In this age of alternative facts, whom do you doubt? Whom do you believe without questioning?
A few years back, when talking on the phone with my grandmother, Benedetta (104 years old), she mentioned that her baby sister Israela (about 100 years old) visited her at the nursing home.
How could that be? I’d lost track of Israela decades ago, after her only child and his family moved to California. A few years before, I’d heard that the son had passed away. I figured it was quite possible that Great Aunt Israela may not inhabit the land of the living.
During our next call, Benedetta said that the two of them had gone to Bingo in the activity room, but Israela refused to play. In a later conversation, Benedetta described a squabble with Israela and complained about her sister’s persistent grumpiness. My home is in Virginia and my grandmother lived in Connecticut, so I couldn’t verify the Israela sightings.
However, my grandmother’s reports about the squabbling rang true. Of Benedetta’s twelve siblings, Israela had a reputation for being a wee bit cantankerous.
Regardless, I couldn’t establish the truth of Benedetta’s claims. Given the unlikeliness of their veracity, I assumed that finally at age 104, my grandmother was experiencing space and time in a more flexible manner.
But then, my cousin drove down from Vermont for a visit. She discovered Israela, in the flesh, rooming several doors down from Benedetta. How did that happen? We had no idea. Unlike her big sister, Israela was not oriented in space and time and couldn’t tell us.
Here’s one more story about seeing dead-ish people: When traveling last fall, I got stuck in Charlotte, NC for seven hours, waiting for a thunderstorm to clear.
Some time after one in the morning, a flight attendant yelled, “There is a brief lull in the storm. Grab your belongings and RUN onto the plane.” So, I grabbed and ran.
After a bumpy ride, we landed in Charlottesville about 3:00 a.m. I staggered through the airport, dragging my suitcase. People rushed past me and headed out the door. Clearly, in any survival of the fittest situation, I would die first.
By the time I arrived at the curb, the last cab was leaving. The driver rolled down his window, “Sorry, I’m full. But there ‘s a fellow down there…” He pointed to a figure in the shadows. A stout, disheveled man emerged, looking at me with red-rimmed, unusually bright blue eyes. “Need a ride?”
I didn’t see a taxi. “Are you a taxi driver? Where is your car?”
“Yonder.” With his shoulder, he pointed back into the darkness.
I felt bone tired, much too tired to figure out an alternative way to get home. So, I decided to follow the man to the far end of the sidewalk, near the airfield for private airplanes. Sure enough, I saw a taxi, battered and old, but a taxi nonetheless. As we drove down Earlysville Road, the man told me he’d spent much of his life in a cab. His father before him was a driver and as a toddler he’d ridden along. Now he often slept in his cab. When he slept, he had prophetic dreams. Once, he dreamt about his uncle, whom he hated. When he next visited his mother, she greeted him at the door saying, “Your uncle is dead.”
Right about then, we were cruising over the bridge by the reservoir. Eager to change the subject, I said, “You must meet some interesting people.”
He laughed, “Well, I’m never lonely, that’s for sure.” He paused. “My father rides with me lots of the time. We have some good conversations.”
“That’s nice. He’s stopped driving his own taxi?”
“Hell yes. He’s been dead about ten years. But he shows up and rides with me every now and again.”
My hair stood up on my arms. Don’t judge me. It was three in the morning and we were driving past that wooded area by Ivy Creek. Your hair would stand up, too.
To my credit, I did not jump out of the moving cab. Instead, when we pulled into my driveway, I handed the driver some cash, snatched my suitcase then ran into the house, lickety-split, hoping the guy’s dead father would not follow me in.
So, in this age of alternative facts, whom do you believe? Whom do you doubt?
As my mother would often say, “The truth will out.” And over the years, I’ve come to learn that if you keep your eyes open and your mind alert, the truth usually does emerge and may surprise you.