A Story You Can See Through
Admittedly, post WWII France may seem like a clichéd setting for the origin of a legend…but, here we are. Look, I’m just passing the story along, it’s not like I’m making this stuff up! [cough, cough, hack, gag, wheeze (eye roll)]
Anyhow, the late 40s was a prosperous time for a bustling little hamlet known as “Frenchburg” (seriously, no clichéd setting can be complete without an uninspired village name). Nevertheless, “Frenchburg” was nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains. It was also home to a renowned, basque influenced, glass factory. This factory of “all things transparent” employed a mild mannered nondescript man named “Khaspar Heaust” (pronounced: Kaspar Host). Heaust was the type of guy who flew under the radar. Frankly, he was so good at his craft that he went about his work unnoticed. If Heaust had ever snapped and ran amok, news reports of the day would have described him with THIS proverbial cliché: “He was a quiet man.” If by chance “Monsieur Heaust” WAS coming unraveled from within and DID indeed have plans on “going berserk,” he wouldn’t get the chance…not while he was alive, anyway.
One morning, Heaust was rushing between “pane assembly” and “glaze prep” when he slipped on a banana peel (yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “those darn banana peels!”). At any rate, Heaust met an early, untimely demise when the “banana-peel-incident” caused him to plunge into a vat of molten silicate.
Heaust’s quiet, almost “spooky” demeanor caused his absence to go unnoticed for some time to come. Soon after Heaust’s unfortunate slippage, the vat of molten silicate containing Heaust’s, now quasi liquified, remains was poured into a brand new, commercially viable, double-hung sash. By the time Heaust was discovered missing, his (now transparent) carcass was en route to becoming the south facing bay window in a vacation house along the French Riviera.
Time passed. The glass factory hired a replacement. Life moved on. Any memory that may have been left behind by Khaspar Heaust quickly faded into obscurity.
Several years later, “Francois” (pronounced: “Frank”), a young French boy, was having fun outside of that ill-fated mediterranean vacation house. He was playing a popular French children’s game of the day called “surrender.” While energetically waving his homemade white flag it flew out of his hands. Francois/Frank’s makeshift flag pole then crashed through the pane of glass that had long entombed the spirit of Frenchburg’s reserved glass maker.
With that, Khaspar Heaust was now free to haunt France, the Iberian Peninsula at-large and in time….the entire world! IT was only a matter of time before Heaust’s spirit would be found hiding behind MY door.
It turns out that Khaspar Heaust WAS going to run amok after all.
Is it any wonder that, as a kid, I was scared of the dark? (Yeah, “as a kid”…let’s go with that.)
Honestly, there’s a lot of “dark” out there to be scared of: behind the door, of course, under the bed or, good heavens! The basement! Unmonitored dark crevices can hide a whole lot of who-knows-what…monsters! Zombies! Boogeymen! (and boogeywomen). Even a standard issue run-of-the-mill ghost is enough to cause me to ruin a pair of shorts…now I’ve got the mysterious spirit of a potentially unstable French glass maker to be worried about!
The best thing to do in situations like this is to take a snorkel to bed. You can use it to breathe after safely securing yourself under the covers. (Note to Buffy: the snorkel on my side of the bed was for swimming practice only! [affirming nod])
Somehow though, while growing up, my Sunday school teachers (who presumably didn’t believe in ghosts) got wind of the notion that I was scared of the dark. They would try to calm me with platitudes about how our “invisible God created invisible things.”¹ They tried to tell me I only needed to concern myself with the “spirit of God.”² They told me “nothing behind the door meant me any harm.”
It all sounded like a bunch of crap to me…besides, this stuff going bump-in-the-night was in MY attic…NOT theirs! And whatever it might be…I’m pretty sure it wasn’t God!
“The house is settling”…my[foot]!
According to a recent pole I just made up, one in three Americans believe in ghosts. That’s almost 30% [sic.]. One tidbit of info my Sunday school teachers failed to disclose was that even the disciples of Jesus believed in “phantoms.” When they saw Jesus walking on the water they were terrified. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost. Their exact quote was, “[Aaaaahhh] It’s a ghost!” I’m not making this up! It’s in the Bible! Matthew 14:26!
Take that Sunday school teachers!
Look, if a couple of dudes that were friends with Jesus could be afraid of ghosts; then it was plausible for me to be afraid of whatever was hiding behind my door!
And really? What’s not to fear? All the ghosts I know carry chains and sickles. I think they have fangs, too. They seem to be intent on sucking blood, harvesting souls or grabbing ankles. This was all pretty nefarious stuff!
Maybe one of these ghosts could offer to do some good for a change. Why didn’t a ghost ever try to help me with my homework or offer to do my chores? Why are these ghosts trying to do so much harm?!? What’s their beef?!?
Alas, my childhood fear of ghosts subsided. Eventually. I’m not at liberty to divulge exactly how long that process took.
Now, I’m an “adult.” I don’t have to concern myself with ghosts anymore because: ghosts don’t exist!
Growing up was supposed to be easy, but I just developed a whole new crop of fears: the IRS, the dentist, the mother-in-law, back-loaded annuity funds…not to mention small print and ear hair! Then, of course, there were those little goblins that were always busy hiding my keys.
In reality, the “entity” that did me the most harm in life was: myself. Now I am haunted by the ghost of my past. As I look back across that past I see an abundance of bad decisions and dangerous choices…some of which landed me in prison.
Even so, through all of that I can still see the presence of, what seems to be, an invisible helping hand.
I chose to fill a good deal of my free time riding a bicycle. Okay, I understand that bicycling isn’t THAT dangerous (unless you do it right). Either way, it was an activity that necessitated the use of a helmet. The helmet was probably a good idea. I can’t tell you how many “near misses” I had over the years. Cats, dogs, snakes, an untold number of small woodland creatures, ATVs, motorcycles, golf carts, regular old cars, regular NEW cars, trucks, fences, joggers, wayward cows, [amorous] deer, packs of angry Chihuahuas…(okay, there were no angry Chihuahuas).
However, out of all of those various “close calls” with all of those various nouns (self-aware and otherwise); I did have one “near miss” that still haunts me to this day…a near miss with a bus.
I was a hairbredth away from being turned into a greasy, spoke and handlebar infused, stain on the road. This “near miss” sent me rocketing toward the proverbial “group-of-innocent-bystanders.” They looked at me as though they were about to be robbed. I looked at them as though I had just seen a ghost. “Something” disallowed me from crashing. I should have gone down.
Over the years I DID experience a number of actual crashes. Lots of road rash, briars up the wazoo, plenty of ditches, a handful of crazed territorial West Virginia mountain dogs. Sure! I may have had to spend time rinsing mangy dog parts off of my bike. Sure! I may have had to spend time picking thorns out of my wazoo…but I never broke anything…or worse.
I guess it’s easy to see a “mysterious-protective-force” working in the “near misses” of life; but a bus’s turning wheels that almost turned me into a fajita got my own “wheels turning” …(so to speak).
What about all of those “near misses” that weren’t “near misses” at all? I’m not speaking of actual crashes, I’m speaking of “near misses” that were, in fact, “complete misses.” I’m speaking of calamities I didn’t know I was being protected from because I was a minute early or a minute late.
Perhaps I made that green light for a reason. Maybe those “little goblins” hiding keys are actually working on my behalf.
That couldn’t be…could it?
I don’t know. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this. Maybe a legendary glass maker from the south of France has something to teach us after all.
If the name “Khaspar Heaust” doesn’t ring a bell, you may recognize him by his full name: “Khaspar Dieg Heaust” (pronounced: Kaspar Dēg Host). If he still doesn’t sound familiar, you may know him by the Americanized version of his name…pronounced: “Casper the Ghost”…who is, of course, friendly [eye roll].
If nothing else, Casper helps illustrate the idea that there’s at least ONE ghost out there who seems to be somewhat interested in my well-being…but…yeah…I know…”Casper-the-Ghost” isn’t real.
Nevertheless, as I go through this life, I have learned that there is definitely some kind of “ghostly force” guiding the direction of my life.
This “ghost” is invisible, but it’s decidedly NOT hiding behind any door. Oddly, not only is this ghost NOT hiding…but it’s almost as if this “ghost” is working INSIDE of me.
This “ghost” sure isn’t evil. In fact, like Casper (or Khaspar) this ghost could be described as “friendly”…but I don’t think the word “friendly” quite captures the essence of this particular ghost that’s ALL TOO REAL. One might be able to describe it as: “altruistic”…or “benevolent”…or perhaps even “holy”?
I don’t know…a “holy” ghost? Does that sound right? Maybe my Sunday school teachers were on to something all along?