My dad grew up in a small southern community on the east coast. He is from a large family, being the middle child of 14. Every summer I can remember, we would take family trips back there for a family reunion. During July of 1996, we were also celebrating my grandfather's 95th birthday. I was 15.
On such an occasion, all of my dad's siblings would come in from across the United States, as did my grandpa's cousins and living siblings.
During a lull in activities, I decided to escape the oppressive heat of mid-July and went upstairs to the bedrooms. There are three bedrooms at the top of the stairs, one directly at the top, and one off to either side. The one in front of me was my Uncle John's room (which he refused to use, as he was convinced my grandmother was still in her room). The one to the left was the room my grandmother had died in three years earlier. The last one was unoccupied, as far as living residents, so I chose that one for my escape.
Upon entering, I noticed the room was considerably cooler than I thought it would be. It took me a moment to realize I wasn't alone. Sitting on the bed was a gentleman in an old-looking suit. He looked tired, so I said excuse me and started to leave, but he said he wouldn't mind the company.
I knew he had to be related (we're a very distinct mix of Swedish and German--almost all of us have the same nose shape), so I sat on the old rocking chair next to the bed and talked with him until I heard my mom calling me. I felt bad about leaving the man, he seemed so sad, but had to. He smiled at me as I left, but it didn't reach his eyes.
Later that day, I was sitting in my aunt's living room (she lives about 50 yards from my grandpa) flipping through an old photo album when I came across his photograph. I asked my aunt who he was, and she told me he was my grandpa's uncle who had added the second story on to the house in 1886. He had done that in the hopes of convincing the woman he loved to move in with him. Instead, she had run off with a "dreaded Yankee" and left my relative to die of a broken heart (yep, in the room I met him) ten years later.
My conversation with him happened on the 100 year anniversary of his death. No wonder he seemed so sad, waiting a century for his love to return.
Thank you for reading!