My dear father's favorite hobby was painting. He painted a lot of different things, but I recall one of his favorites to be ships, particularly older Clipper or Brigantine-style ships with 2- or 3 masts and squared sails. Whether he was after a Mediterranean pirate feel or an American or British merchant ship, I don't recall. I have been unable to recover these painting since they had been given away years ago.
But my story isn't about ships directly. It is about imagination, and the thin line between it, reality, fantasy and sometimes, the paranormal. Who knows exactly where your mind has gone in the moments when something happens that cannot be explained.
We lived in one of the oldest houses in town. A farmhouse overtaken by development. There was a den on the main floor where my father paid bills and painted. He stored his canvases in a corridor behind the closet. It wasn't easy to get to and I imagine that is why he put them there, to keep us kids away. I was usually the first awake at our house, and such was the case on this early summer morning. My father must have been at work, otherwise I would not have gone in there. But as I passed the den downstairs, I had a sudden urge to go in there and look at my father's paintings of the ships. It was an easy task for a young squirt like me to get back in there. I found three or four canvases with ships on them, picked out a favorite and crawled back out to the main room. I stood there for a moment admiring it, until I heard someone move upstairs. I took a few steps towards the door so I could hear better, but never fully took my eyes off the picture. It was at that moment of partial distraction when something occurred that I will never forget.
It happened as fast as a flick of one's finger. A small, shadowy figure appeared on board the deck of the ship. It ran quickly across the deck and jumped off the side, landing in the water with an audible splash.
I would have dropped the picture from my hands, but I guess I was more worried that I might bend a corner on my father's work than the fact that I had just seen something that could not be believed. I just quickly put it back in its place and I never snuck a look at those canvases again.
Was it imagined? Paranormal? For me, it is just another strange occurrence in a world filled with the unexplained.
One night as snow blew over frozen corn stubble fields, I waited for another year's dream come true. And it did. Ho, Ho, Ho rang the deep voice throughout our little trailer.
To me, Santa Claus was only an image of Christmas cartoons.
This year, found my curiosity braver than the mere threat of no gifts if I were caught awake, for immediately after the voice echoed, I jumped down from my bunkbed and peered out the frosted window.
What a surprise as there on the neighbor's rooftop was Santa himself, sleigh, reindeer and all! Santa glanced momentarily in my direction just as he took off in a wisp of wind and blowing snow.
Little did I know at that age what was real. But, I know what I saw.
I think back to the man's voice which echoed throughout our trailer those Christmas Eves when I was a small child, and I wonder. Was it the same man who had shot off the neighbor's rooftop in the sleigh? Or was it someone who knew the magic of putting an image in a little boy's eyes?
Some have a sense for when there time is up. When they are being called. When they are "in the window" of death. They may not have been told by a doctor. They may not even have a serious illness. But enveloped in their minds, consciously or unsconciously, there is an awareness to start tying up loose ends.
And in this period of spiritual transition, as I call it, there may be moments when they transcend beyond the normal reaches of the mind and beyond the physical boundaries of Earthly explanation.
Grandpa sat on a stump near the mailbox, a place he often stopped to rest when picking up the mail or perhaps waiting for it so he could chit chat with the rural delivery driver. On one particular day, one of his sons and his wife saw him sitting out there talking to someone. His hands were moving as he explained things, his lips moved a mile a minute in an excited manner of which they hadn't seen out of him for some time. But, there was no one else there.
A little while later, Grandpa's footsteps were heard on the porch. He came inside the kitchen where Grandma had just finished putting away the lunch dishes, and sat at the table. Grandma could tell he had something to say by the large smile on his face. So she asked, "Who were you talking to down there?"
Grandpa looked up at her and said, It was Howard (their youngest son). He stopped to visit.
Grandma and the other son both replied, It couldn't have been. Howard's still in Korea, and he won't be home for a while yet.
But grandpa insisted he had seen him, and explained how Howard had walked up the drive, right to where he sat, and they talked for some time.
Then grandma asked. Then where is he now?
Grandpa replied. He had to go, but he'll be back again, I imagine.
I believe it was Grandpa's wish to see his youngest son again, who was serving overseas in the Army, and I believe that wish came true for him. Grandpa never did get to see his youngest son again in the flesh. He died while his youngest son was enroute for home.
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Imagination is like a third eye, only it sees inside your head
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