Things That Go Bump in the NightPosted: October 18, 2009
Saturday evening at dusk I am sitting on the couch eating a bowl of chili fresh from the crockpot and watching Brady Bunch reruns because there’s nothing better on TV. The dog is beside me, intent on getting at least a bean. I hear a faint noise, a familiar hum that I haven’t heard in a while, and it comes to me that my garage door is opening. I used to listen for that sound every evening about 6:30 when it was time for my husband to arrive home from the office.
How could my garage door be opening? Who is opening it? Why? I can see the interior door to the garage from my spot on couch, I set my bowl down, and I rush through the kitchen to open it and check. Yes, the garage door is wide open and the light is on, meaning that the door has just opened within a minute or two. I close and lock the door, I race to the back door in the family room and lock it and secure the doggy door. I grab the phone and call my son in North Carolina.
“Something just happened. My garage door opened for no reason. I’m kinda freaking out here. I don’t know if someone’s in the garage or not. Stay on the phone with me, I’ve got to go outside and check it out.”
“Okay. Where are the garage door openers?”
“In the cars.”
I exit the front door into the front yard and look into the still-lighted garage. It is dark in the yard; the spots are not on yet. No movement, no sign of any intruder in the garage. I check all the doors of the car parked in the driveway. All locked.
“Do you see anything?” he asks. “You need to get a flashlight and look around the perimeter of the house and yard.”
“I’m sort of scared, I’ve never been scared here, but I am now. I’m afraid to go in there and look. Should I call the police?”
“I think you need to check it out, but if you’re too afraid, then call.”
“Okay, well, let me go, I’m gonna call Todd and see what he thinks.”
Locked in the house once again, I call the other son in Mississippi. “I was sitting on the couch and my garage door opened for no reason. I’m a little freaked out.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. Anybody who has the ability and the technology to open your garage door wouldn’t be trying to get in your house; they’d be in Belle Meade.”
“Should I call the police?”
“No, I’m sure it’s fine…”
“But I’m afraid…”
“Well, then, just call and see what they say.”
I do and within ten minutes an officer rings my doorbell.
“What’s going on?” he asks.
“I’m a little freaked out,” I say. “My garage door just opened for no reason. I’ve lived here 15 years and that’s never happened before.”
“How many openers do you have?”
“Three. Two are locked in the cars. One doesn’t work and it’s in the house somewhere.”
“Could something have fallen on them?”
“No, they’re attached to the visors. Have you ever heard of this happening?”
“No, maybe it’s just a fluke.”
“Will you please check in my garage for me? My husband died and I’ve got all the stuff from his office stored in the garage under tarps and covers and I’m afraid someone might be hiding.”
“Sure.” He takes his flashlight and looks all around and under things, checks doors, checks the cars, gives it a thorough going over. Nothing. No logical reason for the door to have opened. I try to convince myself it’ a one-time thing.
Later, it comes to me that it was probably mama. She died two weeks ago.
Sunday morning my son calls.
“I’m still alive, the door hasn’t opened again, I figured out it was probably Mama.”
I tell him the story. Decades ago, Mama had told it to me.
Mama had a favorite sister-in-law. Marge. Marge was Bill’s wife and five years older than Mama. They were best friends. When they were young women, someone told the story about two people who were wondering about life after death and thought they’d resolve that question once and for all. They each told the other, “If you die first, you knock on my front door, and I’ll know it is you and that you are still present and able to communicate after you die.” Much later, one got a knock at the door. The other told the story about life after death.
Mama and Marge laughed and scoffed and took up the joke. “Okay, Marge, if you die first, you come and knock on my front door, and I’ll know it’s you,” Mama said. Marge returned the challenge with sarcasm. Marge was a chain smoker and died of lung cancer in November of 1970. I had just married and moved to Texas, but Mama made a point to call me.
“A knock came on our front door the other night. I answered it and no one was there. Your dad and I looked up and down the street and around the house and could find no one. I learned that Marge had died that night.”
“Oh my gosh, she remembered, she came and knocked on your door! Just like you two planned it!”
Then I took it up. “Okay, Mama, when you die, you come and ring my doorbell.”
“Naaa, you don’t want me to do that,” she always said.
“Yes, I do, I really do, you better come. When you die, you come ring my doorbell.”
We laughed and talked about this many times over the years. The last time I mentioned it was about a month ago. But when Mama died, I was at her house with her, and she did not have an opportunity to fulfill that promise. So two weeks later, when I am home alone, and finally still and quiet, she comes…and my garage door opens?
My son listens to the story and then softly replies. “You know, um, you do have a doorbell for a garage door opener.”
I stammer around and attempt to follow his train of thought, and all of a sudden it becomes very clear. Beside the door that opens from the garage into the house is a doorbell-like fixture. You push on the button, like ringing a doorbell, and it opens the garage door, or closes it.
Mama was just trying to ring my bell like I’d told her to. Only this doorbell was connected to a Genie Blue Max garage door opener.