly I did not know my father as well as I thought, as his reel ghost explained.

On the same visit, my mother produced a cassette for me to listen to.  "You think that was something, you will NOT believe this," she said.

Check out tomorrow’s post.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X - X Marks the Spot

As a boy, I often imagined the ghosts of pirates hovering over their hoard like flies over a cow patty.

Buried treasure fascinated me.  So much so that I when playing alone I would bury a jar of pennies in the back yard, when draw a map to the treasure.

Two problems.

First, I knew where I’d buried it, so I didn’t require a map.  Second, the one time I trusted someone to bury that jar, I never found it despite his intricate map.

Lesson learned.

The concept of buried treasure still fascinates me to this day.

One of my favorite accounts concerns an island off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada

Oak Island.  Also known as the Money Pit.

Since 1795 treasure hunters from all over the world have excavated there looking for a hoard, as some translated indicate, “forty feet below, two million pounds buried.”

Nothing has ever been found, yet the theories range from Captain Kidd’s treasure to Marie Antoinette’s jewels to Spanish galleon treasure.

Make no mistake, hunting for whatever it is would fascinate me, but when I ponder it, I can't help but think of the ghosts of the people who died there?

Do they haunt the place still, I wonder?  Waiting for the right person to come along.

What about the ghost of Captain Kidd or, according to a theory, Edward Teach (Blackbeard)?  Might their ghost be preserving their treasure by leading folks astray?

Logic would indicate that if something did occupy the depths of the Money Pit, then modern technology would have found it.

Then again, every technology dating back to 1795 thought itself modern.

It’s the why that haunts me.  Why after over 200 years do folks still search if nothing has been found?

I’d love to explore the island, just to get a feel of the place and of the lost dreams of lost treasure and lost lives.

Here is the Wiki link should you like to explore more.


Friday, April 26, 2013

W - Wayfarin' Strangers

Remember the words to the old spiritual, "I'm just a poor wayfarin' stranger?'

What if those wayfarin' strangers checked into a hotel, but never checked out?

I'm rest to start draft four of my novel, an old-fashioned ghost story with a dash of murder mystery.

How better to research a ghost story than to stay at a haunted hotel? 

Last October I stayed three nights in the 1886 Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, generally considered to America’s most haunted hotel.

Strictly for the research, you understand.

The place has quite a history, at one time in the late 30’s having been converted to a hospital that guaranteed a cure for cancer.  In that since, many guests check in but never checked it out.

No wonder it’s haunted.

Saturday night after taking the ghost tour (and experiencing nothing out of the ordinary), I retreated to my room to write before bed.  As the hotel had WiFi (which I had used several times without incident), I decided to listen to some tunes from YouTube.  I tried for Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” since that was the song I associated with my novel’s ghost.

What popped up on my screen I’d never seen before, nothing but a white background full of letters and characters.

As that didn’t work I tried another song, this one “Superman” by Five For Fighting.  Same screen.  Funny that I had no trouble getting to any other website, including the one for the Crescent itself.

I poured a glass of wine pondering why YouTube was the one site I couldn't access.

Or was it?

I returned to the computer and tried accessing YouTube directly from Google.  No problem.

I tried another song, this one a country song from the sixties. Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man."

No sale.

Well, maybe the hotel didn’t like modern songs, I thought.  Not expecting anything beyond another failed effort, I tried for an older song.  My first thought was "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."  I found the 1911 recording by Henry Burr and The Peerless Quartet, a grand old song.  Below is the link.

It played all the way through without incident.  I tried again for “Lights.” Another screen full of gibberish.  How about another oldie, but goodie?.  I tried “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” recorded in 1908 by Edward Meeker.

Check it out, particularly if you want to hear the actual lyrics.

It played all the way through as well.

Still no “Lights” or “Superman” or anything since William Howard Taft served as President.

I sent a text to a friend.  “Weird things are happening.  Can’t play modern music.  The ghosts are stopping me.”

My friend texted back.  “Ask permission.”


I looked toward the ceiling.  “May I play ‘Lights’ by Ellie Goulding?  Please?”

To my amazement, I could play that song, but nothing else this side of WWI without permission.

“May I play ‘Superman’ by Five For Fighting?”

Not even a buffering pause.

Hey, what a concept.  With specific permission, my laptop and YouTube treated me to a concert.

The powers, however, did not grant a general dispensation.  One song at a time, please.

Failure to secure a blessing, and the white screen of gibberish appeared.

However, for whatever reasons this site wouldn't allow me to post pictures, except for the W.

All I could do was shake my head, and thank the guests who never checked out for their kind cooperation.

And hoped they would one day move beyond their "world of woe."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V - Van Cliburn


On February 27, 2013 pianist Van Cliburn died and the world mourned.

Every music teacher I had in grade (primary) school proclaimed Van Cliburn the greatest pianist ever, because of his win at the 1958 Tchaikovsky Piano competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.

The judges didn't know what to do being obliged to ask permission of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. "Is he the best?" Khrushchev asked. The judges nodded.  "Then give him the prize!"

In a statement read at Mr. Cliburn's funeral service in Ft. Worth, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "Over the course of many years, during the most difficult historical times, the art of Van Cliburn brought together people from different countries, different continents and united them.  We shall always remember Van Cliburn as a true and sincere friend of the Russian people."

Former President George W. Bush said at the service, "Members of the presidents' club could have taken a lesson from him in diplomacy."

President Barack Obama said in a statement read at the service, "I am confident that the enduring beauty of his art will sustain his legendary status for years to come."

He played for royalty and world leaders, and was admired by the greatest of the great.

For two seasons I bought box seat tickets for the Sunday afternoon performances of the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra at the Bass Performance Hall.

Being approached by Van Cliburn, who had a box just down from mine, during an intermission of one of the early ones, haunts me to this day.

The man had obviously noticed that I was alone.

Tall and lanky, I remember the size of his hands the most.  They were enormous, with long, long fingers.

Had the ghost of Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky approached me, I wouldn't have been more shocked ... or tongue-tied when he asked how I enjoyed the performance of the Rachmaninoff C Minor concerto (the second).

The only thing I could think to say was, "Not as much as yours."

He laughed and said, "That's too kind of you.  But you know, I think she brought a real ethereal quality to the work."

I agreed, and put forth observations I cannot for the life of me recall, and he said, "Yes, yes.  You're right.  That was so charming."

I melted.  I had offered an opinion on a performance and he agreed with me.

Mr. Cliburn went out of his way to open me up and talk.  Then he drew in a quick breath and said, "I'm sorry, I'm being rude.  I'm Van Cliburn.  And you are...?"

"Rocky Hatley," I said, and the smile on my face must have looked worshipful and simultaneously stupid.  "And you certainly didn't need to introduce yourself, Mr. Cliburn."

"Your name is Rocky?  Is that your given name, or a nickname?"

"It's a nickname," I said, and explained that I was named for my father, and my parents wanted a nickname.  They had almost settled on "Sandy" when my pediatrician told my mother that he found me, two hours old, trying to stand on my hands and knees and said, "That young man is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar."

Mr. Cliburn nodded with a wide smile.  I truly believed he was interested, "So Rocky it was.  That's a wonderful story."

And all with a Texas accent.

We spoke at a couple of more concerts, and met again at the Meyerson Symphony Center for a concert of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

"Still couldn't find anyone to join you?" he asked.

I shook my head.  "No.  I couldn't."

He smiled and patted me on the shoulder.  "You will.  Music unites the world."

Former President Bush remarked at his funeral that the people of the Soviet Union didn't find a stereotypical Texas cowboy way back in 1958 but a "gracious, humble young man, beloved even by the enemy."

I'll always remember the ghost of a legend who took the time to draw lowly me out of a shell, a man who cared about my thoughts and opinions of his beloved music ... and me.

When I heard of his death, I cried.

Now, I'm listening to his Rachmaninoff C Minor Concerto with the legendary Fritz Reiner conducting.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U - Undercover Sister

My P blog post showed how I miss my sister.

Here is one reason why.

I was born September 23.  My sister came into the world four years and 2 days later.  On the one hand, she became the best birthday present I ever had.  On the other...?

Birthdays became a "shared" event, but I never believed that.  My parents themed them for girls, Candy Land, Barbie, Mary Poppins.

I enjoyed the movie "Mary Poppins," but it just wasn't for the guys.  I complained.

"What about Michael Banks?" Mom asked.  "Burt?  Mr. Banks?  There's plenty of boys in there."

That may have been true about the movie, but not the cake, not to mention that none of my friends would come.  So I had to share a birthday cake with my sister showing Mary Poppins, umbrella over her head, flying over the rooftops of London, and the Bird Woman sitting on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral.

The party consisted of me, my mother, my sister, and 9 of Deborah's friends.  My father stayed ten minutes then retreated into the house to watch television.

In high school, my activities on the debate team prevented me from celebrating birthdays with my family.  Oh, they sang Happy Birthday, true enough, and bought me a special cupcake with three candles.

No party.  No celebration.  No get together with friends.

I learned to mask the disappointment until I could stroll past.

Fast forward to my twenty-second birthday.  I had my own job. My own place.

Since it fell square on a Sunday (my only weekend day off work), I hoped my girlfriend would forgo her weekly visit to her grandmother with her parents and sisters, to be with me for lunch or dinner.

She couldn't.

"Well, I see y'all before Mass and we can have breakfast."

She threw her hand over her mouth.  "I'm sorry.  We're taking my grandmother out to breakfast and to Mass."

"On my birthday?"

No sale.  "I'm so sorry, Rocky.  We'll celebrate another time."

"Oh, Rocky," my mother said when I wondered if I could spend some time with her and my sister.  "I forgot yours fell on a Sunday this year. Deborah and I are going to Jefferson for the weekend.  We're celebrating hers next week.  Let's do something for you, too.  Invite Angie and her family over."

"That's not going to happen," I said, rather petulantly I'm afraid.  "They'll be at her grandmother's.  I understand family, but damn!"

"I'm sure she feels bad about it," Mom said.

I woke that Sunday so full of self-pity that it leaked out of my pours.

My roommate Greg helped.  "Chief, let's go to Mass, have a nice brunch ... my treat ... go to the movies ... my treat ... and head over to your Mom's."

"She won't be there."

He patted me on the shoulder, "I know, but we should make sure the dog's okay, right?"

I suppose.

I had a grand time in spite of myself thanks to Greg.

I offered one last wistful sigh before pulling out my key.

Mom opened the door.  "Rocky!  Greg!  What a wonderful surprise. Come on in.  Deborah's gone, but I made some tea.  Let's go to the patio."

Sure, whatever.


Everyone was there.  Deborah and my brother, my girlfriend her parents and sisters.  Damn was I surprised.

And oh, so happy.

We played pin-the-tail-on-the donkey.  We danced.  We had chocolate cake.

At the end Deborah came up to me.  "It's about time, don't you think?"

She'd made it happen.  Arranged the whole thing with Angie and her parents, and Greg of course.

I didn't have a clue.

After my forty-ninth birthday in 2006, my sister called my friend Jill wanting to set up a surprise birthday for me for my fiftieth.  Deborah died December 19, 2006.

But Jill, with my supplying information on who to invite, made sure that my sister's desire to give me a great fiftieth birthday happened.

She did a helluva job, too.

And despite what folks may think, Deborah was there as well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T - Tombstone, Arizona

Even though in 1994 I lived in Burbank, California, I went back to Texas to buy a car, or compact pickup truck as it turned out.

 My sister wanted to visit so we drove back together, intent on taking it nice and easy, enjoying the sights of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.  Deborah didn’t care what sights we saw, with one exception.

Tombstone, Arizona.

The movie “Tombstone” had just been released the previous December, and … well, my sister had a huge crush on Kurt Russell … and Val Kilmer … and Bill Paxton … and Michael Biehn … and Sam Elliot.  Having seen “Tombstone,” she just HAD to see Tombstone.  Not to mention that the movie “Wyatt Earp” would soon be released.  And Deborah had a huge crush on Kevin Costner … and Dennis Quaid … and, you get the idea.

Though the day was extraordinarily hot, even by Tombstone standards (pushing 120 F), we had a marvelous time.  We chased the ghosts of the McLaury’s and Billy Clanton through Boot Hill, and even took each other’s picture beside my favorite tombstone in Tombstone or anywhere. (See the picture)

Though my baby sister was thirty-three, she didn’t realize all of the entertainment the Bird Cage Theater offered.

“This was a cat house, too?” she asked.

I laughed.  “Among other things.”

But the best of it all for her involved chasing the ghosts of the Earps and Doc Holliday six lots down from the O. K. Corral, along with that of Marshal Fred White who had been killed the year before by Curly Bill Brocius.

Me?  I loved it all and couldn’t help marveling that, were it not for thirty seconds around 3:00PM Wednesday October 26, 1881, Tombstone, Arizona might have become a ghost town.

That thirty seconds is what folks call “The Gunfight at the O. K. Corral.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

S - Spoon River Anthology


My maternal grandmother was born in 1915.  That same year a collection of poems by Edgar Lee Masters appeared in an edition called Spoon River Anthology.  The opening piece is a haunting whisper of the inhabitants of a graveyard.  Each poem thereafter is from the point of view of a deceased resident of the fictional town of Spoon River, Illinois.

The ghosts.

An anthology of ghost poems.

Together they create a tapestry of a way of life.

In 1963 Charles Aidman adapted this collection into a stage play.

Twenty year later I appeared in a version produced at the University of Texas at Dallas.

I watched the videotape of that production a little over a year ago for the second time in nearly thirty years.

Not for the nostalgia.  Well, not entirely.  I loved the beauty and pathos and humor of the piece. And yeah, for the amazing work of the cast and crew who staged it.  So nostalgia touched my heart as well.

The complete piece in written form is just as riveting.  Read the story of Pauline Barrett, life and death in a single poem.  Then inhale the sadness of Willard Fluke, followed by the uplifting, transcendent lines of his daughter Lois Spears.

Read all of the poems if you can.

Truly, of all the productions I did over the years, Spoon River Anthology ranks as my favorite.

Of the roles I played in this production (and I loved them all), the boy who lived in the livery stable, Willie Metcalf, touched me the most.

Here it is.

I was Willie Metcalf.
They used to call me "Doctor Meyers"
Because, they said, I looked like him.
And he was my father, according to Jack McGuire.
I lived in the livery stable,
Sleeping on the floor
Side by side with Roger Baughman's bulldog,
Or sometimes in a stall.
I could crawl between the legs of the wildest horses
Without getting kicked -- we knew each other.
On spring days I tramped through the country
To get the feeling, which I sometimes lost,
That I was not a separate thing from the earth.
I used to lose myself, as if in sleep,
By lying with eyes half-open in the woods.
Sometimes I taIked with animals -- even toads and snakes --
Anything that had an eye to look into.
Once I saw a stone in the sunshine
Trying to turn into jelly.
In April days in this cemetery
The dead people gathered all about me,
And grew still, like a congregation in silent prayer.
I never knew whether I was a part of the earth
With flowers growing in me, or whether I walked --
Now I know.

Such a child of nature.

I was at birth, but didn't have the courage to accept it as Willie did.  I wanted to be a part of the real world. 

And so I am.

I haven't acted in a number of years, but I write stories I hope people will, one day, want to read.

A little over a year ago I looked in the mirror, at the bald-headed middle-aged man I'd become, and asked what would I want to say at the end of it all, that day I answered ...

"I was Willie Metcalf."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R - Riders in the Sky

Whew!  I'm exhausted after the last two posts.  How about something a little lighter?

The above is the original title of the song we now know as “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

As my father’s taste didn’t run much this side of the “Sons of the Pioneers,” (stay tuned for my Y post) this was one of the few songs we would play together. I never played The Band Song with him (see G – Guitar).

While I would be playing Dylan and the Beatles, he would be playing Jimmie Rogers “Waiting For a Train” (Recorded October 22, 1928) or “Shortnin’ Bread.”

I loved "Ghost Riders..." then, and we actually played it well.  I’d play chords, and Daddy would pick it.

Without question it’s my favorite Western song.

It has an ethereal eeriness that captures me, regardless of who sings it.  A ghostly quality, if you will.  And of all the versions I’ve heard from Burl Ives and Bing Crosby, to the Outlaws and the Australian alternative rock group Spiderbait, I’ve never heard a bad one.

Maybe that’s my own bias, though.

The following is a live version by Vaughn Monroe and his Orchestra, who had the first hit, in 1949, with … Ghost Riders in the Sky.

This version is from a live concert in 1965

Here’s that completely different version by Spiderbait.

And here’s an instrumental version in a jam session with the 78 year-old Roy Clark and the 73 year-old Buck Trent … unrehearsed.

Compare, and try several more versions!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q – Questions and the Ghosts of Answers

For a long time now I’ve contented myself with the ghost of a brother rather than my real one.

On my last post P – Phone Ghost, I deleted a comment from an anonymous poster because it was a message for me personally.

A chastisement, actually.  And probably deserved.

It reminded me that I have a brother.  On that post, I should have extended the sentence “The last of my immediate family was gone” by adding the words “… with whom I was on speaking terms.”

He and I have been estranged since just a few months after our mother's death in November of 2000.

I won’t go into the why because not a single thing I could say would make either of us look good.

So I kept him out of the post.  It stands as memoir, not autobiography.

For the record, Mark and I have seen each other three times over the last twelve years, and those occasions were fine, though two involved death.  Our sister’s, and just a couple of years ago, our aunt’s.

But we got along.

I will do him justice by saying that he handled all of the arrangements for Deborah, including donating her body to UT Southwest Medical Center or some other research facility in the area, something I know she would have wanted. 

He also set up a lovely memorial service at the church she attended.

He did well.
He currently has her ashes and I would trust them to no one else save our cousin Chandra.  Deborah meant as much to him as to me.

In this photo, taken twenty-something years ago, I'm on the far left.  Mark is on the right.  The gentleman in the center is the late Adam Roarke, acting coach and friend, and one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite actors.

The deleted post went on to say … “Each day you both grow older and I pray each night that this time will end and brothers will reunite as they should.”

Yes, we are getting older.  I’m 55 and he’s 46.  I’ll blink and be 75 to his 66, or maybe one or both of us won’t ride the train that far down the line.

To that, my friend Jodie’s Q post has become a venous hum for me today.  Q – is for Quality of Life

Venous hum in the best of ways.

Mark and I should talk.

The question is how.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P - Phone Ghost

I understood loneliness the night of December 19th, 2006.  The process started nine months before when my sister called me just before I started work to tell me that our 91 year-old grandmother wasn’t expected to live through the day.  Wow!  I took off work, went home, and packed. I called my sister and told her I was about to start my drive to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  “Take me with you,” she pleaded.  “I can’t, Deborah.  We don’t have time to schedule your dialysis.  You can call me on the road.”

And she called.  And called.  She did what she always did since our mother died.  She called to hear a voice other than her own.  After work, she’d call four or five times before I told her I was going to bed.  I learned how to write while “uh huhing” all over the place listening to her chatter about ... things.  On my days off, the total number of calls would double.  She’d occasionally give me a day or two off while to catch up with friends.  I looked at those days as vacation.  Not that I didn’t enjoy talking to my sister.  I did.  Just not five to ten times a day.

But she kept me company on that long drive to say goodbye to our grandmother.  Kept me updated.  Kept me awake along with the Diet Pepsi.  On my way home after our grandmother died, Deborah called and we reminisced about growing up visiting our grandparents in the black delta of eastern Arkansas.  The peace.  The quiet.  The only place we ever went where we really could see the constellations.

I was at the Maui Writer’s Conference when my friend Jill called to tell me that Deborah had suffered a stroke.  I was able to finish the conference, and went to visit her on my return.  She’d lost the use of her left side, and the left side of her face drooped.  She slurred he words, But the calls continued throughout her stay in the hospital and on into rehab.

Saturday night December 16th, she called to remind me that I was bringing lunch the next day and that she had a surprise for me.  Great.  Her favorite restaurant was Red Lobster so I brought it in around noon.  This was the first time I saw her eat unassisted since her stoke, and I was so happy.  She was happy.

“But that’s not my surprise,” she said, slurring no words.

“Tell me.”

“I’m going home for Christmas.”

Huh?  What?  “Hon, you are?  That’s great!”

How could that happen?  She couldn’t even walk.  She lived by herself.  She wouldn’t be able to get around.  I didn’t say anything, but I had the feeling that Medicare had run out and they were throwing her out on her ear in the guise of going home for Christmas.  Well, I’d handle it.  I didn’t know how, but I would.  I lived forty miles away.  She called the next night she sounded tired so I told her to get some sleep.

My friend Jill called me the next morning to tell me that Deborah had died.  And all day, through getting her arrangements started, to calling people and letting them know, I didn’t think about what was to follow.

That night I faced the sad quiet of my apartment, wanting desperately to hear her voice one last time.  Her ghost, if you will. I called her home phone just to listen to her voice mail message, realizing that my phone would never ring again with her on the other end.  The last of my immediate family was gone, and while the powers of the universe took my sister home, they left me on my own listening to her tell me again and again that she wasn't there.