Pondering the Pavement

August 1, 2019

Soooo Over My Dead Body

“If life seems jolly rotten,
There’s something you’ve forgotten,
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.”

Monty Python

* * *

ClientSearch2

Cruising the obits for potential clients… it’s a never ending job!

When I finally admitted to the outside world—and myself—that I was a medium, I was a tad floored that a huge slice of the people I knew were anything but on board with it. Many thought I had finally lost it (Well, the joke is on them… I “lost it” long before disco was ever found). One friend of mine even told me she wouldn’t hesitate to commit me to a hospital in order to prevent me “…from hurting yourself or anyone else!” The joke has been lost on this one, too: I’m far too lazy to walk uphill, let alone bring harm into the mix. One of my biggest lack-of-supporters on this new pathway was, naturally, my mother. She kinda believed my mediumship abilities were sorta real…maybe. This didn’t faze me because, honestly, the woman never expressed approval on anything I did, thought or contemplated at any given mileage marker along my life’s turnpike. If she had been supportive of my mediumship, I probably would have stopped long before I started. I became a cartoonist solely because she told me I couldn’t. Wow. Yet another joke being lost on someone. One more and I’ll have to start posting them on milk cartons.

Mom had a set of friends—three cohabitating sisters—who happened to eat this mediumship stuff up with a spoon. When I was in West-By-God Virginia, I would make a point to visit The Sisters (with Mom in tow like a trash barge) for a good old-fashioned afternoon of chatting with their larger than life dead family (see what I did there?). Mom would sit at their kitchen table, gasping in astonishment, right along with the sisterly trio. Mom even received messages from some of her long-gone relatives (folks I never knew). She would validate each and every piece of info that came through to me from them. Then, on the tedious drive back to her home (which bore a thought-provoking resemblance to the Bates’ residence, sans the motel), she’d go on and on about how much I had embarrassed her “yet again.”

* * *

I was involved with the theater department while in college. I didn’t major in drama. Like my participation in my high school marching band, I just used it as an excuse to get out of the house. Oddly, it was my mother who tossed me the bone to get involved in theater in the first place. Irony can be so gooey, can’t it? Sorta like chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven: if you’re not careful, it just gets all over everything. She would attend the plays I was in, then dutifully tell me how glad she was that no one knew she was my mother. “You were the loudest one on that stage!” she’d say. “I’ve never been so humiliated!” It was as if she had just realized that I’ve never had a functioning volume control on my voice box. Well, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not like she was ever the pointiest arrow in the quiver.

“Well,” I’d say matter-of-factly, “I bet the people in the back row were grateful they could hear me!”

“Don’t get smart with ME!” she’d exclaim in a voice that often rivaled the staccato sounds of an MG 81 (Today’s Fun Fact: that’s a machine gun used by the Luftwaffe).

“Why? Am I confusing you?” Her reaction to that comment was totally worth the next few hours of her non-stop banshee-like bitching, by the way.

* * *

As time waddled by, like a fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt circling the dessert buffet for the second time, my presence as a medium became more prominent. That’s when Mom started tapping franticly on the big ol’ panic button that not only existed, but lushly thrived, within her one-track mind. “Can any of my friends find you on the computer?” she’d ask.

“Sure,” I’d shrug. “If they looked. But why would any of your friends be typing my name into their search engine?” I’d then have to take 20-odd minutes to try to explain the term “search engine” to her.

“I just don’t want anyone to know what you do. What would they think?” Her brown eyes would stare me down with such intensity that I nearly burst into flames.

“I don’t know what to tell ya,” I’d say. “Just toss your hands up in the air and blame it on the fact that I’m adopted. Ya know, all that faulty DNA n’ shit.” For the record, I offered up that excuse to her far too many times in my life.

* * *

She once told me that if I became famous for anything (cartooning, mediumship, serial killer, Burger King Employee of the Month, etc.), she wanted me to change my name. “I don’t want anyone to know we’re related,” she’d say.

That’s pretty much how I felt throughout my formative school years, but I digress. “OK,” I replied. “I’ll change my professional name to “Mildred Filius’ Son.” Oddly she wasn’t amused. Go figure.

* * *

She’d then lecture me on how I needed to take this crisis seriously. Again, it’s as if she just didn’t know me. I do stand-up at funerals. How did she expect me to take anything seriously?

“What’s the big deal if someone you know discovers that I’m a medium?” I asked.

She’d thrust one of her crooked talons into my shoulder, emphasizing each word with its own individual poke. “They’ll—find—out—over—my—dead—body!”

* * *

Fast-forward a few years later to her funeral. I was positioned by her casket, greeting a surprisingly long line of—well, for lack of a better word—mourners. Admittedly, I was shocked at the size of the turnout. I assumed they were just wanting to make sure she was really dead, but that’s a theory for another time. One of her friends, a former neighbor named Marsha, greeted me with a hug (something I detest). I honestly couldn’t tell you how many decades had passed since I last saw Marsha. As Mrs. Parker reminds us, “Time doth flit; oh shit.” After Marsha spewed out the stereotypical “I’m so sorry for your loss” spiel (I managed to bite my lip, keeping my giggling under wraps), she said to me, “I hear that you’re a medium. Is that true?”

I’m sure my surprise speedily sprawled across my face like grape juice engulfing a sheet of Bounty, but I didn’t hesitate to say it was indeed true.

“That’s wonderful,” she said. “Do you suppose I could get a reading with you while you’re in town?”

Curiosity wrestled me to the mat in three counts, so I asked, “How on earth did you know I’m a medium?”

With a nonchalant wave of her hand, she explained, “Oh, Doris told me!” Doris was another former neighbor. Well, how about that? The word was out and dancing in the streets without a chaperone.

I told her I’d be happy to schedule something for her. She gave me her number and off she went. So, yea, I booked a reading for this woman literally over my mother’s dead body. Snort!

Is there a moral here? Some great lesson or sliver of wisdom to pass along? Something along the lines of a “always have someone you can count on in your corner” kinda deal? Oh, hell, no. It’s just a really funny story. Sometimes that’s all you ever really need to get through the rest.

* * *

Nikki Page: [leading a drunken Beckett out of a bar, while being followed] How do you lose a tail?

Maxwell Beckett: [tries to focus] Evolve?

(An exchange between
Jessica Lundy & Edward Woodward,
“Over My Dead Body”, 1991)

July 1, 2019

Self-Expression Mirrors Self-Reflection

Beautiful woman businesswoman in front of a mirror with a reflec

“Often we’re recreating what we think we’re supposed to be as human beings. What we’ve been told we’re supposed to be, instead of who we authentically are. The key about the creation of full self-expression is to be authentically who you are, to project that.”

– James Cromwell

 

* * *

 

I’ve never been a fan of astrology. It’s not that I don’t believe in the significance of it. I’m just not interested. It fries on the same back burner as UFOs, the Akashic Records, and salads. But I do have a legitimate interest in numerology. (Can a bastard can have a legitimate anything? Point to ponder…)

It’s weird that I would take a shining to numerology because I have always had a valid hate/hate relationship with math. If someone suggests I balance my checkbook, I get an uncontrollable urge to see how long I can perch it on the end of my nose. I’m convinced that algebra, like disco, is just a cruel, sick hoax that spiraled way outta control.

In the delightful world of numerology, I am a “six.” And being a “six” is all about self-expression. Nail meet head, right? I’ve never had a problem with expressing myself, much to the chagrin of some (that’s what makes it fun, don’cha know?). I’ve spewed my philosophies around all willy-nilly for the vast majority of my buy-in-bulk life. Since I speak fluent sarcasm, I’ve had no problem expressing myself verbally.

One of the top three compliments I’ve ever received (yes, I keep a running list of favorite things said about me…don’t you?), was when a longtime friend said, “Charles is completely capable of disemboweling you with his tongue and you’ll walk away laughing without even realizing you’re bleeding.” That quote is going on my headstone.

I also find a natural outlet on paper, both in drawing and writing. Sometimes, for the Woodsy Owl hoot, I’ll combine all three. I believe the phrase “the perfect storm” has been used a few times to accurately describe that delightful experience (anyone pick up on the sarcasm there?).

When my mother cashed in her chips a couple years ago, I was reminded of just how far back my flair for self-expression goes. She saved everything, from every grade school paper to receipts for furniture she purchased in the late 1940s (you never know when you’ll want to return a cedar chest).

When I flipped through the memories, I was reminded that I had a “habit” of drawing cartoons on all my mimeographed worksheets in elementary school. I’d rush through the test, turn the paper over, and start doodling. It was all pretty much the same theme: two jagged cliffs on either side of the paper. A bridge, now collapsed, had at one time connected the two precipices. There were jagged rocks and/or stalagmites jutting upward at the bottom of the great abyss. Once I had set the stage, I added countless hurling bodies falling to the rocks below. Then I’d cover the piece in multiple word balloons all screaming one word and one word only: HELP!

Self-expression that was, I assure you, totally ignored by the powers that be in the 1960s West-By-Gawd-Virginia Educational System. I enjoyed creating the scribbles (poor man’s therapy, I suppose). My teacher was annoyed with my perseverance of such a useless activity. Admittedly, her irritation was just a juicy cherry atop the whipped cream covered graphite sundae. I just drew what I felt needed to be drawn. And, in my mediumship, I say what needs to be said. I didn’t self-edit when I was a kid, and I certainly don’t do it now.

Show of hands… who’s shocked? Anyone?

One of my biggest belly-flops in the community pool of self-expression took place in 1976. I was a nerd who was fully immersed in Bicentennial Fever. (Woo Hoo! A timely Fourth of July theme!) I even managed to convince my family that we should travel to Philadelphia for our annual family vacation that summer. That’s the equivalent of starting your Christmas shopping around 9:30 p.m. on December 24th and expecting no one else to be at the mall.

CAF_BicentenialShirtI read any and all bicentennial themed literature I could get my hands on. I had t-shirts covered in images of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. I memorized the Presidents in order because I thought it would be “cool” (obviously, it wasn’t). If it had a 1776 theme then, by-gum-by-golly, I was interested in it. I was so unrelatable, the other nerds wouldn’t hang with me.

I thought I struck euphoric gold when Kellogg’s announced a bicentennial contest. They asked for drawings of any historic figure from the American Revolution eating a well-balanced breakfast. The meal, of course, had to include any of the sugary nuggets Kellogg’s offered at the time. If your drawing was selected, you would win a prize of — are you ready for this? — a $5 weekly allowance for a whole year! That’s right, I would get a whopping $260 over a 52-week period. I was stoked. How could I miss? This aspiring cartoonist was a friggin’ shoe-in!

I knew I had to think outside the box in order to get noticed. Everyone would be drawing the same historical figures: Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, et al. I had come up with someone more obscure. I needed a subject that would really show I had thought long and hard on the project. I racked my brain, stewing on it for days. Finally, as if clubbed over the head by the mallet of inspiration, I had it! A sure-fire attention grabber. Someone who would truly express my unique brand of creativity.

I chose Nathan Hale. Yup. You read that right. That Nathan Hale. The guy the Brits hanged for spying.

I drew Hale standing on the gallows, noose secured around his neck. Naturally, he was eating a bowl of cereal. The hooded executioner was standing off to the side holding a tray of bacon, eggs, and a big ol’ glass of OJ. As Hale held a spoonful of cereal to his open mouth, he said, “I only regret that I can eat but one breakfast for my country.”

Yuh-huh. I really did. And I was convinced that I would win. I was sure no one even came close to what I had created (and I’m sure I was right on that assumption). This may come as a shock to you—because it certainly was to me at the time—my cartoon was not selected. I guess I was just too far ahead of my own time. Ahem.

Looking back, I can honestly say I was never upset or angry that my entry wasn’t chosen as a winner. I was perfectly comfortable knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that I did my very best (keep in mind that “my best” is usually wedged somewhere between someone else’s “deranged” and “twisted”). I was true to myself. I trusted my instinct. The judges just weren’t ready for me. Yet.

I must admit, though, that I’ve found myself often wondering about all those unsuspecting souls sorting through the contest submissions all those years ago. Did they find my cartoon funny in a Not Suitable For Work kind of way? Or did they join in a communal prayer circle, thanking God Almighty that they were a (realistically) safe distance from a very fucked up kid over 400 miles away in West Virginia.

My instincts, for lack of a better term, tend to work in my favor. Sure, they usually take me around Gobbler’s Knob as the crow flies to get me where I need to be, but still, they work. It’s said that the journey is as important as the destination. And my journey is a vast array of odd souvenir stands populated with items stamped with the standard WISH YOU WERE HERE sentiment. Mine, however, usually end with a question mark.

WishYouWereHere_SQ_NewsletterThe toughest uphill battles in remaining true to myself are always the ones I’m the most comfortable with completing. If it’s a pain in my tuckus, then By-God, it’s the right choice. At the forefront of this list of self-making choices is my choice of the style of my mediumship. If you’ve seen me work, you know I am anything but cut from the cloth of the norm. I am not soft-spoken and gentle in my delivery. I am blunt, direct and I shoot from the hip (often grazing an innocent bystander or two in the process). And, more than anything, it’s all interwoven tightly with long strands of humor that ties it all together.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been chastised more than once for my style over the years. The judgments have come from both audiences and fellow mediums alike. Hell, I even had a spirit coming through in a reading complain about me! But, according to the sitter, her grandmother’s dislike for me was very fitting with the late woman’s personality. I didn’t take offense to it (I can’t be offended—it’s scientifically impossible), but it took me a couple years and several readings to accept how it all works for / through me.

Then, within the cozy confines of a relatively innocent conversation, my POV was changed out for a much stronger, brighter bulb.

See, there was a fellow reader I had personally dubbed, “The Chameleon Medium.” He had a knack of taking on the mannerisms, catchphrases, and overall working style of others in the field. He would even start dressing like other mediums! Like Disney and all their “live action” remakes, it would have killed him to do something original.

One evening, I found myself at a large social brouhaha jam packed with a slew of those New Age sorts. I was blessed to spend some time with Peter Close, a charming medium from the UK. I was working the refreshment stand (what kind of unreliable psychics put the fat guy in charge of the food?). Peter commented that I must have been a tavern’s barkeep in a past life since it came so naturally to me. I shrugged it off, explaining it was my love of carbohydrates that drove me to do my best. As we chatted, the Chameleon walked by, attempting to impress anyone who was willing to listen and watch. Peter looked at me, grinning, his eyes twinkled, and said, “That’s just not you, is it?”

I shook my head, chuckling. “No, it’s not.”

“Charles,” Peter emphasized in a capitalization and italicized sort of way, “You know what I mean?”

Well, I certainly did. And there’s been no turning back. In the early days, I’d hold readings where I’d just do them the way I thought I was supposed to give them. Lots of reserved commentary, quiet nodding, the usual lack-luster shebang. But I just couldn’t find my stride. Then I finally tossed the reins aside like an unwanted side dish of kale and let myself shine through in my natural, garish light. Ya know what? I find more and more embrace my delivery service with great enthusiasm. Time and time again I will hear how my off-the-wall style actually puts them at ease—especially with those who have never, until then, experienced mediumship.

One even said, “I personally think your style is unique and a refreshing… I’m so tired of watching mediums that all sound alike and seem to be following a formula. We need more mediums like YOU out there working.” Far be it from me to argue with that logic! The way I see it, those who come to me are led here for a reason. Either all parties involved will benefit greatly from the experience, or they must learn living a life as an easily offended wuss is just not an option (I may be lightly paraphrasing, but you get the idea).

What’s the moral of this story? Is there a moral? If I had to say so, it’s just a reminder that no matter how outlandish or seemingly ridiculous your self-expression may seem to others, you owe it to yourself to be true to it and to yourself.

Self-expression, like points of view or beliefs, change over time. Sometimes subtly, other times radically so. It’s all a part of living, growing, experiencing all that comes before you. One of the frequent messages I get from those on the other side are regrets that they didn’t allow themselves more flexibility in their own lives. Sorry that they remained so steadfast in beliefs that were nothing more than excuses to not trust their own heart, values, and instincts.

I was stoked about my Kellogg’s submission. However, now, I find it just bizarrely hysterical. Anyone who knows me would hear that story and immediately think, “Yup. That’s Charles.” And, despite the adoptee moniker, that’s who I’ve ever really tried to be: Charles.

My art and my writing are just like my mediumship: completely and totally mine. Just as your life should be built around being you. Be kind to yourself, and others. And be flexible. It’s OK to change and rearrange. Only make a point to be the one who instigates the change as well as the one who carries it out.

 

* * *

 

“OK, fine. But remember, “bee” yourself.”
– Genie (“Aladdin” 1992)

May 6, 2019

Don’t Wait! Celebrate, Commemorate, Elevate, Eat Cake!

“Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.”
– Plautus

Charles&Marjorie

Hanging with Marjorie, November, 2018.

My cousin, Marjorie, leaned forward in her long-familiar chair; her diminishing frame being dwarfed by her surroundings. She looked up at me over her glasses, giving me the impression of someone in contemplative thought. After a pause, she said, “Do you know what’s really strange?”

Of course, as a medium, I have a long-ass list of topics filling that roster. Resisting my urge to just spout off, “Top 10, alphabetical or just as they come to mind?” I just shook my head and said, “No. What?”

She sighed, “We’re the only ones left.” She glanced at a portrait of she and her late husband, George, longingly. He had passed away four months earlier, in July, after having been together for 71 years.

I nodded knowingly. “I was thinking about that on the way up here,” I said. Most of our holiday family gatherings were evenly distributed between the homes of my grandparents, my aunt & uncle and George & Marjorie. There was usually ten to a dozen people attending these obligatory soirées. My grandparents, great-grandma Harvey, my mom, Aunt Ruth & Uncle Bill, Uncle Frank & Aunt Bessie, Guy & Louise (Marjorie’s parents), and a few oddball stragglers from time to time—such as Marjorie’s Aunt Belva (who was nothing short of a sitcom waiting to happen) and a crotchety old spinster named Virginia (who burrowed her way under the family skin like a wood tick on a hound dog)—and, of course, this strange kid who had an unreasonable passion for shirts as garish as his inherited laugh.

And now the original cast had been whittled down to just two. It felt like the final season of M*A*S*H.

Our holiday meals were orchestrated with the precision of a well-choreographed assembly line. Everyone had their role, their positions marked as if part of a cable access broadcast. Most of the men would gather around a television. Football was the chosen sport for my Uncle Bill while my grandfather would immerse himself in any available baseball game. George would want to tune into anything from NASCAR to a local soapbox derby. Me? I’ve never had even the slightest interest in sports. I’d just withdraw deep into my happy place praying for a chance to ram an ice-pick into my brain. The women would all scurry into the kitchen, which was always too small to comfortably contain the growing populous of the gaggle of self-proclaimed cooks. They would all pitch in wherever needed. Marjorie, on the other hand, always had ONE task and ONE only: she made the mashed potatoes. No instant flakes for this woman. Oh, no, my friends. She peeled honest-to-God REAL potatoes. She had THE perfect blend of milk, butter, salt, pepper and a hint of what must have been either cocaine or the freshly ground bones of innocent kittens. I’ve never had mashed potatoes to match hers. NEVER.

I said, “It seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?”

She just nodded. “It really is strange to think about,” she reflected. “It’s like…” her voice trailed off as she brought her fingers to her temples. “Boom!” she exclaimed, her hands popping off to each side in an abrupt gesture.

I laughed, “You are just THE hippest 88-year-old around!”

She chuckled in her lady-like fashion, but the glint of mischievousness in her eyes twinkled oh-so-very-brightly. “You know,” she said, “My birthday is May 11th.”

I nodded, “I know.”

She sat up as straight as she could and proudly exclaimed, “I’ll be eighty-nine!” She emphasized the “nine” firmly.

I leaned toward her, my left elbow resting on my corresponding knee, as I pointed a finger at her. “I’ll tell you what,” I said matter-of-factly, “I’m going to come back for your birthday!” I held out my left hand palm up, “I’ll bring cake…” then did the same with my right, as I continued, “… AND ice cream!”

“Ohhh!” she exclaimed gleefully as her eyes widened with excitement.

“And you know what THAT means?” I said with my arms & hands still extended. “You’ll have to hold the door open for me because my hands will be full!”

She gave her head a firm, quick nod and said, “I can do that for cake!”

You go, Girl.

We both laughed, simultaneously leaning back into our respective seats. She grinned while looking down into her lap. Then she shot a look back up at me, her smile softening slightly, and added, “Well, if I’m still here.”

It pained me to hear the reality of the situation. But I glossed over it and interjected, “Hey, it’s CAKE I’m talkin’ about here! Surely you can hang around for cake!” As with her “nine”, I bitch-slapped the emphasis on “cake.”

She winked. “I’ll do my best,” she laughed.

Despite her best of determined intentions, she sadly missed the mark by nearly 3 months to the day. In the wee hours of February 12th, as I held her frail hand, Marjorie slipped away quietly to reunite with those who had ventured onward before us. And, I’m sure, they had an amazing spread just waiting for her when she arrived. Well, except for the mashed potatoes because that’s STILL her job!

“When someone asks if you’d like cake or pie, why not say you want cake AND pie?”
– Lisa Loeb

20190505_133728

In honor of Marjorie’s birthday, I am inviting anyone within the local area to join me for pie on Saturday, May 11th, at 11:30am. I’m limiting attendees to an even dozen to match our old family gatherings (and to ensure we don’t take over the restaurant!). Please RSVP to me privately (charles@extralargemedium.net) no later than 8pm, Friday, May 10th. It would really mean a lot to me, and Marjorie. PLUS, you get pie. It’s a win/win. Restaurant location will be provided once you RSVP. Thanks! ♥

April 1, 2019

Carma: What Zooms Around Vrooms Around

“The little old lady from Pasadena
(Go granny, go granny, go granny go)
Has a pretty little flower bed of white gardenias
(Go granny, go granny, go granny go)
But parked in her rickety old garage
Is a brand new shiny red Super Stock Dodge…”

– Jan & Dean, ‘The Little Old Lady from Pasadena’

 

MY COUSIN, GEORGE, HAD A SERIOUS SWEET TOOTH.  Over the years, his passion for candy & pastries left my own in a cloud of powered sugar. It got to the point where all he would eat was sugar in nearly any form. There were bowls of M&M’s in every room of the house (God love him). You’d also find a healthy mix of Reese’s Cups, butterscotch and peppermint hard tack candies, and even a scattering of the “fun size” Milky Way bars just to shake things up. The kitchen was home base to nearly every variety of mass-produced cream filled snack cakes you could think of and then some. He lost all his teeth several years earlier, so what was the harm in living primarily on candy? A Willy Wonka wet dream in the making.

CandyDishNear the end of his life, another staple of sweetness found its way into his home and bloodstream: spearmint lifesaver candies. Those little individually wrapped suckers (see what I did there?) were sprinkled all over the house. After he passed away in 2018, his wife carried on this tradition. When she passed away, lacking 2 days of being 7 months later, we found a nearly endless supply of those candies in every nook & cranny of their home. In addition to two glass bowls full of the little breath-freshening morsels, they were also strewn throughout the house like loose change. As a matter of fact, one side of one of her purses was stuffed to the seams with ‘em. This particular pocketbook played host to her driver’s license, a rain hat and about 4 dozen of those little lifesaver candies.

They were both tough old birds (said with the best of intentions) cut from the same racing checkered cloth. They shared a love for sweets, cars, stubbornness and one another. Once either of them dug their heels in, there was no force on earth that could budge them. Trying to dissuade them from a decision was the equivalent of trying to find a vegan with any functioning taste buds: you can try but why waste your time?

Here’s an example: Marjorie had difficulty getting around in her later years. She was getting stooped over more & more each year and she needed a hip-replacement. Despite her growing list of limitations, she still forced herself to get up and go as best she could. After my mother, Mildred, bit the big one in 2017, I gave Marjorie one of Mom’s three canes. It was adjustable, so I knew it would be ideal for her shrinking stature (she went from 5’6” to 4’9” over time). I took it down to its lowest level and showed it to her. She wrapped her well-manicured fingers around the handle cautiously, sizing up both the cane and what it represented. She politely thanked me, assuring me that it would be beneficial to her “down the road.” She then asked me to place it in the corner of the living room. I did as she asked and, as God is my witness, that cane stayed in the corner, collecting dust, for nearly two years. She never once used it.

Flash forward to 1:11am on February 12, 2019. Marjorie had passed away less than an hour earlier. The intimate gathering was silently waiting for the arrival of the funeral director. We had convened in the living room, quietly immersed in our own moods and memories. There wasn’t a single sound outside of the sporadic sniffle or sigh. We were all startled back into the present by a loud unexpected crash. The unused cane had just toppled to the floor. A communal gasp filled the room, followed by a ripple of stunned silence. Never one to miss a beat, that’s when I started laughing. Either my mother was swinging by—just making her (unwelcome) presence known—or it was Marjorie letting me know that she still had no need for that cane! I’m sticking with the latter because I just stubbornly refuse to give mom any more credit than I absolutely must at this point.

If Marjorie had a theme song to her life, I’m convinced it would have been “My Way.”

After the funeral, the executor offered me the opportunity to purchase Marjorie’s car from the estate. It was being offered to me at the Kelly Bluebook value. A heck of a good deal on a 2006 Dodge Charger with only 10,607 miles on it. Yup. You read that right. A 13-year-old automobile that had averaged nearly 816 miles per year. It was literally a car that was driven by a little old lady once a week. She had to stop driving it because she could no longer see over the dashboard. It had been kept in a garage and was in pristine condition. George & Marjorie were extreme car enthusiasts. They had both been stockcar racers in the 50’s and 60’s (and had plenty of trophies to prove it). They owned a highly successful Chrysler dealership for nearly 30 years. You could say motor oil raced through their veins. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, the car would be in excellent shape.

Of course, as is my custom, I hesitated. While still a helluva deal, it would take a noticeable hunk out of my savings. But, in order to go beyond my home to expand my work base, I would have to go beyond my means, not to mention my overall comfort zone. How friggin’ poetic. As usual, I found myself asking for a sign. Fun Fact: in storytelling, this is referred to as “foreshadowing.”

Something I almost always do is check any form of numerology connected to an event. Later that evening, I stepped out of the warmth of their home into the brisk winter West Virginia air. And by “brisk” I’m referring to single digit temps. I firmly believe “six” should NOT a temperature. At best it’s an amusing misspelling of “sex” or the number of days in a week I wish to dine on cheesecake. Nothing more. I stepped into the garage and added up the license plate. It totaled a five. In numerology, five is the number of big ass change. Sure, most numerologists leave out the ass, but I feel it accurately gets the idea across. Getting the car would most certainly be a big ass change in my life. One for the Other Side.

However, my mother was also a five. Shit. I shook that one off, sticking valiantly to the idea she has nothing to do with this (OR my life) on ANY level.

Stubbornly, I checked the vehicle identification number. This number, a distant cousin of pi, is a long rambling series of digits composed of numbers AND letters. I reached an 11 by totaling up the numbers of the VIN alone. This made me quite happy. My peeps often use an 11 as a “thumbs up” from them. But something/someone was nudging me to add-in the numerical equivalent of the letters, too.

Well, shit. Five. (insert intense stare accented by furrowed brow here)

I turned on my nearly numb heel and went back inside, the sound of the garage door descending in the background. I sat at the kitchen table for quite sometime pondering my situation. The only sound in the house was the monotonous ticking of a clock. At least that’s what I assumed it was. After awhile I realized the tick-tick-ticking was my own forefinger on my left hand tapping the table. I just sat back and laughed.

I do that a lot these daze (not a misspelling BTW).

I shook my head and said, probably aloud, “What should I do, Leigh?” Asking advice from a dead person is a pretty normal activity for me these days. I almost said “paranormal activity” but I opted to avoid the pun. Damn friggin’ mature of me, don’cha think?

I was to give my decision the next day. Prior to calling in my choice, I bundled up like Ralphie’s baby brother in ‘A Christmas Story’ and walked to the local McDonald’s. This was the only location where I could sign onto the internet. My cell provider has no cell towers in the backwoods area, so this was my only option to discover what was still going on in the world. After thawing out, using the steam of my hot chocolate to spring my metacarpals back to life, I checked my email. After scanning through a mercifully small assortment, my eyes and heart stopped when I saw an email bearing the simple subject line of LEIGH.

It was an email from one of Leigh’s daughters. Stunned does not even begin to cover what I was feeling. I have not heard a peep from any of her children since the day of her funeral 12 years earlier. The day after I nonchalantly tossed Leigh’s hat into the ring of the situation, this girl—nay, young woman—decides to reach out to me. Holy Expletive, Batman. She opened the email with this:

“I’m not sure why I feel nervous to reach out to you,
I remember you being a very warm and welcoming person. 😊
I’ve wanted to contact you for a few years now.”

I sat there, dumbfounded, on the verge of tears. My emotional upheaval must have been more noticeable than I thought because a fellow patron asked me if I was ok. I just said my nuggets were especially good that day and waved them on… Leigh was always one to insist on going after the brass ring. Taking chances was as commonplace as inhaling and exhaling for her. So, with a lump in my throat and its twin in my gut, I bought Marjorie’s car.

Right after signing the paperwork, I drove the car to the cemetery where George & Marjorie are buried. I wanted to offer a simple ‘thank you’ for this opportunity. As a medium, I know I don’t HAVE to go where the physical body is located. I know that’s not them. That’s simply the outfit they wandered around in, nothing more. But the physical part of me needed to be humored. George & Marjorie are buried, alongside their own parents, in the back part of the large graveyard. However, my great-grandmother (George’s grandmother), is in a lone plot just as you first enter the property. I stopped the car, parked, and walked across the crumbling roadway to her gravesite. I couldn’t just drive on by without saying “HELLO.” That would be rude, and I was raised better than that.

LoneCandyI gave my silent tribute to my great-grandmother as I wiped away some wet leaves from her flat marker. I then turned to head back to my car (admittedly, it still felt awkward thinking of it as “my car”). Something caught my eye as I returned to my car. Something small and white to the rear of it reflected a glint from the sun attempting to peek through the rolling winter clouds. I walked over to it and was simply dumbfounded. As God is my witness, it was one of those lifesaver mints! Keep in mind that the mint was on the ground several feet behind the car. When I got Car&Candyout of the car, I walked directly across the street to my ancestor’s burial spot. I did not walk BEHIND the car and then across. There was no way one of those mints could have fallen out of the car when I opened the door, nor could it have fallen out of my pocket as I crossed the road (sans the chicken). Upon seeing it there, all wrapped up in its cozy cellophane wrapper, I had no choice but to just burst out laughing. That’s pretty much my custom for just about everything these days.

I drove back to their now all-too-silent home. I steered the Dodge behemoth into the garage, my face still aching from all that non-stop smiling all the way back. I glanced at the clock and realized for the first time that the time was no more accurate than a lackadaisical dieter’s weight log. I opened the glovebox to retrieve the owner’s manual. It’s a thick novella filled with far too many mechanical instructions for my taste. My general knowledge of the workings of an automobile is as follows:

1) Slip key into ignition.

2) Turn key.

3) Magic elves make it work.

I thumbed through the index but, alas, there was no mention of elves, gnomes or lawn fairies to be found. It’s always sad when a long held belief system is drop-kicked to the curb. My chubby index finger found its way to the page number that would allegedly provide me with SIMPLE EASY TO UNDERSTAND steps to setting the accurate time on the clock. I didn’t WANT to duct tape a Timex onto the dashboard, but I was most certainly not above such a solution if painted into a corner. I thumbed through the pages, but my plight was halted by a bookmark of sorts. My lips pursed as my eyes bulged out of their respective sockets as I realized what I had found. The bookmark was a Christmas gift tag that read, “To Marjorie From Mildred with Love.”

XmasTagI did the only thing I could do: I bounced my head off of the steering wheel a few times. Try it. It’s surprisingly refreshing.

So, yea, I’m willing to bet on the fact that George & Marjorie set the whole thing up. And, apparently, they had a wee bit of help. Ahem. There’s no doubt in my skeptical mind that they’re all three gloating about it. Honestly, I can’t say I blame ‘em. With that being said, “Thanks, George. Thanks, Marjorie… (insert heavy sigh of semi-defeat here) … and thanks, Mom.”

 

 

 

 

 


Car

“MY” Car.

“Well I’m not braggin’ babe so don’t put me down,
But I’ve got the fastest set of wheels in town.
When something comes up to me, he don’t even try
‘Cause if I had a set of wings man, I know she could fly.”

—The Beach Boys, ‘Little Deuce Coupe’

October 4, 2018

A Clowning Achievement

“You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, and the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!”

– Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), ‘Sunset Boulevard’

 

MOVIES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MY SOLACE. I’ve retreated deeply into them for nearly as far back as I can remember. I could get sucked into those celluloid worlds projected on the screen effortlessly. All that surrounded me would be forgotten, at least temporarily, with an inaudible sigh of gratitude. The images flickering before my adolescent eyes were the equivalent of a crocheted sampler testifying to the sugary goodness of home.

Comedic Romps, live action and animated, were my favorites. No shock there. My grandmother introduced me to Laurel & Hardy before I started kindergarten. My mother opened my eyes to even more when she dragged me to see ‘Funny Girl’ at the local cinema one Saturday afternoon. I was only 7 so I wanted to stay home so I could play with my best (and only) friend at the time. Nope. She said I had to go. I was NOT happy. This was a movie about a girl…AND, if that wasn’t bad enough, the girl would be singing! Ick. If Godzilla or The Boys weren’t in the movie then I was NOT interested. A dinosaur destroying a city or two grown children donning matching bowlers were all it took to make me happy. Much to my own shock, I was totally enamored within the first 20 minutes of the movie. As Babs uttered her first words on screen, “Hello, Gorgeous!”, I was expressing the exact same sentiment to REAL film. My mother, without knowing it, had just created a monster.

Honestly, the only time Mom & I really got along was during a movie. An afternoon at the Eastland Theater was our Treaty of Versailles. To this day the wafting aroma of popcorn gives me the urge to scan the sky for a white flag fluttering in the breeze.

One of my absolute favorite distractions was Jerry Lewis. Of course, like many of my Jurassic era, my first introduction to his zany trademark of humor was through the brilliant teaming of Lewis with his partner in comedic crime, Dean Martin. I was enthralled by their physical antics paraded before my impressionable mind. As I aged, rapidly depreciating like a Yugo driven off a car lot, the bantering of Martin & Lewis captivated me as well. Of course, the duo split 5 years before my appearance this time around. But, thanks to TV syndication, I was able to catch up with all that I missed in a relatively short amount of time.

I took part in three neighborhood backyard carnivals for Muscular Dystrophy. The summers of 1974 through 1976 were pretty much devoted to pulling together the events. My friend, Jerry Neel, was the “Ringmaster” and I was the devoted Carny. I created all of the posters—duh—that were put in various shop windows around town. Jerry and I would walk to each and every store on Adams Street (the main thoroughfare through downtown) asking for donations of items to use as prizes for the carnivals. We were rarely refused. A different time, a different place, ya know? We incorporated many of the kids in the neighborhood to participate in any way possible. Our mom’s would make cupcakes for us to sell. It was quite the big to-do! And, at the end of it all, we’d receive official certificates acknowledging what we’d done. The certificate was emblazoned with a photo of both Jerry Lewis and our own local children’s show sponsor, Paul Shannon (from WTAE-4 in Pittsburgh). Their pre-printed signatures were even on it so you KNEW it was completely official! Our names would be TYPED on each individual’s certificate. Of course, MY last name was ALWAYS misspelled: FILLUS. Good God. So my mother would take the certificate to work and correct it on her typewriter. The problem was that the original misspelled name was in all CAPS and Mom would make the correction (to the last name) in an initial CAP followed by lowercase letters. So it read “CHARLES Filius.” Oh, yea, my OCD was SOOOOO cool with that…ahem. Either way, I was extremely proud of those little pieces of paper. And, yes, I still have them!

I diligently watched the 24-hour MDA telethons for many, MANY years. I not only found it “cool” to stay up into the wee-hours of the morning, but I was enraptured in the solitude it provided. Everyone else would eventually go to bed and just leave me the hell alone. I was in bliss. Of course, the single greatest memory I have of those all-nighters was in 1976 when Dean Martin stepped out on stage, surprising his former partner after a 20-year separation. I’ve always been a sucker for emotional reunion scenarios—it’s that whole adoptee thing—and this event has always been the one I dog-eared in my well-worn book of life’s experiences.

I’m sure you’re wondering by now just WHY I was such a fan (See? I really AM psychic!). My adoration of the genius of Jerry Lewis was sealed when I was about 8 or 9 years old. This was the time when I saw ‘The Family Jewels’ for the very first time. This movie tackled my life like a fat kid diving after the last piece of pizza on grandma’s Formica kitchen table. The film only takes up 108 minutes of linear time. However, it has played on a continuous loop in my heart & soul from day one. And it will continue to do so until there’s no more pizza left for me to covet.

WARNING! Mega spoilers are looming ahead. So, either stop reading right now, rent the movie and then return to the prose before you OR toss caution aside, like a plate of kale, and continue reading. Like a Nevada brothel, I like to offer a wide array of choices.

Here’s the rundown… A young heiress (the late Donna Butterworth in her debut screen performance) has just lost her parents in a tragic accident. Her father has left a provision in his will that she is, in the event of their deaths, to be raised by one of her uncles, all portrayed by Lewis. She is to spend some time with each uncle and then decide with whom she wishes to be raised. Who can’t relate to THAT situation? Her only companion throughout this massive undertaking is the family chauffeur, Willard (also played by Jerry Lewis). Each uncle is quite unique. They all possess eccentric personalities as well as outlandish outfits and make up to fully solidify the comedic enhancements of each. Willard, on the other hand, is about as normal as you can get. He is a bit clumsy and he tends to wear his shoes on the wrong feet. Other than that, he’s just a regular sweet guy. He clearly cares for Donna and vice-versa.

Her Uncle Eddie is a pilot. Uncle John is a sea captain. There’s also Uncle Bugs, a bungling 30’s-type gangster. Uncle Everett is a circus clown while Uncle Skylock is a world renowned private-eye. Rounding up this mob of misfits is Uncle Julius, a famous fashion photographer (Lewis uses his Nutty Professor character in this particular role). The only uncle she doesn’t interact with is the circus clown. As she is approaching his tent, her suitcase clutched in her orphaned hand (I suppose a handkerchief at the end of a stick wasn’t the best choice for an heiress), she overhears him talking to some of his fellow clowns. He tells them that he’s been stashing his paychecks into Swiss banks for years so he could one day leave the circus as well as the country. He makes a point to mention, a number of times, how he won’t be missing “those screaming brats” in the audience. Young Donna hears this and, while crestfallen, immediately realizes he certainly isn’t the father she wants or needs.

Wrapping up a slowly unraveling ribbon of words, the final scene takes place in the offices of her late father’s attorney. All of the uncles have come together (with the exception of Everett, the clown) to hear Donna’s final decision. She announces while she enjoyed meeting all of six of her uncles, she wants Willard to be her father. No shock there. A blindfolded man in a power grid outage could see that one barreling down the pike. The attorney slammed the brakes on her choice, of course, stating that The Will clearly dictates that it must be one of the uncles. Unhappy with this situation, she simply announces she’ll just run away (a tactic I use to this very day, especially when I’m stuck in line at the DMV). As she bolts toward the door, in an attempt to flee, it opens and Uncle Everett enters. He’s wearing dark slacks, a tan over coat and he’s wearing his full facial clown makeup. With a lit cigarette casually dangling in his right hand, he kind of resembles Emmett Kelly with a wise guy attitude. He says, “What’s your hurry, Sweetheart? You must be Donna. Aren’t you going to consider your dear Uncle Everett. I’d make a good father. C’mon, I’m in a hurry. I gotta make it back and do another show. Those little brats are waiting.” Donna looks him up and down for a quick second, grins and then announces that she has chosen her Uncle Everett to be her father. Of course, it’s Willard donning the pancake makeup. Donna knew it was Willard when she saw that he had his shoes, as always, on the wrong feet. And they lived happily ever after…

The reason this movie hit me so hard was the realization that a child found someone to take care of her, to love her and, more than anything, keep her from harm. I remember watching this on my grandparent’s RCA Color TV and fighting back tears. It was as if my heart was screaming to be released from its confinement in my rib cage. I grew up in a very dark home. Not the house, but the home. My mother was simply one of the meanest people I’ve ever had the misfortune of knowing. She danced back & forth over the line of cruelty with such frequency that she should have held dual citizenship in both heaven & hell. The constant berating, emotionally and physically, was the only constant I had growing up. I never knew when or why she’d strike but, I assure you, it would eventually get there. Sometimes I’d see it brewing off in the distance, like watching a thunderstorm slowly approaching across the plains of Indiana. Other times it would swing in with great force like Poe’s pendulum. It might not cut you on the first swing-by, but in the end, it will deeply wound. And all I could do was lay there, tied to the stone pedestal, watching it come closer and closer with rhythmic certainty. I did my best to ensure the eyes in the back of my head were as close to 20/20 as possible. My layers of survival relied on it. I was very adept at ducking on instinct. I guess you could say it was the initial training ground of my intuitive abilities.

I received a great gift as I sat basking in the warm glow of both the television and the movie: hope. For the first time in my life. For the first time I had hope that there was someone, somewhere, who would not want to hurt me. Someone who would want to love me, to care for me. The hope that my life would get better. This film, and the message wrapped within it, truly changed my life. I held a death grip on that hope every day, like an alcoholic clutching the bottle cap from the last beer they ever drank.

Is it any wonder I’m far more comfortable with the dead than the living?

I did not see that movie again until some 40 years later. Something was nagging me to see it again. If I’ve learned anything as a medium, it’s to do your best to address the nagging. Some call it “inspiration from Spirit.” I prefer to call it what it is: disembodied dead guys booting me in the head. I rented the film through Netflix and had a long overdue visit with an old cinematic friend. This time, however, it had an even greater impact on me. As a child, of course, the name of the “uncle” she chose meant nothing to me. But this time around it really shook me to my core. Everett was the name of my biological father. He was a man whose face had been hidden from me, as if covered in clown makeup, for the first 33 years of my life. He was loving and understanding and, like a true clown, one of THE funniest people I’ve ever known. He even died ON April Fool’s Day. You just have to admire his dedication to a great gag. So, at age 55, I sat once again in front of another RCA television (a flat screen this go-around) and cried my eyes out.

Yea. I’m a walking batch of Hallmark movies bundled together.

I decided I really needed to find a way to reach out to Jerry Lewis and share this story with him. I’d probably leave the whole “medium” thing out of it. Why amp up a communication from someone who may initially be regarded as a crazy fan at the onset, right? I wanted to simply thank him for helping a frightened young boy get through a time-old situation. I diligently searched the internet until I found what seemed like a valid address for his representation. I really decided to push the envelope and send him a piece of memorabilia for him to sign (return postage would be included, of course…I may be enthusiastic but I am also cost conscious!). I have an original lobby card for ‘The Family Jewels’ in my oddly grouped collection of odd-n-ends. I knew, on some level, that if the letter AND item actually reached him, there was a good chance I would not get a reply. Honestly, I didn’t really care. All I really wanted was for him to know he made an immeasurable difference in my life. I sent the intent and was hoping for the best.

20181003_202352Of course, this delightful plan of mine was thwarted when, on August 20, 2017, Jerry Lewis passed away. I know what you’re thinking: “Hey! It’ll be really easy to talk to him now!” Har-dee-har-har. You’re so funny. Sure, I can talk to him, but how can I get the autograph of a dead guy? I don’t think automatic writing would be valid, but I digress. What makes this particularly whimsical is that I heard of his passing on the car radio. Kelsey, my frequent cohort in varied ventures, and I had just parked the car in LA where we were going to see medium George Anderson. And, yes, I received my second earth-moving reading from him that day (no, Jerry Lewis did not come through). Interesting timing, don’cha think?

Hey, I tried, right? Since I could not thank him personally (or through the mail), I thanked him profusely through the ethers. As a medium I know, beyond any doubt, that he could hear me. And I’m totally good with that.

Flash forward to August 17, 2018, three days shy of the first anniversary of his passing. I received an email from the Hollywood Show store. They send out announcements of upcoming shows, festivals, even sales of memorabilia of old Hollywood. Yes, I’m THAT big of a nerd. But you should know that already. They had 300 previously owned autographed celebrity photos up for sale. They’d been accumulated from estate sales, other collectors, etc. I decided to browse through the items offered because it involved one of my favorite pastimes: sitting. For the highly sought ‘hoots & giggles’, I searched the collection for any photos already endorsed to ‘Charles’. How easy is that? Get a semi-personalized photo from a movie star without the hassle of prompting a restraining order. God, but I love the convenience of the internet! Out of 300 photos there was only ONE that had been inscribed to a ‘Charles’.

Yup. Jerry Lewis.JerryLewis

You don’t have to be psychic to know I purchased it immediately. So, yea, he heard me. The intent in my gratitude was received and noted. How’s THAT for hope realized?

If you take anything away from this missive, my friends, it’s this simple fact: your loved ones in Spirit hear you. While I always feel it’s best to say what needs to be said while they’re with us on this side of the veil, it is never too late to reach out. Take a moment and send out an ‘I love you’, ‘I miss you’ or even a genuine ‘thank you.’ It WILL be heard.

I hope this helps…

 

“I am probably the most selfish man you will ever meet in your life.
No one gets the satisfaction or the joy that I get
out of seeing kids realize there is hope.”

– Jerry Lewis

 

July 15, 2018

By George, Writing IS Cathartic

Filed under: Family Memories,In Memoriam,RIP,Uncategorized — cfilius @ 4:22 am

I lost one of the great ones this morning. George is my mother’s first cousin, 3 years her junior. They, along with my Mom’s big sister, Ruth, were inseparable growing up. This same connection carried on through adulthood. Mom and Aunt Ruth always referred to him the brother they never had. When they’d bring this up, George would respond with, “If I was your little brother WHY did you put me in a dress and drag me around the neighborhood in a wagon?” Then everyone would howl with laughter.

He worked in West Virginia coal mines “back in the day”. He worked in a furniture store. And wherever he worked he always advanced up the ranks. If there was a job to be had, George would get it. The depression didn’t stop him. His father abandoned the family when he was just a small boy. He knew he had to help his mother and grandmother earn money to “keep the family going”, as he always said. He honestly didn’t know the meaning of the words “no” or “can’t”. In 1969, he bought a Chrysler dealership in a tiny West Virginia town that didn’t even have a daily newspaper. His mother’s brother, Charlie, thought he was nuts for doing that. “You’ll never make a go of it!” he said. (Our Uncle Charlie was just a a pound shy of a pound of sunshine let me tell ya…)

George made more than “a go of it.” He was a top seller in the Chrysler corporation for many years. From the time he bought the business, in 1969, until he retired 25 years later, he was awarded several trips, Cancun & Las Vegas among many, by the corporation. He would be traveling with people who owned huge dealerships in large cities. Dealerships that employed several sales people. George, on the other hand, had one salesman: himself. He had a gift of gab, this man. He could sell ice to an Eskimo and condoms to the Pope. Being the unassuming man that he was, he always credited his customers with being his sales team. “Treat people right and they’ll tell everybody.” He was right.

He and his wife were inducted into the West Virginia Motorsports Hall Of Fame in 2017. George & Marjorie were forces to be reckoned with in the early days of car racing in West Virginia. I would visit them as a small child and see SO many trophies throughout the house. At that age I had NO idea they raced cars. All I knew was that my cousin had a boatload of trophies and plaques. I had NO inkling of what they did but it was obviously something REALLY cool! As I grew older, he would share drag racing stories with me. I would just sit and listen in total awe. This conservative man had been hell on wheels and he hung out with the likes of Richard Petty. You’d never know it unless you asked. He was humble. He was kind. He was understanding. He was intelligent. He was generous. He was all of those things, and much more. But more than anything, he IS loved.

He was also wickedly funny. Whenever I’d visit he’d say to his wife of over 70 years, “Margie! What have I told you about keeping that door locked!” or “Margie! Just slip him a few pennies through the door. Don’t let him in because he’ll think we’re gonna feed him!”

I would usually reply with, “That’s why I come here, George. For the respect. I haven’t received it yet but I keep hoping.”

He’d nod his head and say, “You’ve got a loooong wait, Charlie.” Then we’d just burst out laughing. By George, I’m gonna miss the laughs… and him. But, thank God, I had him in my life for 57 years. RIP.

GeorgeMontage100

 

 

May 16, 2018

A Fun Walk, A Short Tear

walkinsSomeone sent this little ditty to me early this morning. I’m sure my neighbors really appreciated my garish laugh echoing throughout the apartment building at 4am. I feel we’re even since their dog wakes me up scampering across their wooden floor every morning (trim your dog’s nails for cryin’ out loud!).

I find this random tweet hysterically funny because it reminds me of one of the last fairly coherent conversations I had with my mother a few days prior to her passing last year. She was being visited by one of her distant cousins (by some kind of marriage, twice removed and with a side of slaw). The pseudo-relative’s personality makes Melba Toast seem like one spicy meatball, lemme tell ya.

Out of the blue my mother asked, “When are they taking me to the cemetery?”

Cousin Blasé Bland’s eyes widened as her head jerked back. Admittedly, I did a double take. I didn’t see that one coming (psychic boy that I am). “What did you say?” I asked. Don’t get me wrong, I heard her question quite clearly. I just wanted to see the cousin’s impression of a bobble head one more time.

Mom calmly said, “The cemetery. When will they take me there?”

“Soon,” I said softly. “It will be soon.”

DaCuz shot me a glance that just screamed, “STOP TALKING THAT WAY!” If reality were a cigarette, she would have been stomping it out with her boot.  Mom and I had “the talk” some time earlier. She knew she was dying. This was not a time for secrets.

Mom asked simply, “Tomorrow?”

“C’mon, Mom,” I replied automatically, “you have to meet us halfway. You have to die first.”

I honestly thought the pseudo-relative was going to implode onto herself. Her mouth gaped open, swaying in the wind of mom’s oxygen machine. Her glazed eyes mirrored those of Kimba the White Lion.

Mom, however, chuckled from the confines of her bed. After a well-timed pause (because timing IS everything), she said matter-of-factly, “I bet I could get a discount if I walked in myself.”

I burst out laughing, as is my custom. The Quasi-Cousin was horrifyingly appalled. Win/Win in my opinion. After the woman hurriedly left (within 5 minutes–she honestly couldn’t get out fast enough), Mom whispered, “Some people just don’t have a sense of humor, do they?”

I’ve said it many times before and I know I will utter these words many more times down the road (even from the other side, I’m sure): “Life IS the ultimate joke and the Dead ‘get it’.” Share the smiles, folks. It’s what helps keep us alive…

Here AND “There.”

April 1, 2018

Reasons Resonate

Filed under: Uncategorized — cfilius @ 4:44 am

My thoughts have been with my grandmother for the past few days. I’ve always blamed her for being the catalyst behind my meanderings with the other side. My first recognized premonition (by me, anyway) was of her upcoming passing. I didn’t realize it at the time. It was just a seemingly random thought. On a Thursday night, like any other, I glanced around the living room at my grandparents and mother and thought oh-so-nonchalantly, “I wonder what it would be like around here if one of them died?” Within 24 hours my grandmother would be killed in a freak car accident.

A few months after her physical passing I began realizing she may have been dead but she sure wasn’t “gone”. Not by a long shot. I would wake up in the middle of the night to see her staring at me from the foot of my bed. She didn’t speak—she just stared. Then she’d disappear. I would hear her laugh—a genuinely disturbing cackle that would make Margaret Hamilton green with envy (see what I did there?). I would hear her calling out my name from her bedroom at the end of the hall. She was opening doors, moving objects. And I was the only one privy to her activity. Lucky me.

I had a lamp on the wall above my bed. I would often read before going to sleep. Many times I would fall asleep reading. I would then be harshly awakened by my mother screaming at me from the top of her very powerful lungs. She would spew an insane, rambling lecture on how much money I was wasting by having that 40 watt bulb burn throughout the night. We were surely headed to financial ruin for my wasteful ways. Then there would be a lecture on how her entire family lived by one lone candle during the 1920’s. So, one night, when Mom was out late at some meeting, I was curled up reading a riveting paperback documenting the all-too-real adventures of The Partridge Family at a haunted inn. And, shocking as it may seem, I fell asleep. I was jerked awake—literally—when “someone” grabbed my ankle and pulled my leg harshly. My grandfather was downstairs and Mom still wasn’t home. So, thanks to my grandmother, I was spared another Depression Era Lecture. She got far more exercise in the afterlife than she ever saw here.

March 30, 1973, started out normally in my abnormal household. The meat of the sandwich of the day has faded from memory but the bread holding it together on either end is as vivid as if it happened yesterday. Mom and I were about to embark on our routine daily venture: she would drive me to school (God forbid I be out of her sight for anymore than necessary) then she would head on to her bean-counting position in a company across town. A job, I believe, she had held since the Lincoln Administration.

I buttoned up my winter coat as my mother was clumsily slipping on her galoshes. The weather wasn’t unusually cold nor had it been raining. She was just being her normally suspicious self. “You never know when it may freeze,” she’d say to anyone within earshot of her rambling paranoia. This always bothered me whenever she’d spout it off in mid-July. As mom started to open the front door, my grandmother hollered down to us from the upstairs hallway. “What’s for breakfast?” she asked.

“Eggs!” Mom answered. “How do you want them? Sunny side up?” She howled with delight as she said it. I stared at her blankly. I probably rolled my eyes but I can’t swear to it. I did that a lot at that age. It was a Pavlovian response: mom’s mouth moved, my eyes rolled.

“No,” my grandmother replied. “I want them rainy-side down!” I laughed at that one. It was too absurd to not offer up a guffaw or two. What makes it stick with me after 45 years is that those were the last words I ever heard my grandmother utter in the physical. It’s just fitting that my last memory of her is connected to a really bad joke. Synchronicity at its best.

notebookLast year, after my mother finally died, I had the daunting task of clearing out the house of a woman who saved everything from receipts for furniture we haven’t owned in over 30 years to her own virginity. Among the many pieces yearning to be in their own small town car-port Smithsonian, I found a small spiral bound notebook that had belonged to my grandmother. It had been among the things she had in her purse at the time of the fatal crash. Scrawled in her familiar hand on the 3rd page were these words: “For Ever Helping Others.” Nothing else. Just that one lone sentence. I have no idea why she had this bit of philosophy with her at the time of her passing. I don’t even know why she wrote it. But there it was, all the same, with no official rhyme or reason. But it sure resonates, lemme tell ya.

She is the one who dropped kicked me on my path in the very beginning. And, after all these years, she’s still driving the point home. She was one tenacious old lady, let me tell ya. And there’s no reason for me to believe she’d change now.

Rest in Peace, Mamaw. And thanks.

October 1, 2017

Giving Notice

“What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate.”
Strother Martin (The Captain in Cool Hand Luke)

 

34006400_sI STARED AT MY PHONE with the same look of disgust one has whenever they discover Great Aunt Belva’s bursitis has cleared up and she’d be attending Thanksgiving dinner after all. The warm glow of the screen was a direct contradiction to the coldness contained within the incoming text message. I grimaced and shook my head. “Well, shit,” was the best my college educated brain could muster. Southwest decided to cancel our outgoing flight to San Francisco. It wasn’t delayed. Oh, no. It was cancelled, killed off like an un-credited red shirt crew member on Star Trek. A tad over-dramatic, sure, but I tend to take cancellations personally.

For example, my family, with my 6 year old self in tow, were vacationing once upon a time. I honestly don’t remember where. I want to say Hershey, Pennsylvania, but I’m not sure if I’m right or my obsessive love of chocolate is in need of some self-serving attention. I may not recall the exact locale of this summer spree so long ago, but I DO recall it was quite popular. I know this because we drove from Motel to Motel to get a room with no success. Every place was booked. Just like in biblical times, there was no room at the Holiday Inn. I was devastated by this. I began crying uncontrollably (some of you have seen this same reaction when I’m told Pumpkin Cheesecake is out of season). “Nobody wants us!” I screamed. My mother & grandparents found my emotional state very amusing. They laughed and laughed at the time. They continued to hoot & cackle uproariously as this tale was retold over and over again through the years. I’d like to take a moment and point out they’re all dead. Hey! Who’s laughin’ NOW?

But I digress.

I clicked the link Southwest provided in order to better handle this situation. Of course, the link and my phone didn’t get along so that didn’t help. Technology is the Joker to My Batman, the Bluto to my Popeye, the Mrs. Wiggins to my Mr. Tudball. I was able to connect to their website and search for flights that would, unlike the unloving motel, want us aboard. There was one just after 9am but we’d have to go via Las Vegas on a 3 hour jaunt. And we ALL know how well 3 hour tours work out. The next, leaving at 9:20, was a direct flight, just as the first had been. Noting this as completely doable, I sent a text to my travel companion. I simply lamented, “Our flight has been CANCELLED!”

She promptly replied, “Yep, me too. Wanna take the 9:20?” Great minds, blah blah blah. “I’m on my way to the airport now,” she added.

I ran to the desk—OK, ‘ran’ isn’t exactly the verb for the situation. Anyone who knows me understands I only run when there is a sale on Hawaiian shirts or whenever I’m strolling downhill and gravity just takes over. Let’s just say I enthusiastically meandered to the ticket counter with great determination. I managed to change my ticket. However, I no longer had my precious “A” Boarding Pass. I was now a lowly “C”. Which meant I would not, by any stretch of the imagination, get my beloved window seat. SIGH. A big guy in a middle or aisle seat is just pushing against the laws of nature. Doesn’t your heart just ache for me? Or, at least, your lower lumbar?

I made my way back to where I had been sitting only to find someone, who does NOT make me the center of their Universe, had taken my seat. Well, La-Tee-Dah. After scanning the terminal, I realized there were no seats welcoming me and my mass (NOT a typo), so I plopped down on the floor, using the wall barrier of an overpriced airport eatery as a back support. In my mind’s eye, I resembled a fat cat having a sudden nap attack. No big whoop. I had things to do. I can sit pretty much anywhere. I pulled out my ever-present notepad (yes, I’m THAT old school) and glanced at the chicken-scratch scrawl splattered throughout a few pages. Website, Facebook, Twitter, several names (some decorated with asterisks) and numbers. I was convinced this list was missing something but I had no clue what it was. “Well, shit,” I muttered once more. Reminiscing of my old Alama Mater warms the cockles of my heart. Even at 7am.

We were heading off to San Francisco to attend a wedding of a friend of mine. Well, a friend AND client. I have read him, and the bulk of his inner-circle, for the better part of a decade. I’ve read him, his mom and step-dad, his sisters, college roommates, co-workers and virtually every woman he has ever dated. His fiancé has even sent clientele my way. Cousins, friends, random people at the supermarket, you name it. Since he’d finally found THE one (and since SHE has brought me work, too) I felt compelled to attend. Truth be told, my main reason for going was a chance to go to SF. We both adore it and grab any opportunity to spend time there. I’m not sure I would have attended if the wedding had taken place around the corner from my residence seeing as I am a bit of an antisocial sort. God, I hope Stu and Jess aren’t reading this…

LOVE YOU GUYS! WOULDN’T HAVE MISSED IT! (Good cover, Charles. Well played.)

You see, I was also using this trip as a way to relax after a pretty stressful few months. I had recently made a pretty big decision—one of great impact on not only myself but a few others, too. When I make these life altering choices, such as switching from Coke to RC, I tend to run away for awhile just to chill, to be at peace with the decision, and to wrap up anything I may have inadvertently overlooked. This wedding seemed like the ideal getaway. It gave me a chance to witness the beginning of something wonderful as I acknowledged the end of something else that, honestly, just wasn’t wonderful any more. At least not to me. After a surprisingly small amount of soul searching, I had made the decision to walk away from mediumship once and for all.

Truth be told, one cannot really quit being a medium. They’re still there tapping on your shoulder, poking your third eye. I was just finished with the two-way conversations. I’ve always said that once the ride stopped being fun then I was getting off of it. And I hadn’t had fun in quite some time. I’ve toyed with putting it on a back, cold burner in the past but never really brought myself to turn in my two week notice. Sometimes disgruntled frustration will rear it’s uckin’ fugly head and, honestly, that’s normal. It is a draining way to earn a living and, at times, it’s just overwhelming. But this instance was different. Something vital was truly missing.

The drive. The desire. The mindset. The… PASSION. They were all gone, absent from the roster.

* * *

In hindsight, major shifts usually come with a few warning signs. Collectively, we tend to miss them for the most part. Or, at best, we just refuse to add two & two. God knows numbers have never been my strong point. My idea of balancing my check book is to toss it to a trained seal and hope for the best. My “sign” was more like a pile of freeway markers hurled into one large pile of twisted metal highlighted with flickering glimpses of school bus yellow and interstate green. I found myself in a dilemma that I knew was coming but, God knows, I fought it off with great determination, devotion and denial.

My mother’s failing health hit a record low last December and I, as her one and only child, had to move back east to care for her. Five out of the following six months were spent chained to her hip in a town that holds nothing for me. I left when I was a young upstart of twenty assuming I knew everything. In all honestly, I knew only one thing: I wanted out of there. I could honestly feel parts of me dwindle away into nothingness whenever I would make my obligatory visits. Each and every time. It came to a point that I would get physically ill knowing I had to return. My only salvation was knowing the exact date and time I would get the hell out. I didn’t have that luxury this go around. I was stuck with an open-ended ticket. I felt like I was on standby for a seat on a crop-duster.

Life as I knew it completely changed within a few daze (again, NOT a typo). Work on all levels came to a crashing halt. No cartooning, no mediumship which translated into no income. 25 hours of my 24 hour day were, like my flight, cancelled and rerouted. My daily routine, as well as my scattered social circles, were obliterated. I plummeted into the ground like a railroad spike. I honestly do not recall the last time I was SO drilled into the physical. My root chakra was so overworked it joined a Union in order to demand time-and-a-half.

Mom was a demanding woman. Always had been. She was insanely OCD. Every household chore had to follow a VERY specific formula. Her process of doing laundry had more steps than an instructional manual for the Arthur Murray Dance Studio. I would explain it to you but, honestly, you’d either end up crying or you’d black out from the sheer inability to comprehend it. I grew up with her so I was used to some of it. But you never EVER fully understand it. I’m willing to wager that it would leave Stephen Hawking with a blank stare followed by an electronic WTF. It got worse as she got older. And it got worse still when she became too ill to follow her own guidelines. If her bizarre rules were not followed verbatim, if a single item was moved from one end of a table to another, she erupted, spewing molten insults over the villagers below. She continued to bark out orders from her hospital bed throne, gripping her cane like a scepter, until the last 52 hours of her life. Then she just went to sleep.

While my entire life was being turned upside down as well as inside out, I sadly managed to forget something vital. My mother’s life was not only being uprooted like a tree in the path of a tornado, but it was also coming to an end… and she was scared.

During this five month mini-series, I continually turned down requests for readings. I was not in a frame of mind to tune a radio let alone tune into Spirit. They could have been standing around me with megaphones and I wasn’t in a state to hear them. The only Spirit Connection I had during that time was with my (late) grandmother. She kept making her presence known throughout my time served. She was opening doors, walking around the house at night, even coming to her daughter from time to time. I’ve been used to her hanging out in the house since she died when I was twelve, so this was nothing new to me. A door would pop open and I’d just wave. “Hey, Mamaw!” I’d exclaim without batting an eye.

Mom was questioning her own sanity whenever she would see her mother up and around the house. Frankly, I questioned her sanity when she first explained her laundry ritual to me, but that’s beside the point. (For the love of all that is Holy… she folded clothes before putting them in the dryer!) I explained that her mother’s baby girl was sick so, like any good parent, her mother was watching over her. While Mom did believe in my work as a medium, she never wanted anyone to know about it. She would be “SO embarrassed” if her friends found out. I made a point to mention it in her eulogy. Just sayin’.

Once she passed I had a realization: I hadn’t done a reading in nearly half a year and I did not miss it one iota. I was actually relieved that I wasn’t facing any readings. I was so immersed in the turmoil of the living chaos that the dead fell far beyond the wayside. It’s as if they slipped down between the front car seat and the gear console. You know it’s down there, wedged in with some stale french fries and a dime or two, but you just can’t reach it comfortably so to hell with it. Am I right (insert eye-roll here)? I told a friend and fellow medium of my sudden awareness on the matter. I added, “The only thing I DO miss is the income. If that’s all I miss then I shouldn’t be doing it.” Empty beer mug slammed on the table. I knew I was done.

In the immortal words of Sgt. Schulz, “I know NOTHING!”

KnowNothing

* * *

Kelsey arrived, with her long hair taking on a life of its own after wrestling with the wind and fury of running up an escalator. I instinctively grabbed her backpack as she headed toward the ticket counter. She, too, lost her “A” and had to trade it in for a “C”. She muttered, “Well, shit,” as she approached me and her backpack. Clearly we went to the same college. Her green eyes locked with my mood ring blues. “You know this means we won’t be there in time to have breakfast at Boudin.”

I just nodded. “Something inside of me just died.” I swear I could feel my eyes welling up.

We are creatures of habit, Kelsey and I. Traveling schedules are generally very well planned in painstaking detail. It is all laid out flawlessly in a heap of electronic paperwork. But when one of those strips of cyber paper gets yanked out as if in a game of Jenga, we tend to slightly topple over with little to no grace. Much to our combined chagrin, our second choice flight was delayed by he better part of an hour. Less time in SF is never acceptable to a couple of control freaks. We grieved the loss of our favorite breakfast. We mourned as our anally designed itinerary was methodically thrust in a wood chipper. The airline placed the blame for the delay on fog. We placed the blame on some yet unmasked super villain hell-bent on using our joy as a chew toy.

“We’re gonna be in the very back row,” I said matter-of-factly.

She just nodded. “Well, shit.” We really need to get matching school jerseys.

Well, my amazing psychic powers were not in force that day. We found ourselves wedged into the next to the last row. Yup. Good thing I’m getting outta this biz. Ahem. We spent the bulk of our barely 60 minute flight reshuffling as our TO-DO list became a TO-GO menu. Striking things off (so long Boudin and The Cartoon Museum), rearranging and reprioritizing others (Our Chinatown lunch knocked down from ‘Goal’ to ‘Sacrificial Lamb with Egg Roll’). Our New & Improved Plan 3.1 began with heading straight to the hotel to drop off our bags. Seems simple, right? It’s never simple, my friends. If I teach you anything let it be that simple twist of truth. We arrived in the lobby of the King George Hotel with equal amounts of dogged determination and debilitating defeat. We were yinging and yanging all over the friggin’ place. At first we were quite thrilled to see that there was only one person ahead of us at the front desk. Finally! Things were going to go smoothly! That sheet of hope was crumpled and chucked after 20 eternal minutes. Our fellow traveler before us was just not happy with ANYTHING. Add a malfunctioning computer into the equation and the only possible total is a negative number. Kelsey and I exchanged more glances than ugly Christmas sweaters at a Mid-Western K-Mart during any given holiday season. Absolutely NOTHING was going according to plan.

Well, OUR plan anyway. It seemed that another driving force had everything already laid out. And, as usual, I was the very last to know.

* * *

Once we left our bags with a most apologetic concierge, we ventured into the Streets of San Francisco. I feel compelled to make a Karl Malden reference at this point but I’m doing my best to be mature and hold back. Aren’t you proud? One item from Kelsey’s list managed to still cling to life. She is quite enamored with her Scottish ancestry (while my dad was more bewitched by Scotch in a bottle). Within spitting distance of the hotel—don’t ask how we know this to be an accurate measurement—is a store devoted to all things Scottish. I must confess I was quite crushed to never hear any of the employees shout, “If it’s not Scottish, it’s CRAP!” I contemplated bribing one of them to say it but opted against it. Once again, maturity won out. I’m not sure if I’m impressed with myself or just creeped out.

We meandered a bit (translation: we were searching for food because our journeys are always about The Food). After stuffing our collective faces at a Chinese Restaurant boasting of New Management, we happened upon a Museum dedicated to the Deity known as Dr. Seuss. Well, needless to say, this cartoonist was elated beyond doodles and words. My love of cartooning as well as reading was greatly influenced by Theodore Geisel. Hop On Pop was the very first book I even checked out of a library. I’m not sure why something that seemingly trivial has always stuck with me. Passions tend to do that, don’t they? Revisiting a lifelong passion is always amazingly fulfilling. Reconnections like that remind us what life is all about, ya know?

Well, if I didn’t then, I sure as shit know now… but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.

AngelHatAs our souls returned to the sidewalks, we found ourselves stumbling upon an impression of an Angel in the sidewalk. It was intentionally placed there. This was not a freak image like Elvis on a scorched waffle. The simple silhouette depicted an angelic figure holding something in its hand. A candle? A stick? A flashlight? A souvenir of the Washington Monument? I assumed it was a candle—fitting for an Angel—but the Washington Monument image was WAY funnier. I tossed my cap on the ground next to it and snapped the image you see before you. I turned around after retrieving my hat and my eye caught a glimpse of an awning jutting out from the building before us. I did a slight double-take as I read the lettering on the awning: Raphael House. “Cute,” I thought to myself. “An Angel reference.” I shrugged it off.

Kelsey suddenly said, “Raphael House?” She paused. “I guess that’s the Angel.”

“Oh, yea, drive it home Guys,” I thought to myself. Then I said aloud, “Yup. Mystery solved!” And we went on our merry way. With a few more blocks behind us, we wound up standing beneath a breathtaking mural encasing the side of an 8-story building. It was an illustration of a tiger, dissected, as it’s skeletal structure was separating from its exterior form. It was unusual, but very powerful. It was as if the inner being—the core strength—had a life force of its own. It needed to get out and make itself known. We both stood there, in the middle of the sidewalk, just gawking at it like a couple of tourists who had never seen anything taller than a two-story barn in their lives.

Kelsey brought me back to the present, as is her custom, by crying out, “Hey! Look over there!” I turned from the sprawling tiger, my gaze following her pointing finger. Across the street, on the corner, was a small store. A sign simply read, “Irish Castle Shop.” Before I could say anything, she said, “Let’s check it out!”

TigerMural“I thought you were Scottish, not Irish,” I pointlessly pointed out.

“I like to see how the less fortunate live!” she laughed as she dashed across the street. Great. Dashing. Thank God it was a ever-so-subtle downhill grade. As we entered, she said, “We’ll just look around for a few minutes.” I reminded her of that when we emerged 2 ½ hours later.

A dark-haired woman raised her head from behind a glass display case and welcomed us to the store. Her Irish brogue was quite apparent, as was the genuine warmth behind her smile. “I’m Gráinne,” she said. “Looking for anything in particular?” My response was simply thrusting a thumb in Kelsey’s direction.

“No,” Kelsey said. “We’re just looking!” Then she let out a squeal and practically ran to a display case containing some very ornate Champagne Flutes. Being well-versed in shopping with Kelsey, I knew just what to do: I found the nearest seat and made it my home away from home. Our hostess, sensing a sale, scurried to Kelsey with the keys toHappyBirthdayGift the display case being steamed up by Kelsey’s breath. I just laughed to myself, as is my custom in most situations, and leaned back on my newfound stool. This repose was short-lived. My eyes fell upon a wrapped gift on the counter before me. Attached to it was a card. Scrawled on the envelope were these simple, heartfelt words: “To Charlie. Happy Birthday!” I just shook my head as I muttered THE dumbest words in the Universe: “What a coincidence!”

Flippin’ idiot.

As the gals chatted and chattered on about All Things Irish, I just scanned the wall before me. It’s sort of like going through someone’s medicine cabinet but without leaving fingerprints. On the very top shelf I spotted a framed photo of a man. Next to the photograph was a simple sign reading, “Rest In Peace Gabriel. You Will Be Missed.”

Gabriel? Oh, come on, SERIOUSLY? As if my personal connection to the name wasn’t enough, it has to be two of the four Arch Angels that I call in whenever I prepare for a reading? They were bullying me around one last time. My Guides were politely (yea, right) poking me, antagonizing me just once more. “Don’t waste your time,” I thought to myself. My mind was made up… and so was theirs, obviously. I assumed Gabriel had been an employee or perhaps a loyal customer. I offered a soft blessing to him and those left behind and that was that. Uh-huh. Sure it was.

At this point, Kelsey and Gráinne returned to the counter in front of me. Gráinne carried the flutes with tenderness while Kelsey clutched her credit card with a grip guaranteed to obliterate circulation. Gráinne pointed at me and said, “You’re a very patient man! That’s a beautiful trait!”

I just said, “This isn’t my first rodeo with her shopping.” We laughed. Hardeeharhar.

Then she said, “You remind me of my son, Michael.”

Michael, too? Three outta four. Jeez, just drop it, Guys…

“He’s a good son, my boy,” she continued. “I’m sure you are, too.”

“On the advice of my attorney I refuse to comment,” I said.

“I’ve had to rely on him quite a bit since my husband died,” she said as she carefully wrapped the flutes in tissue paper. She looked up and gestured at the framed photo atop the bookcase. “I do miss my Gabriel, so.” She paused for a moment, a subtle smile easing across her lips. Then she said, “But I know he’s still here with me.”

GabrielPhotoWithout missing a beat, I quipped, “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

She added, “We really don’t die, you know?”

Kelsey shot me a cursory glance which I opted to semi-ignore. “I agree,” was all I could muster.

Gráinne finished with her wrapping. She looked up at me, gesturing to her head, and said, “What is a ‘Ghost Host’?”

I removed my well-worn cap and turned it around so she could see the logo for The Haunted Mansion embroidered on the back. “It’s from Disneyland. One of my favorite rides.”

“Oh!” she half-laughed. “I thought maybe you were REALLY a ‘Ghost Host’!”

I thought, “Oh, what the hell?” So I said very matter-of-factly, “Technically, I am. I’m a Medium.”

Her eyes widened, her jaw slacked a tinge, as she put her chubby hands on her hips. “Are you, now?”

Before I could even inhale, Kelsey’s head began bobbing up and down as if her neck muscles had snapped lose. “Oh, yea, he IS!” She really emphasized the present tense. Clever girl.

Gráinne leaned on the counter. Her voice softened, the gregariousness was gone. She asked the question I have heard, in all probability, the most during my career: “Is Gabriel OK?”

I smiled. “Of course he is. There’s no pain of any kind. He is surrounded by, and always emits, pure unconditional love.” Her eyes began to well up so I added, “For what it’s worth, I’ve never had anyone come through and say, ‘Man, this just sucks!’”

She let out a genuine laugh which erased her tension almost immediately. “It’s funny you worded it that way. About his giving off unconditional love…” She wiped away a bit of a tear but her smile was steadfast. “That describes my Gabriel perfectly.” She tilted her head a bit. “Is he here now?”

“I’m sure he is. I’m not really tuned in at the moment. But I’m sure he’s watching over you.” Sort of the canned mediumship answer. But that certainly doesn’t make it any less true. I honestly believe our deceased loved ones are just within a law or two of being branded stalkers.

Our brief chat seemed to ease her and, I admit, that made me happy. As she began to find a bag large enough to cradle the crystal glasses, I made my way to the restroom. Good exit strategy on my part. Or so I thought. As I was washing my hands I put it out to that Wacky Universe of Ours that if Gabriel had any messages for his wife then I would be happy to help. You know, sort of my Swan Song. Oh, Sweet Tea Jesus… when will I learn? I was immediately hit by this intensely insistent presence. Be careful of what you ask for… Clearly, the lesson of The Monkey’s Paw had eluded me.

When I returned, I found the Irish Lass and the Irish Lass Wannabe, looking over some children’s books in yet another display case. My stool still stood alone, I’m sure dreading the return of my mass (not a typo). I plopped back down only to find my attention drawn to a rack of custom made greeting cards to my left. One card in particular bore the image of what looked like a policeman’s badge. I could not, no matter how much I tried, tear my gaze from it. I just gave in and allowed it to happen…

“Was Gabriel a Police Officer? Or was his role that of being a Peace Keeper?”

The Lassies looked up in unison. “Peace Keeper,” Gráinne said.

My eyes were still locked on the card. “He has a strong sense of justice, what is right.”

“Oh, yes,” she replied. She slowly straightened up and made her way around to my side of the room.

“The numbers two and five are both significant for him.”

“He was known as Two Feather to everyone,” she said in a chocked voice. “And he died on January 5th.” She moved behind the counter and stood beneath her beloved’s picture. Gabriel was both literally and figuratively watching over her.

“I don’t understand this,” I said. “And I’m not supposed to… but he takes partial responsibility for his passing. He says, though, that he didn’t TAKE his own life. But he admits to it being a case of circumstance, being in the wrong place at the wrong time… but his death makes sense in a strange way…” I scratched my head. “I don’t get that at all.”

His wife, however, completely understood. You see, Gabriel the Peace Keeper, had been murdered—stabbed—as he stepped forward to protect another person. That revelation silenced the showroom. We gazed at one another in silence for a moment. “He was always taking care of everyone else,” she whispered. He would see a woman sitting alone at a bus stop at night and he’d just sit with her, just to make sure she was safe.”

I sighed, “He tells me that while he was a large man it is YOU who fills the room, with your personality, your love of life…”

She smiled and nodded, “He could intimidate people just because of his size.” She raised her arms as if to mimic his form. Then she jutted a thumb at herself, “But I ran the roost!” Then she just laughed. She dropped her head for a moment. Then she looked up at me, with her smiling Irish eyes. “He’s my heart,” is all she said but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a more powerful statement. “Is he really OK?”

I smiled. “Yes, he is. And he credits your love for him—WITH him—for that. You keep saying he saved you but it is you who saved him.”

She began to cry uncontrollably as she leaned onto the countertop. Instinctively, I placed both of my hands over her right hand and Kelsey, who looked like a raccoon at this point, held onto Gráinne’s left. “I miss him so!” Gráinne cried. “I want him back! I want him home!”

I squeezed her hand tightly, holding back my own tears, and said, “Honey, he IS home.”

She stopped crying almost immediately. She gently bit her lower lip. “I have a friend who does what you do,” she quietly admitted. “And she told me the exact same thing.” I could sense Gabriel’s strong hands on her shoulders as she began to smile—truly smile—once more. “He really is alright.” It wasn’t a question this time. It was a statement of incontestable fact. “Thank you,” she quietly whispered.

“My pleasure, my honor,” I replied.

As we prepared to leave, Gráinne gave us both a massive bear hug. “I was blessed to have both of you walk in here today,” she said. “Thank you. Thank you both! I just know Gabriel sent you to me!”

“After encountering him,” I said, “I don’t doubt you a single bit! That man could move mountains!”

“Because he was one!” she laughed.

We bid our goodbyes as Kelsey retrieved all three of her packages. As we stepped out into the street I instinctively reached for one of her bags. “Let me take that,” I said.

Her grip tightened as she shook her head. “I need to hold onto something,” she said as mascara trails decorated her cheeks. “That was…just…wow.”

I nodded as we walked in silence for a couple blocks. Then I said, “None of this would have happened if our flight hadn’t been cancelled.”

“I was thinking the same thing.” There wasn’t a shred of doubt in her voice.

“I’d forgotten,” I said to no one in particular. It’s a good thing Kelsey was with me or it would have seemed like I was one of those people who walk the streets talking to themselves.

“Forgotten what?”

“I’d forgotten WHY I do this. God forgive me, but I really forgot.” I took off my cap, ran my fingers through my already tousled hair, then slipped it back on. A nervous reaction equivalent to digging a hole and filling it back up. “I was so caught up in all of my crap, and Mom’s, that I’d forgotten. I never thought that would happen.” We continued to walk. I just shook my head, “I can’t quit, can I?” I’m not sure if I was asking Kelsey, myself or The Universe. It doesn’t really matter since Kelsey was the one who answered first.

“No,” she said. “No, you can’t. It wouldn’t be fair.”

I stopped and looked at her with a puzzled look on my face. My facial expression was very similar to the one I give when I’m told, “There’s no more whipped cream!”

“It wouldn’t be fair to Gráinne or Gabriel or anyone, I guess,” she said.

I gave her a quick hug and said the only thing I could say, “Well, shit.” We began walking back to our hotel, assuming everything was finally going to get back to normal. I’d like to point out that ‘normalcy’ is something I instinctively evade, much in the same way I steer a wide clearance of salad at an All You Can Eat Buffet. To better understand this epic saga, you need to keep in mind that this was only the first day of our journey. Hell, the sun hadn’t even set! yet! There were two more days ahead. As The Carpenter’s remind us, “We’ve only just begun…”

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TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Copyright © 2017, Charles A. Filius

 

June 30, 2017

April’s Ours, Her Words Empower

“April is a promise that May is bound to keep.” – Hal Borland

While mediumship is a large part of my life (oh, THAT’S funny!), it isn’t really my favorite avenue of spiritual work. Don’t get me wrong—it certainly has a high ranking. It is undoubtedly powerfully healing for ALL parties involved. It’s significance is undeniable. It’s not for everyone, of course. You either get it or you miss it completely. Mediumship does not have a single gray area let alone fifty. Ahem.

My true spiritual fascination is channeling. It lures me in like an All You Can Stuff In Yo’ Face Buffet. I love doing Automatic Writing. I even enjoy teaching it—and we ALL know how I feel about THAT! The unparalleled insight that flows from the pen captivates me. It’s very hard to stop once I start… just like the buffet.

I find direct voice channeling to be the ultimate voyage. I am very fortunate to have a strong, fluid connection with my own Guides. They have my blessing to drop kick my endearing obstinance to the curb and smoothly slip into the driver’s seat. Like mediumship, channeling is certainly not for everyone. But, then again, neither am I. This is probably the foremost explanation as to why I am so comfortable with allowing it to occur.

Every now and again I am fortunate enough to have a student whose passion for channeling rivals my own. An inquisitive nature always wins out over hesitation.

“Sometimes the best answer is ‘Why the hell not?’” – Unknown

One such individual is April Torres. I first met her when she came to me for a reading at the LBWS Fair in Long Beach, CA, a few years back. She later took my Automatic Writing Class and, despite any good judgment she may have had at one time, she opted to join my weekly Development Circle. I can only assume there were no responsible adults in her life at that time to warn her of this silly choice. The class unanimously felt, after her first gathering with us, she was definitely more than just one of us. She was OURS. She fit flawlessly like bacon on, well, anything. April possesses a natural light that draws Spirit in like tourists to a souvenir stand in the Poconos. Her style of channeling, whether in writing or speaking, naturally flows with ease & grace, peace & humility, warmth & frank familiarity. It is truly a joy to experience.

April is an absolute natural at doing something that IS natural. Most, sadly, just don’t believe it really is within us on some level. That’s why it’s up to those of us who know better to share our knowledge and ‘Their’ truth. Someone’s always bound to listen. April slips unassumingly into channel, with no visual effort. Her already gentle voice gets even more soothing as her demeanor takes on a knowledgeable composure. Her eyes close as one hand raises, gesturing gently, as if adding visual punctuation to the profound statements emitting from within. I honestly do not know which intrigues me more: the audible words or their visual counterpart.

In our weekly development circle, a visit from April’s Spirit Guide, Ivan, is always an enlightened highlight. Ivan’s manner of speaking seems more conversational than anything else. It has an easy, oh-by-the-way manner to it. But, before you know it, you realize you’re being given teachings & insight that will truly stay with (and within) you.

“The one human frailty is lack of courage. When that is changed—permanently within each person—there is no unlearning what has been learned. This is a way to navigate forward. Confidence is built over time. The encouragement of your fellow beings may be the one greatest contribution that you will make in this life. Sometimes the distillation of the events will show a person this essence of what they came to correct. Not everybody will be interested, willing or able to hear in THIS lifetime what will move them forward. Have no expectations of being always able to change the course of someone’s life. That is THEIRS to change! You are merely a vehicle, you are merely a conduit—a medium so-to-speak—and this is enough.” – Ivan

Yup. There’s no doubt about it. April is a natural. She also lays claim to another astonishing gift: art. She wielded her brushes at Disney for 18 years where she was bestowed with the title of The Head Princess Artist. However, she is not one to speak of her accomplishments. She is pretty closed lipped on things like that. She’s far more interested in listening to others. She’s also intrigued by what she can possibly absorb from the experience. She is, from my perspective, an observer. She doesn’t even get too outwardly excited when it comes to Ivan’s powerful phrasings. She just quietly smiles and says, “Yea, Ivan shows me some pretty cool things.” She just leaves it at that. Whether with the strokes of brushes, or the flair of words, she is a natural artist of the eyes and the soul.

The only unnatural aspect about her is her affliction with lung cancer. An affliction that April fought with graceful tenacity. Her uncooperative health does, from time to time, prevent her from attending our weekly class. I often remind her that she could just mail me my weekly $20 fee if it gives her a sense of normalcy. She just laughs and laughs. She thinks I was kidding. How precious is THAT? When she’s not with us we include a group healing in our curriculum. Upon her return, we always inquire how she is feeling. As is her manner, she flashes her gentle smile and simply says, “I’m doing good. It’s all good.”

AprilTorres01On the 29th of her namesake month, it was no longer ‘good’. April walked away from her brave battle, stepping into the next stage of never-ending life. She’s still pursuing her passions in a place of perfection. She is experiencing first hand all she has relayed to so many for so long. The words that leap out at my heart in that sentence are, of course, ‘so long.’ It’s always hard to bid a friend farewell…even when you know you’ll see one another, in some form, again.

At the risk of sounding like a well-ironed cliché, I have to admit that I found myself learning a lot from April. Even more, I’m afraid, than I taught her. Oops. I gotta be careful…she may one day come through to me demanding HER twenty bucks!

This work has proven to me, time and time again, that we do not end. We keep going on and on and on some more. In my soul I know April is just fine. She is whole. She is happy. She is breathing life & love into those remaining here. She has also once again embraced those who trod the path of stars before her own trek home. And she finally got to meet Ivan, soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart, being-to-being. I honestly haven’t a clue whether April or Ivan would have been the most excited about that reunion. I have to admit I am the weensiest bit envious. Not because I want to “return to Spirit”—I like the cheesecake here WAY too much! But I would have loved to have witnessed it. I hope it’s made available on Netflix soon. Until the day when it comes up in my queue, I guess I will just have to speculate how it all went down…

After a long overdue hug, I envision April waving Ivan to a seat. She then places a clean celestial canvas on the easel before her. With a palate of unfathomable colors in one hand and a brush expertly cradled in the other, she flashes Ivan her gentle smile. And, with a self-assured twinkle in her eye, April’s brush dashes across the canvas, scattering a trail of stars as bright and infinite as her soul. “Now, Ivan,” she says softly, “I’d like to show YOU something…”

“Wandering through a wasteland of old souls who are in need of assistance seems overwhelming at times but fortitude of humor is the vehicle for this necessary journey and is perfectly in line with the assignment.” – Ivan

(This is a validating personal message I was blessed to receive from Ivan, through April, in 2015)

*  *  *

The “April Ann Torres Fine Arts Fund” has been established in her memory. Donations may be made to: “The Foundation for Los Angeles Community Colleges” in the name of the April Ann Torres Fine Arts Fund. Please mail checks to:

Foundation for Los Angeles Community Colleges
ATTN: April Ann Torres Fine Arts Fund
9th floor
770 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles 90017

You can also donate online by clicking here:
https://www.giveffect.com/campaigns/4290-april-ann-torres-fine-arts-fund?ref=1&uid=67509

 

 

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