Maybe eight or nine, I read Dorothy Macardle‘s book, “The Uninvited,” because it was in my mother’s hall closet that was filled with books…and the house rule was if it interested you and you could read it, you should read it! So being an obsessive kid, I took it to my bedroom and read it…several times.
When I was a little older, the original movie of “The Uninvited” began showing on late night TV and my mother and I watched it every time it played. I was obsessed with what was billed as a “real” ghost story…meaning it was a real haunting for real reasons…and I loved it. Two ghosts dueling for the heart and soul of a young girl…one evil and the other benevolent…how could a kid not love that?
But then life at our house got complicated. Our dad…a World War 2 Iwo Jima Marine…was crumbling before our eyes. He’d be angry one minute, mean the next, and most troubling of all…sobbing the next. As time went by, he got thinner and paler and madder and sadder. Soon he couldn’t sleep. I’d wake up and he’d be standing in the doorway of our room with a gun. Was he guarding us? From what? Was he there to kill us? Our mother? Himself? Or was he still deciding? While my little sister slept soundly in the twin bed across from me, my heart pounded. Couldn't she hear it? Oh my God, could he?
Most nights, he eventually lowered the gun and left. Other nights he’d yell, accuse, or threaten. Some nights he pulled me out of bed and told me gruesome stories about Iwo Jima. Other nights he accused me of things that were beyond my ken at that age. And other nights he beat me. Sometimes I was furious with him but too small to really fight back. Other nights I stood my ground and shouted back at him which infuriated him even more. Still other nights he cried for his friends who were killed on Iwo…and I did too. Sometimes Mama heard him ranting, came in and guided him back to their bedroom. And I’d try to sleep…but usually I just lay there…heart pounding…afraid for him…and for us.
Unlike “The Uninvited,“ I knew that broken spirits don’t go away. They linger…always on your back…always…and unlike the ghostly Mary Meredith and Carmel, you can’t ignore their broken hearts or hope they’ll be miraculously healed. That’s not how it it works. Not even love does that…some things just never heal.