How to say this? I can’t help believing in ghosts because my grandfather, who I loved and trusted met several in his long life. But I’ve never been interested in them and when children endlessly ask for ghost stories I find it a bit annoying.
That’s to say, recently I have begun to think maybe there’s a reason why they are so interested. Like maybe in this world where everything is so painstakingly and wearily explained there’s a slice of life which is still mysterious and that’s what attracts them.
So many stories, now I’ll tell just two:
Alvhilds dad was called ‘Far’. This means father in Norwegian and is the name used for countless beloved dads and grandfathers. You may call a man Far even though he may not be your actual dad. It seems to me that Far was Alvhilds best friend as well as being much like a father to her, her children and others around. He enjoyed feeding birds and when at 97 he felt it was a good idea to move to sheltered accommodation some of the birds followed him the short journey. This meant there could be a lot of gulls hanging out which annoyed some people but they put up with it because of their respect for Far. Several birds came back year after year including one gull with special markings.
Far had become 100 and one day Alvhild was working at school as usual but felt uneasy. She knew Far was on his way out and hadn’t eaten for 6 weeks but he was so strong that sometimes it felt like he could go on for ever. That day she had to keep reminding herself that the nurse had promised to call her if there was any change. At last the time for her daily visit arrived and she saw at once that he was dying. She was angry they hadn’t told her but Far had said not to disturb her.
She sat there beside him, and he was as clear in his mind as he had ever been. Soon she noticed the gull standing still and staring intently in through the window. With all the comings and goings in the room it continued to sit there. They said it had sat there all day, staring, its beady eyes fixed on Far.
Alvhild and Far had good time together to take their last farewell in this life. Finally she left his empty body but only when his body was moved did the bird desert its post.
Some days later at the funeral Alvhild was surprised to hear the bell being rung. Far and her mother used to ring the bell but no one had taken over. However as a mark of respect it was done this last time.
But what surprised her most was that the same gull was sitting over the bell tower. Each time the bell was rung it hopped up in the air and then returned.
She says she feels sure that the spirit of her mother had entered the bird.
Far had some cousins who grew up nearby. The boys job was to look after the animals in the barn each evening, and the girl took the morning shift. One night the boy came in and saw a strange woman beside one of the cows, head covered with a shawl and her face hidden. Her arms around the cows neck where it was tied with a halter. The boy was frightened but thought to himself, I won’t let her see that I’m worried. He fed the cows and went into the house but didn’t tell his sister in case she got too scared to do her job next day.
Early next morning she came running in -“There’s a strange woman in the stable!” “I saw her last night,” said the boy.
“What nonsense,” said his father, and they all went into the stable together. The woman was not to be seen, but the father went over to the place where she had stood. Looking down at the barn floor he saw to his horror that it was quite rotten. Gently he moved the cow. Had it not been for the visit of the strange woman it would have been strangled by the halter round it’s neck as it fell through the rotten floor.
Stories and stories and stories of this kind merging in my mind as I lie in bed. Lying alone in this old house is like going back in time a hundred years. It was Fars house and nothing has been changed. The presence of the past hangs vivid in the air.