Pondering the Pavement

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

 

December 1, 2016

The Magnitude of Gratitude

“Thanksgiving is an emotional time.
People travel thousands of miles to be with people they see only once a year.
And then discover once a year is way too often.”
— Johnny Carson

49339309 - thank you comic bubble retro text pop art styleThis Thanksgiving didn’t stand out over any other—at least on the surface. I spent it by myself, which is ALWAYS my preference. Yes, I am a loner, as most of you know. But the main reason for this holiday isolation of mine is two-fold. First: I don’t have to share leftovers with anyone. Those turkey milkshakes are ALL mine, baby! Secondly: I don’t have to bathe. It’s a Win/Win all around. Sure, I made a few obligatory calls to family (curse you Alexander Graham Bell for this disruption in my expert flow of pie consumption!). The calls were well-timed so all were about to sit down to eat their own gluttonous meals. Therefore, the calls were short, concise, over & done so I could get back to adding even more whipped cream to the pile atop what I had already dubbed “Mt. Pun’kinPie.”

I always go through my check list of gratitude in this current year and life. Again, it’s something I prefer to do on my own. It’s just my way. Once upon a time, I foolishly spent Thanksgiving with friends when I still lived back east. They actually went around the table exclaiming their thanks ALOUD for review (and, we all know, judgment). My turn brought forth a simple, yet sincere, “Microwave ovens.”

After a beautiful, blissful sliver of silence, someone took the bait and asked, “Why are you thankful for microwaves?”

“Because we’ll have a way to quickly reheat all of our food,” I said. “This ritual is taking far too long and the food is getting cold.”

No, I wasn’t invited back the following year, which was, of course, my plan all along. The best part is they gave me a leftover platter to take home. SCORE!

Admittedly, this year has been a roller-coaster of a ride. It has been quite the amusement park for many of us, I’m sure. Losses, gains and, my favorite, some good ol’ fashioned status-quos. I enjoy the even-keel days. There are so few of them anymore so I try to savor them, like that last morsel of stuffing on your fork at the end of a holiday meal.

I always joke (somewhat) that I am fortunate enough to meet some really awesome dead people. Their dispositions are always pleasant, joyful and refreshing (especially after dodging flying Nike shoes amidst a Black Friday Apocalypse). But I have to say, I am SO blessed to have some of THE greatest clients imaginable. I learn and experience SO much through them. Every now and then, someone will reach out with a simple message of appreciation, inspiration and even motivation. Interestingly, these “out of the blue” (wink-wink-nudge-nudge) missives arrive at just THE best time. Proving, once again, it IS all orchestrated. Sometimes we forget to tap our foot along with the music.

For example, I was recently feeling a bit unsure about my life’s path in general. Questioning it is scheduled regularly on my Google Calendar. It happens to us all so no big whoop, right? Well, as I snuggled oh-so-contentedly in my comforter made of equal parts down and doubt, I received this unsolicited email from a client:

“I’ll always know you are a refreshingly very frank, humorous, tender-hearted, innocently gifted and sensitive medium just trying to manage your world and talents in the best way you can, being of service to people, and following an honorable code and method.”

Needless to say, I’m most grateful for her kind words AND the ideal universal timing of their arrival.

While I’m on the subject, I am always appreciative of the exchanges within any reading, private or platform, that I am privileged to perform as well. Each and every one presents a learning opportunity for me. Even the ones that do not meet my fanatical standards. Spirit always, without fail, will pass along lessons of insight, love, healing, encouragement, understanding and, of course, laughter in whatever mixture they see fit. They demonstrate the brightest of lights in the deceptively darkest of times. The ultimate night-light. Those who sit before me will—more times than not—serve up a buffet of eye-opening coaching as well. Just hand me a spork and a Wet-Nap and I’m set for a fine-ass meal of enlightenment with a side of finely chopped slaw.

There is a unique mixture of gratitude and fascination when it comes to group platform readings. Group readings, in my experience, always have a theme to them. Forgiveness, suicides, loss of a child, guidance, misunderstandings—you name it. I once conducted a crowd filled with a cluster of spirits who LOVED to bake! Needless to say, everyone was starving by the end of that one! You’re wondering what could possibly be “learned” from a batch of bygone bakers, aren’t you? Well, try these on for size: a reminder to do something you love. Remembering the sweetness of life. Rising to the occasion. You’re the co-creator of your own destiny. The list of ingredients go on-and-on. See it as you wish. Make a point to serve up what is best for YOUR best.

Another no-brainer, which is great for us but not so much for a band of zombies with the cranial munchies.

There’s always something to be thankful for within the mechanics of the tidings Spirit allows me to share. I have to say, however, this recent Thanksgiving served up a refreshingly large reminder of gratitude. Not so much in what I do BUT those that I encounter along the other 364 daze of days. I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with a student/client/friend just two days prior to Let’s Wear Belt Buckles On Our Hats Day. She had just completed her first Spirit Guide class with yours truly. For some reason, this shattering of her eardrums didn’t deter her from swapping ideals over pancakes and scrambles in a public forum. Yea, it struck me as odd, too, but who can really understand women?

Oh, dear. That was a tangent, wasn’t it?

I have read her several times over the years. After awhile you do develop a bond, an understanding, with long-term clients. You get a better understanding of them as a person through their own actions & reactions to just about anything. People, living or living impaired, never cease to amaze me with their ability to surprise and astound. This oddly timed brunch was certainly no exception.

When you spend any time with any medium, ‘death’ is bound to pop up in idle chit-chat. It’s the nature of the beast. She and I have known one another long enough to just let the conversation flow where it needs to go. She told me of her own life, in and out of the realms of her own metaphysical interests and gifts. I always enjoy discovering new aspects of people. I already knew she had lost both of her parents by the age of 21. It just doesn’t seem right, does it? Someone so young should not have to face such losses. Events of that magnitude are bound to leave holes. Holes, I am sure, that are not easy to fill. Honestly, to unearth this piece of her background, the subject has to be broached. Otherwise, you’d never know it by merely observing. It’s masked in the same incognito way that you’ll never suspect which of my pockets is stuffed with cheesecake unless you really pay attention.

I lied. The cheesecake never lasts long enough to make it into a pocket. Curse those tangents…

browneyesonlyShe stared at her slowly shrinking stack of pancakes for a moment in silent reflection. Then she turned her deep, dark, doe-like eyes up at me. Her eyes met mine with a silent force that, quite frankly, pushed me back into my seat a bit. It was gentle, straightforward and purity at its finest. She didn’t just look AT me, you see. She looked right into me and I FELT it. You don’t forget gazes like that, you know? You rarely see them seeing you. She flashed her naturally easy smile and said, oh-so-simply, “I often see the loss of my parents as a great gift.” This was something I did NOT know about her. I’m sure the subtle raising of one eyebrow gave away both my bewilderment as well as my nerdish desire to one day channel Leonard Nimoy. She continued, “It was their loss that led me to my path of spirituality. It really did change EVERYTHING.” Her warm smile never wavered as she said, “I’m so grateful for that. Every day I am grateful.”

Well, shut my pie-hole. Talk about a powerful statement. I greatly admire anyone who can turn a negative into a positive. But this one really takes the cake, or the pancake as the case may be. I am a firm believer in the fact that all that we go through is what leads us to who and where we are today. It’s our individual choices that carve it in stone. Some choose a higher path, others take the tunnels leading to what they believe will be an expressway of sorts. Welcome to the Free Will Toll Road, fellow drivers. Turn on your headlights and make sure you’re reading the signage up ahead.

I can relate to the loss of parents, but in a totally different way. As an adoptee, I lost my parents before I even knew they existed. I lost my adoptive father through divorce and then death when I was 6. At age 33 I finally met my biological mother and father only to lose them after 18 and 22 years respectively. My Bastard Heritage certainly carved out a large part of who I am. It’s a huge part of me and I am proud! I’ve always said I was a bastard before being a bastard was cool. I believe it even helps me with aspects of my mediumship. I’ve always been a rather detached person for the most part. I connect that with my ability to easily push emotion aside in order to make the connections required for any session. However, unlike my lunch companion, I have always had a parental figure of some sort within reach. She had lost both of hers before I had even found the second string of my own. And here she was, unequivocally stating, that this double barreled loss has emerged as a blessing.

She filled the holes in her heart, her spirit. But not with sorrow or self-pity. Oh, no. She filled them with seedlings from which great trees and beautiful flowers have grown. Her intention was to fill the darkness with something reaching for, and living within, the Light.

If that’s not a lesson in gratitude, pal, then I don’t know what is. I am so thankful for such a powerful reminder as well as a chance to share it with each of you. Cherish and be thankful for it all: what was, what you’ve made it and where it will possibly lead you tomorrow. Losses are NOT permanent. Love IS permanent. When situations are getting you down keep reminding yourself that this, too, shall pass… just like a gravy boat.

Thanks for… well, you get the gist.

 

 “I want to say thank you to all the people
who walked into my life
and made it outstanding,
and all the people
who walked out of my life
and made it fantastic.”
– Author Unknown (but certainly appreciated!)

Copyright © 2016, Charles A. Filius

 

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