“Oh, I believe in coincidences. I’ve just never seen one.”
I AM NOT, NOR WILL I EVER BE, A SOCIAL CREATURE. I’ve never been comfortable with any form of mingling. I’m more than just the brooding form huddled safely in the corner of a room. I prefer to just not show up at all. I’m that oddly placed dish of pickles on a dinner table. You don’t know why it’s there. Yet you pass it around to other equally disinterested guests, all the while knowing no one would miss it if it just wasn’t set out in the first place. I dodge most social functions with a Gold Medal Winning Flair. I can get out of just about any social situation with nearly zero effort. It comes naturally. For example, I once had three separate invitations to Thanksgiving dinner. I got out of all of them scot-free by explaining, “Oh, how thoughtful! But I’ve already been invited to dinner! Thank you so much for thinking of me.” Of course, I didn’t attend anyone’s dinner. I didn’t have to go through the motions of idle banter AND I didn’t have to share leftovers. Win / Win all the way around.
Even someone as expertly gifted at dodging social interaction as me gets painted into a corner from time to time. The most recent of these losses came in the form of a wedding aboard The Queen Mary last June. Of course, when I initially received the invitation, my reaction was “Oh, HELL no!” But when I realized the wedding was taking place literally within walking distance of my home I figured I was pretty much screwed. Since the best man was traveling all the way from the east coast, I couldn’t really play the “It’s too far for me to travel” card. Curse you, Airline Travel! Curse you and your commercial conveeeeeeeenience!
Admittedly, my lack of interest in socializing was even lower than usual. My birth father, Everett, had passed away unexpectedly less than three months earlier. I was still dealing with the fallout from that, both emotionally and physically. As the executor of his estate, I had to juggle a wide array of things during that time including, but not limited to, his home & personal effects, fragile overblown egos, high-strung banshee-like emotional outbursts and why he had a plastic container filled with keys that fit absolutely NOTHING in his house. I had to push my own feelings aside (who knew I partook of such things?) and dive head-first into business mode. Which is, of course, a most clever way to not face the music (which, in my dad’s case, would be performed by a trio playing a mouth harp, a set of spoons and comb kazoo).
As is my custom in social situations, I rallied a friend to join me for the festivities. The key to surviving this sort of circumstance is to find an extrovert to ever-so-slightly mask your own preferred wallflower existence. However, I could not locate such a individual. Instead, I turned to my dear friend, Mona, who may never speak to me again after reading this. Mona is not just an extrovert. Oh, no. Mona is an extrovert on crack. To the tenth power. With a dash of caffeine. Twice. She gets super excited by anything and finds everyone just gosh darn fascinating:
“Oh, my God! Tell me MORE about your masking tape collection!”
Thanks to Mona and her Perky Persona, I have met people I would have never encountered, seen things that would have stayed hidden from my farsighted baby blues, and experienced situations that would have been passed on to someone else like the aforementioned dish of pickles. I personally prefer to watch such things unfold on TV but, hey, live a little, right?
We donned our gay apparel and made our way to The RMS Queen Mary, permanently dry-docked here in lovely Long Beach, California. Mona was fluttering around like an ADHD kid cut loose in a candy store while I was mostly uncomfortable and bewildered. You see, I was in a situation where I had to wear long pants. LONG PANTS! And, to add insult to injury, I was informed by some misinformed fashionista that Hawaiian shirts do NOT seem to be acceptable attire with a tuxedo. I was in a foreign land where no one spoke my language.
I should mention that Mona is also a medium (we travel in gaggles, you know?). So it shouldn’t come as a shock when I tell you things are bound to happen when you toss two mediums onto a haunted ship. I must admit that the vessel really is a playground for we sensitive sorts. It’s where energy & ectoplasm go on vacation. Mona and I have spent a lot of time aboard the Queen Mary over the years. Mona’s time on board has included taking several ghost tours, mediumship classes, and even photography field trips. In my case, however, I just get lost a lot and have a bitch of a time finding my way to an exit.
Mona was dragging me all over the ship like a six-year-old on the search for Santa at Macy’s. She was excitedly pointing out different items of interest while I kept kicking myself for not leaving a trail of breadcrumbs through the corridors. Who’s to say if they would have been a device to find my way out again or just a convenient snack for later in the evening…
At one point during our meandering, we encountered a tall gentleman who is the acting Commodore on the ship. He was smartly dressed in white from head to toe. (FYI: When a medium encounters someone all in white our first inclination is to poke them with a finger to ensure that they’re real. That little stunt has helped me keep my Christmas card list at a VERY manageable level, let me tell ya…) Mona, as is her custom, squealed and hugged the Commodore. They exchanged pleasantries while I mentally marked all the EXIT signs within sight.
He was kind enough to chat a bit and even give us a tidbit of history of the ship—Lord knows I’m a sucker for sugar packet trivia—even though he was wrapping up his shift for the day. While he was talking I happened to glance at his name tag on his smartly pressed lapel: EVERETT. I chuckled to myself as I thought, “What a funny coincidence!”
Oh, Charles, you silly monkey. When will you learn?
The wedding was held outside on the stern of the ship. Despite no one wanting to do The Wave with me as the bride walked down the aisle, the ceremony went off without a hitch—acknowledge pun at your own discretion. All seemed right with the world as we thankfully moved inside for the reception. The groom, who is a writer among other trades, devised a deliciously unique literary theme for the reception. Each party had to search for their place card in a library Dewey Decimal card file. The names of the guests would be at the top, last name first, of course. Below the name one finds the title of a book. This tells you at what table you will be seated. Our table happened to be the Dracula Table (and it did not suck!). We made our way to our table to see the book Dracula by Bram Stoker prominently displayed as part of the centerpiece. Behind the main event was a stack of other seemingly random books. There was a Frankenstein table, a Wizard of Oz table, etc. From my point of view, the setup was nothing short of Nerdy Nirvana. Of course, the risk of possible paper cuts looming over our fingertips added a flair of exhilaration to the festivities.
The best man and his wife sat at our table. Bob and I have been close friends for nearly 40 years. That makes his wife, Shannon, my friend by default, like a step-sibling. Both of them are writers, and more, just like the groom. At one point, she sat down next to me and started talking to me like some kind of normal person. Very weird if you ask me. She said, “Remember those old photos you sent to me?”
I blanked for a moment as I searched my memory banks. All I came up with was some loose change and a green Lego. I shook my head. “Noooo…” was all I could muster.
“You sent me some old black and white snapshots,” she continued, her hand delicately cradling a wine glass. “You found them and thought I’d find them interesting.”
Then it dawned on me. There were several shots of some unknown small town and they were stapled together in one corner. The cars captured in the images clearly eluded to the 1950’s, the era of The Fonz. I had unearthed them while cleaning out one of my mother’s closets. She had no idea why she had them or even where they were taken. Shannon is very interested in West Virginia history so I figured she’d get a kick out of them. Passing the buck for the cost of a couple postage stamps. What will I think of next?
She said, “Well, I’m using one of them in a book I’m writing so you get a photo credit.”
“And I thought I’d never amount to anything!” I replied. She laughed, having no idea I was not even remotely kidding. “Do you have any idea where those pictures were taken? Or are you just using them as generic filler?”
She looked up at me as she sipped her wine. “Yea,” she said. “They were taken in Everettville, West Virginia.”
If I had been the one drinking I would have done a spit take that Danny Thomas would envy. EVERETTVILLE? SERIOUSLY?
A little while later, as Mona was running around befriending everyone on Facebook, I decided to look through the other stray books piled on our table. The ultimate wallflower looking for a book to read at a wedding reception. Jeez… how sad is THAT? I picked the first one up and opened it. I found the name of the previous owner along with a date: Carol Lundly, April 22, 1972. Everett’s youngest sister goes by her middle name, Maxine, but her first name is actually Carol. And April 22nd? That just happens to be the month and day that I met my birthfather face-to-face for the very first time. I hurried and picked up the next book. The name scrawled inside of it was ‘Helen’, which is the first name of Everett’s oldest sister.
I just sat back in my chair and began to laugh. FYI: No one thinks twice about it if you’re sitting alone and laughing at a table scattered with empty wine glasses. By this time Mona had rejoined Dracula’s Lair. I explained all of the connections to my dad that had popped up throughout the day. She just sat there, smugly grinning. Then I committed the ultimate sin. I asked another medium, “Do you really think it means anything?”
Mona may be tiny but she moves quickly. Her hand slapped the back of my head in a rapid cadence that gave passersby the impression they were hearing The Gettysburg Address in Morse Code. Then, in that angelic little voice of hers, she shrieked, “Do ya THINK?”
Mona’s known for her sensitivity.
Or so I’m told. Ahem.
Leave it to my dad, who collected wives like some people collect stamps, to make his presence known at a wedding. What else should I expect from a man who dared pass away on April Fool’s Day?
If someone had come to me with this exact same story, I would be alongside Mona screaming, “DO YA THINK?” No questions asked. But when it comes to my own signs, my own connections, I end up doubting every single time. Why? I’m always leery that I’m reading too much into something. I don’t want my vivid imagination to run away with me. I don’t want my experiences to be simply ‘wishful thinking.’ That’s one of the reasons my Crew tends to go over the top and slap me around. They want to make sure they have my full attention. The other reason is that they just enjoy abusing me. I think I’m their cardio workout.
The lesson? Simple: acknowledge the signs, the feelings, that you get. Even a simple “coincidence” can be your loved one’s way of reaching out. Give your peeps a shout-out, a thumbs-up, for a job very well done. And know that your loved ones NEVER forget. They NEVER stop loving you. And, most importantly, they NEVER die.
Thanks, Dad, for the reminder… and so much more.
Copyright © 2016, Charles A. Filius