I don't mean real, true spiritual visitations. I mean the ghost in my head, made of habit and memory.
It's all very well to have breakthroughs and realise he's actually gone and won't be coming back. It's all well and good to remind myself there's only me here now, and get on with the things that need doing. It's fine to be gradually turning the place into the home that suits me best. Nevertheless, as I go about my business, he's here in backdrop. When I'm in the living-room or kitchen, or walking down the passage, I can feel him in the bedroom snoozing or reading, or in his office, either at the computer or going through boxes of papers gathering material for his memoirs. He might be in his blue (always blue) pyjamas and dressing-gown, or in his grey trousers and white shirt, or his Flying Scotsman wind-cheater; he always looks smart and comfortable.
I don't consciously summon him up, but sooner or later I notice his presence — such a pervasive, permanent presence!
It's just a unit after all, even if it does have decent-sized rooms and two bedrooms. We were always very much within easy reach of each other. Impossible to move around the place and not be aware of the other. It didn't feel crowded; it felt reassuring. He was warmth and life, even when he was ill and frail. His presence, his moving around, his conversations, all brought this place alive and made it a home. On bleak days like today, overcast and threatening, the bleakness never used to come into the house.
Now, when the ghost is absent — when my head is conscious that he's not in fact here — there is such emptiness, such quiet. I feel as though I should do something to brighten the place up for the poor cats; that they must be bored and depressed without human interaction taking place. I talk to them, I cuddle them, I watch things on telly, I talk on the phone ... but it's not the same, for them or for me.
There's someone missing, leaving a huge gap, and there's nothing I can do to change that. Visitors come, and that's nice, but they aren't him. He's the one the cats and I miss. They don't complain; they get on with their catty lives, and there are things they still enjoy — just like me — but it's apparent, from how subdued and resigned they often seem, that the gap is there for them as well.
So I think I must be glad about the ghost in the head, and hope for their sakes that he is sometimes in their heads too.
It is always when I am not particularly thinking about him that he slides into place, and then, after a while, I notice that he's been there for quite some time. But if I were to go and look for him, he would vanish, as ghosts do, to be replaced by emptiness ... absence. The gap is all the more glaring when I experience it anew. Better just to give a little nod of acknowledgment to that warmth on the periphery and keep on with whatever I'm doing. Almost like normal.