In 1990, after selling one of my oil paintings, I used the profits to purchase memorial plaques for my parents at our synagogue. I thought that Edward and Rebecca Arkow would have liked being memorialized in bronze and having their names announced at services on the anniversary of their deaths. That night, at 10:45 PM — the hour of my father’s death in 1970—- a shadow appeared on the long mirror diagonally across from my bed. Without thinking I said “You’re welcome.” My husband, unaware that I had bought the plaques, said “Who are you talking to?” I told him of my purchase and tried to explain that I had just addressed the grayish image of a ghost.
I was not particularly familiar with ghost-viewing. However, I had an experience in 1970, shortly before my father’s death, that made me somewhat of a believer. My youngest son, Jordan, was a frail newborn and he had recently returned from the hospital after a bout with pneumonia. It was late evening and I was sitting on the rug next to his bassinet, worrying about his breathing, when a white shape flew past the door at floor level. “Don’t you dare take this baby!” I yelled in a forceful manner totally unlike me. Frightened by this white thing and surprised by my vehement reaction, I ran to the bedroom and told my husband what I had seen and said.
The next day our housekeeper, Rosa, came to baby-sit. When I returned from my errands she said, “There’s this white thing keeps running between the living and dining rooms.” She didn’t know what I had seen and here she had witnessed the same phenomenon. I told her about my nighttime experience and she said that after my mother died in 1964, a gray shadowy thing, which she assumed was her ghost, would flit between the wet sheets hanging in the basement. Whenever this occurred, she knew that her “Mr. Arkow needed some special looking after.” Or as she also put it, “Hard times comin’ for him.” Maybe this time my mother was cautioning about both of them. After my father’s death, she ceased her warnings and, as the book will tell you, probably met a cardiologist and settled down to a care-free hereafter.
In 1992, my father’s restless spirit apparently relishing its spirited afterlife, began interfering with my work. I had been asked by Aronson Publishers to write and illustrate a two volume set of the Old Testament. This was a wonderful opportunity to integrate my art, writing, poetry, and interest in archeology in a fresh approach to the stories. A month or so into the project, as I was typing a poem about Jacob and the Stranger, flowery, grandiloquent words appeared on the screen. I did not write those words but somehow I knew who did. “Daddy,” I said, “This is my book, not yours.” This was the first time he had tackled a word processor. Later on he became adept at the computer, changing, deleting, disappearing or correcting mistakes of time and place. He was communicating from wherever; still traveling somewhere, and looking for a showcase.
In this book I write about his more public displays of attention getting devices. They were witnessed by others and, in one case, documented by local police. Lights do not go on in a tiny seashore house when the electricity has been shut off and all plugs unplugged. Lighting up the house was his way of being remembered on Christmas, his birthday. I told him to hold the displays.
“Ghost Daddy” documents what I remember about our life together assisted by comments, wisecracks and eloquent testimonies from this peripatetic man. Imagining my father’s voice was easy; talking back to him, something I never needed to do in real life, flowed naturally due to a mature understanding of the underlying flaws that rarely pierced his poetic, cheerful exterior. Though I was occasionally saddened by the evolving story, creating this book was great fun. I welcomed Eddie’s mischievous assistance during the writing and looked forward to his additions, editings, and pranks.
This past December in Sarasota, I was lying in bed thinking “Hey Daddy, it’s almost your birthday and I haven’t had any sign of you since I finished the book.” About a week later at 10:45 PM, there were seven very loud bangs on the bathroom wall. Nothing was near that wall, no pipes, ice-makers, or people dancing around upstairs. I ran into the living room, dragged my husband into the bathroom, and tried to imitate the seven knocks using a hammer. He dismissed them as a mystery. The number seven nagged at me until Christmas Eve when in a flash I had the answer. I did the math twice to be sure, and guess what? Eddie Arkow would have been one hundred and seven years old on December 25th 2011!