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.



Playing Poker With Tarot Cards


Ironically, I did do Tarot card readings for awhile on eBay, so this ATC with a quote from Steven Wright is a favorite of mine.


If you’ve read my previous post on the Bible Belt and Orthodox Agnosticism, you would understand that this wasn’t something that I trumpeted about to the local citizenry.   

My mother is the one who passed along the ESP gene to me, but it just scared her so she never wanted to acknowledge it much, except for when the phone rang and she knew who was calling.  One thing she did relate to me was that she has a vivid memory of being next to her paternal grandfather’s deathbed.  She can describe what he looked like, with his long mustaches, etc.  The only problem is, she hadn’t been born yet when her grandfather died.  However, her mother was pregnant with her at the time.  My take on it is her soul was there observing the scene.  I tried to delve further into this fascinating “memory” but it freaked her out too much and she didn’t want to discuss it.  She has also awakened from naps on the couch and seen people (often a little girl, sometimes a woman in a hat, once or twice a cat) standing next to her, observing her.  My daughter has dealt with the whole “I see dead people” thing throughout her life and has no interest in developing any talents she has in that realm.

Personally, I have always been interested in stuff like this.  When I was a child there was a program on t.v. called “The Dunninger”—a “mentalist”, if you will,— who used to do feats of ESP every week.  Once he had a card with the name of a tree on it, upon which he concentrated and sent out his thoughts to the folks in the t.v. audience—me included.  My Mom, Dad, and my older brother each gave silly answers.  I closed my eyes and there on the back of my lids was the word “Elm.”  So that’s what I blurted out.  I didn’t even know what an Elm was at the age of eight or nine, but I said it anyway.  Turns out the tree was the Elm.  Everyone looked at me with new regard.  Except my brother, who continued to pound me whenever I came close to the threshold of his room.

I had another encounter with a mentalist in the 1970’s.  This time it was up close and personal.  I was with friends at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California—it was an old mansion in the Hollywood Hills that had been converted into a restaurant and a place for magicians to showcase their talents.  The main room in the basement was like a movie theater with plush seats and a stage.  The headliner was the Amazing Kreskin.  He came out and said he needed a volunteer.  We were sitting in the front row since my friends had been there before and knew it was a prime spot.  I sort of put my head down and kept saying to myself “Don’t pick me, oh please, don’t pick me.”  Having read Kreskin’s memoirs in the years since, this was the worst thing I could have done.  He had to have “heard” me, because I was picked.

I went up on the stage and, to make a long story fairly short, Kreskin wrote a number on a piece of paper and showed it to the audience, but not to me, and then put the paper into a safe which was on the stage.  He then proceeded to mentally project to me a series of numbers which I then wrote down on a slate, the surface of which he couldn’t see.  After I had a long column of numbers written down (which I saw in my mind much the same as I’d perceived “Elm”) Kreskin then asked me to add them up.  Oh, no!  I’m horrible with math and told him he’d picked the wrong person to be doing this.  But I did it (trying not to count on my fingers) and gave him the slate with the sum of all those numbers.  He went to the safe, opened it and took out his piece of paper.  He showed it and the slate to the audience.  The sum was the same on both of them.  I left the stage to riotous applause and when we were walking out I was approached by Morrie Amsterdam (the sidekick on the old Dick Van Dyke Show) who had been in the audience.  He told me how much he enjoyed what had just transpired.  I was hooked.

The Tarot cards I used in my readings were quite lighthearted.  They depicted retro images of housewives and images of food and appliances from the 1950’s rather than the somewhat inscrutable esoteric designs usually found on cards of that type.  For example, the card for the Tower was a towering Jello mold and the one for the Chariot was a station wagon.  The cards themselves don’t have any “power”—they just serve as a vehicle to jump start the psychic process.  You put the question at hand out there and, kind of like using a search engine similar to Google, the answers come to you.  At least that’s how it worked for me.

I did approximately 100 readings before I took my clairvoyant shingle down.  I enjoyed doing them and liked helping people figure out in what direction their lives were headed.  My readings weren’t about a future that was set in stone.  Rather, they were more like little “snap-shots” of what was going in the client’s life and what the possibilities were for the future so they could make some informed decisions. 

My “fee” for each reading was less than five dollars, and sometimes even as little as ninety-nine cents.  (Such a deal!)  I had several repeat clients, and therein lies the rub.  After the initial reading (where I quite often was being tested for veracity) they would come back and want more information and advice; usually love-life questions—although there was one client who came back numerous times to determine which house she and her husband should rent.  I came to the realization that some of these folks were becoming a bit too dependent on me. 

Furthermore, they weren’t listening to the advice that was coming to me from the cards.  One gal was in a lose/lose relationship with an older guy who had a child from his former marriage.  Every reading said that this was going nowhere and she was going to get hurt, but mainly it was her pride and arrogance that stood in the way.  She wouldn’t believe it and kept coming back to find out when he was going to marry her. 

I finally realized that I didn’t have enough detachment from these situations and was allowing myself to become frustrated by the clients’ apparent inattention to what was right under their noses.  Being a reader requires having some emotional distance from the client, kind of like a psychologist.  I shouldn’t have let it bother me whether they accepted the cards’ advice or not, since life is about free will.  The choice was theirs to make.

But it drained the foo out of me.   So I quit.

Maybe I’ll get back into it again sometime, but I doubt that it’ll be any time soon.   Although, I did see a nice refurbished crystal ball on eBay…..