57

It’s Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile…Or Is It?

Recently I wrote about my brother-in-law receiving a “sign” from his wife on the day she passed away, letting him know she was safe and that he could move on with his life.

I’m a big believer in things like this, even though I’m not what you’d call a religious person.  See my post “The Orthodox Agnostic” for the particulars.  Even so, I do believe we are connected to the spirit world.

I used to do Tarot card readings by email years ago and had close to one hundred of them under my belt before I took down my shingle, not because I wasn’t helping people but because too many folks had become dependent on me for advice.

The cards weren’t “powerful” or “magic.”  My view of them is they’re similar to a search engine.  You ask your questions and the answers pop into your head while you look at the cards.  I’d hazard a guess that if folks in biblical times could have seen someone using Google, they would have stoned them for heresy.

It’s the same with signs from the dearly departed.  My late father used to leave feathers for me over at my mother’s house as a way of telling me he appreciated what I was doing for her.

But my mother has been gone these past nine months and I hadn’t really received anything that I could definitively point to and say it was from her.  I chalked it up to the fact she always, always hesitated to try anything new because she had this fear she would somehow make a mistake and screw it up.

So I asked that she and my dad get together on this and let me know they were, indeed, together again.  A joint metaphysical effort, if you will.

And this time I asked for something quite specific.

The “sign” would be an Oldsmobile from the late 1940s or early ’50s like the one my parents had when I was a kid.  It was a light baby blue and the car my mother used when she learned to drive at the advanced age of about 35.  I remember lying in the backseat (no seat belts, of course) getting kind of nauseous from going around and around in an empty parking lot as my mother practiced her driving under my father’s tutelage.

This sign could come in any form—verbal, pictorial or written.  Didn’t matter.  I just knew that if I encountered it in some way, that would be it.

A couple of weeks went by and I gave the sign only occasional thought.  The thing about it is—you really can’t go “looking” for it.  It has to come unexpectedly, which is part of the thrill of having one turn up.

So, I was at our local park having lunch after one of my exercise classes and decided, on a whim, to walk around a bit in town and look at some of the shops.  We don’t do this nearly often enough because I’ve found that living in what is essentially a tourist town tends to make hermits out of us locals.  We go out of our way to avoid driving or parking on the main drag because it’s just that—a drag.  Consequently, we only do the “tourist” thing ourselves sporadically.  And it’s a shame because we have some great shops.

I’d gone up one side of the street and was almost down to the corner of the other side where I would go back across to the park, when I decided to go into a shop that I’d enjoyed in the past but hadn’t visited in a while.  It had an eclectic mix of stuff I like—funny, quirky and artsy-fartsy. I wandered in a counter-clockwise pattern from the door and found myself in front of a display of Christmas ornaments and decorations.  It was now September but I knew this display was kept up all year.

Last year, about a month before my mother passed away on Dec. 22, someone broke into a storage unit where we were keeping a lot of our stuff while we prepared to move from our place out in the country to our new house in town.  Luckily, this unit was the “overflow” one of the two we had and it didn’t have a lot in it of value.

However, the thieves made off with all of my Christmas decorations and ornaments, ones I’d had for fifty years or more.  Irreplaceable things my kids had made, or I had made when they were small, and old ornaments belonging to my late in-laws; also some my mother had when she was young.  Gone, too, were my daughter’s red baby socks with white pom poms on each cuff from her first Christmas when she was just a month old.

Yeah, Mr. Grinch.  I’m lookin’ at you.

I stood wistfully in front of the display.  I couldn’t have a Christmas tree last year because of the pilfered ornaments and my other holiday decorating was somewhat listless and not really in the spirit of things.  Understandable, given the situation with my mother.  So I gazed at the ornaments and gradually discovered that a lot of them looked like the old ones I’d lost.  They were undoubtedly new, but they were “antiqued” to look old and some were reproductions of the old Shiny Brite brand of which I had quite a few, thanks to my in-laws.  There was a wreath made with these “old” ornaments that was remarkably similar to my dear, departed decorations.  Even though I couldn’t take all of them with me, it felt like a reunion of sorts.

As I turned and started to walk back toward the door, I spotted a standing display of knitted Christmas stockings.  Each stocking was nearly two feet long.  My stocking from when I was a kid only came up to mid-calf on me.  It was red and white striped cotton and kind of grubby, but I’d kept it for over 60 years until it also disappeared with the rest of my things.

When I looked at the cuff on these new stockings, I found they had the same Santa figure standing in front of the fireplace saying “Merry Christmas” just like mine did.  Probably a pretty popular design from that era, but it strengthened the feeling of being reunited with my lost belongings.

I sighed and turned back toward the front of the shop.  A few steps away were some revolving racks with greeting cards.  These were all from independent card companies, not Hallmark, and they had vintage black and white photos on the front with funny sayings inside.  I picked up a couple and had to laugh.  Then, I picked up one that had a car with two ladies in ’50s attire standing proudly next to it.  I did a double take.

“Seriously?  An Oldsmobile?”

The car, although a convertible, was shown in three-quarter view with the rear end facing the viewer.   The iconic Rocket 88 insignia on the trunk unmistakably proved it was an Oldsmobile from the era I’d requested.  The photo was in black and white but the car was light colored—perhaps baby blue?

The impact of this encounter didn’t really hit me until the next day when I had an email exchange with my son in California.  He’d sent me a photo of the spot in the Pacific where he’d scattered my mother’s ashes, as per her wishes.  I half-mentioned that I’d received a sign from my folks and in several back and forth emails I finally told him about the Oldsmobile.  He said, “Oh, now I get it…I’m scared…but I get it.”

I’m not sure if he’s scared for my sanity or scared about the general “woo-woo-ness” of the experience.   Probably both.

Anyway, my folks came through for me (thanks to Dad) and maybe now I can feel better about moving on.

It may not have been my mother’s Oldsmobile, but it was good enough for me.

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18

He’ll Leave the Light on for You

About three years ago my sister-in-law, Tammy, underwent a double lung transplant at a hospital in San Francisco.  She suffered from IPF, or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that causes the lungs to become much like a dried sponge, making it all but impossible to breathe.  The transplant was her only hope.

The operation went well, but over the course of the next couple of years there were setbacks from organ rejection and a throat cancer that had been lying dormant prior to the surgery, which then went into overdrive as a result of the immunosuppressive drugs taking the “brakes” off its growth.

My brother-in-law, Steve, was with her every step of the way through all of this and deserves sainthood for his devotion.  They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past year, although the hospital was not the place where they thought they’d be doing it when they envisioned that landmark.

Time ran out for Tammy on August 12, and she quietly and peacefully passed away.  Steve had emailed the family and their many friends the sad news, but he also said that he’d received a “sign” from Tammy the evening of her passing which he hesitated to relate because some folks might think he’d really “lost” it.  So he asked that those who wanted to hear the story should email him.  Here is what he sent.  Enjoy.

“OK, here’s the deal.  I know I said I would only send the Tammy “sign”  story to those who wanted it.  Many of you said you did and I  wrote your names down on a yellow sheet of paper.  If anyone can tell  me where that paper is now, I would much appreciate it, because I can’t  find it anywhere.  So I’m sending it to everyone on Tammy’s lists.  If  you don’t want to hear about Tammy’s “sign”, then please close your eyes until  it’s over.
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As we spent our last days at the hospital, multiple people including  doctors and nurses told me that I would most likely get a sign from her  when the time came.  They had heard of it many times and because we seemed  to be so close it would probably happen for me.  I asked what the sign  would be and all said “it depends”. “She will pick it and you will know.”   So of course I started to ponder what it might be.  About two weeks  earlier I had gone out the front door in the morning and noticed our front porch  light was on.  It’s not supposed to be on during the day because it’s  controlled by a sunlight sensitive base.  I just looked at it and said  “I’ll have to fix you later”.  On the way to the hospital it  occurred to me that maybe it was serving as a “light in the window” hoping  she could make it home again.  Anyway it stayed on night and day for  several weeks.
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At about 6:15pm on the day Tammy died, I had just finished sending the  emails to you folks and I walked back down the hall.  I went to the dining  room window and it looked like the porch light was off.  So I went  out on the porch and sure enough it was off.  As I watched, it blinked  three times and then stopped.  I waited a bit and then said “Thank you,  Honey, I guess you’re OK”.  It blinked one more time and then stayed  off.  I looked out again after it was dark and the light was back on.  P.S. I had not been drinking – yet.
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As of today the light is still on.  As I reflected on  what had happened, I remembered our taking kids home from our house over  the years.  Whether it was a Baby-Sitter, Boy/Girl Scout, Job’s Daughter,  School Band Member or Dungeons and Dragons player, we would always ask them to  blink their porch light three times if they were in OK and everything  looked safe.  Then we knew it was OK to move on.  So I guess  she’s in and she’s safe and I’m going to have to figure out how to move  on.  By the way, after the front porch light blinked, I looked up  and saw that the bright sun was shining behind the tree in our front  yard and the tree was waving in the breeze.  That could scientifically  explain why the light blinked, but why just then and what drew me to see  it?  That part I have to leave to your beliefs.
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You can open your eyes now.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to  it.”
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