Cashing Spirits in at the Casino

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!” ~ Henry Scott Holland (1847 – 1918)

Over the Labor Day weekend, Frank, Arla and I decided to test our luck. With money in hand, we drove one Sunday evening to the local casino, in hopes to walk out as millionaires! However, we would be satisfied if we left as dollarnaires!

Once at the casino, each of us headed into a different direction and soon settled into our favorite slot machine, where we began the process of watching those reels roll before our eyes, one stopping after another in hopes of seeing ‘BIG WIN!” appear on our slot machine. A while later, I hear Frank say over my shoulder, “I suck! I’m getting my ass whipped!” This is Frank’s usual announcement that he’s not winning and the slots are taking all his money. Frank, as he always does, decided to walk around the casino to watch others at their lady luck. Frank finds himself in front of the Baccarat table and, although watching intently, he doesn’t understand how the game is played. He continues to watch the call man shuffle out the cards, studying intensely trying to figure out the concept, when a woman, who is standing very close to him asked, “Do you know how to play Baccarat?” Frank shared with her that he doesn’t understand the game. She begins going over the rules and narrates over the call man’s moves, explaining the game more in detail to Frank. Smiling, Frank shared that he still doesn’t understand the game.

Clipart - Baccarat Table

Not having any luck ourselves, Arla and I decided to move around the casino, looking for another slot machine to play on. The casino was starting to get rather crowded, so finding another machine and sitting there, was the best option. When it was crowded, slots were hard to find and play. Bumping and moving in and around people were becoming mandatory. Walking around, we noticed that Frank was speaking to a woman at the Baccarat table. We didn’t think much of it, as Frank will speak with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Frank has a magnetic personality that will draw anyone with a conversation toward him. I always teased that Frank would talk to a light pole if he knew he could get a response in return. I would always comment to Arla when I see Frank chatting with a stranger… “Awwww, Look. Dad’s making a new friend again!” Maneuvering our way around them, we continued with our quest to find the perfect slot machine while they continued talking.

The hours were passing by. I hit the machine one last time. Whack, clack, clack, clack. I watched the last reel come to a stop, signaling that the last remaining cash I had in the machine was now owned by the casino. I suck and I got my ass whipped! With Arla matching suit, we decided to call it a night. We called Frank to tell him to meet us by the front doors of the casino. We were ready to go home. He said he was on his way.

Arla and I stood by the front door. Watching the main aisle of the casino, we waited for Frank to come strolling by. Standing there for over ten minutes waiting for Frank, we decided to give him another call. “Where are you?!” Answering, he said, he would be right there; he’s on his way. Another five minutes had passed. Finally, Arla and I decided to head to the truck. Not being able to play anymore, we were tired of hearing over the loud speaker, “Another big win!”

Clipart - Slot Machine Big Win

As we settled into the truck, we continued to wait. Both Arla and I wondered what was taking Frank so long. Another five minutes go by and Frank finally came walking out of the casino heading our way. Once inside, we asked, “What in the hell took you so long?!” That’s when Frank proceeded to tell us, “You’ll never believe what just happened to me.”

Not seeing any money clenched in Frank’s fist, I quickly determined that he must be talking about something else. I could tell that he was excited about something and his words, along with his mind, didn’t know where to start. As I’m driving away from the casino parking lot, I can hear in Frank’s voice that he was shaken, almost on the verge of tears.

As I begin to drive home, Frank begins to share the reason that he was detained. He was having a conversation with a woman, the same woman that Arla and I saw him with earlier that evening. Little did Frank know that this conversation would forever change his life and beliefs.

As Frank continued to study the Baccarat table, he finally responded to the woman’s question. “Do you know how to play Baccarat?” The woman asked. As Frank confessed, he noticed that the woman was standing very close to him. “No, I just can’t seem to get the hang of the game and that’s why I stick to the slot machines,” Frank said. “You can win at Baccarat if you study the board,” she said. As she explained the rules, she proceeded to pull out a wad of money that she had stashed in her bra. Showing Frank, she shared that she had just won a thousand dollars playing the table. “How old do you think I am,” she asked next. Frank thought for a moment and assumed she was in her early sixties. Tucking the money back into her bra, the woman announced that she was in her mid eighties, as if she was proud of her looks and age. Frank complimenting her, he shared with her that she didn’t look her age whatsoever. They continued to make additional small talk.  She stood very close to Frank, touching his arm, becoming elbow-to-elbow with Frank. The Baccarat woman slowly turned to Frank, looked him in the eye and asked him one simple question. “Do you have a brother named Eugene?” Surprised by her question, Frank took a step back and said, “Why yes, I do, but he passed away two years ago in a motor cycle accident.” The Baccarat woman replied, “Yes, I know, he’s standing here next to me, to my right and he wanted to say hello.” Frank’s conversation with the Baccarat woman went from a casual one to now a spiritual one.

“If I put my mind to something, it happens. I do know that’s not necessarily psychic. But I always feel like there’s something around me protecting me.” ~ Amy Sedaris

As Frank is telling us what had happened, I heard Arla in the back seat of the truck asking, “Dad, what was her name?” “I didn’t get her name. I mean, I don’t remember, I don’t know, everything happened so fast!” Frank responded. “You mean she was telling you about Uncle Eugene and you didn’t even get her name?” Arla shouted out! As I’m listening to Frank’s story and concentrating on driving home in the darkness, even I piped in and asked why on earth didn’t he get her name? “Why didn’t you call me?” “Does she do this for a living?”

As Frank continued with his story, I can tell that he was wound up and he was very animated. The Baccarat woman’s question left Frank stunned. Of all the names he could have heard, it had to be his late brother Eugene’s, the brother he was the closest with, the brother that he had recently lost, the one he missed dearly. As the noise of the casino floor continued around them, Frank decided to ask his own question, “Do you have the gift?” “Yes, I do. I am a medium,” she replied, “but I don’t charge for it”. The woman, who was now in need of a cigarette, wanted to go to the smoking room, where she asked Frank to go with her. Frank shared that he doesn’t smoke, but she commented that she wouldn’t be long. Besides, it gave them a chance to be away from the noise of the casino floor. Frank followed her. Sitting in the smoker’s room, the Baccarat woman lit up a cigarette and continued her reading with Frank, not so much in a question format, but more as a matter of fact, as she was sure of herself and the messages that she was receiving from the other side.

The Baccarat woman proceeded to share with Frank that Eugene’s accident was of a bizarre nature and that Eugene was actually going very, very slow at the time that his motorcycle left the roadway, not speeding as people would have suspected, especially by his injuries she felt he had. Frank validated this. She went on to ask Frank if he smoked Pot. Frank said no and because of his job, he couldn’t. She confirmed that Eugene did, and a lot, when he was in Vietnam. Frank’s now trying to figure out how she knew he was in Vietnam. The Baccarat woman then told Frank that Eugene use to have a cat. However, this cat was different she said. It was a fat cat, an extremely over weight cat. A cat that was like 40 pounds fat. As Frank sat there, he validated that it was true. He told her that Eugene use to have a cat and the cat’s name was Sylvester and that yes the cat was huge. She confirmed with Frank that Eugene use to wear glasses, but not anymore. She said, “ Eugene no longer wears glasses because Heaven is perfect and there’s no need for glasses there.”

Arla and Sylvester 1

Sylvester the Fat Cat

Arla and Sylvester 2

The Baccarat woman asked Frank, “Who is Steve? Eugene is with someone named Steve.”

When Eugene had passed, Frank and I were looking up old friends of Eugene’s in hopes that we could connect with them to share of Eugene’s passing. However, while looking up online, we had discovered that his friend, Steve K. also passed, but years before Eugene did. Frank and I felt this was the Steve that she was referring to. Confirming with the Baccarat woman that Eugene use to ride with a friend named Steve, she, too, felt that this was the same person Eugene was with.

I heard Arla from the backseat of the truck, “Mom, turn around, you have to go back!” “Let’s see if we can find her.” Arla said this more than once. Looking into my side mirror, I checked my lane for traffic. I was contemplating to go back to the casino to find the Baccarat woman, to see what she was all about, to see if she was real, to meet her myself. In a split decision, I almost did, but I decided to move on, heading home while Frank continued telling us his unbelievable story.

“I look up to the sky and talk to you. What I wouldn’t give to hear you talk back. I miss your voice, I miss your laughter, I miss everything about you!” ~ Author Unknown

Frank couldn’t believe that what the Baccarat woman had said was all true. He verified that everything she was telling him was all facts. Frank wanted to send a message to Eugene. Frank had asked the Baccarat woman to give Eugene a message, that his family missed him and that we all loved him so very much. She shared the message and had one in return. “Tell everyone that I am fine. I am doing well and I am just fine,” Eugene said. The Baccarat woman also went onto tell Frank that Eugene said to keep doing what he’s doing, in his job, and in his life.

By now, Frank was in a complete spiritual shock. He was trying to figure out how she knew all of this information. He knew he never saw this woman before and even at one point thought, did she personally know Eugene herself? Perhaps, she thought he was Eugene, as all the Morin boys tend to look alike. Frank decided to accept her gift as a spiritual intervention and that Eugene was letting him know that he had made it to heaven and that he was doing well and just wanted to check in.

The Baccarat woman also shared other pieces of information that Frank wasn’t too sure about and didn’t have an immediate response to. She asked if he knew women by the names of Candace, as well as Sue, but these names didn’t sound familiar to Frank nor his family when asked. Nobody could make the connection. Sue was also saying hello to Frank and even commented the Baccarat woman that Sue really liked Frank.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the night before we went to the casino, Frank said that he had spoken to Eugene’s wife, Carol. Carol went to the bank to take some things from the security box. There, inside, she found Eugene’s watch. She felt that Frank would like to have it and this was the reason they had spoke that evening, the night before the casino.

Eugene may not have been there in Frank’s physical world that Sunday evening, but I do believe that Eugene was there, sharing facts, in spirit. The Baccarat woman could have shared any other name when asking Frank about a brother, but she didn’t. She mentioned the name Eugene. I believe this was a sign that Eugene was near and he wanted to make contact. Perhaps, Frank thinking of Eugene and encountering the medium at the casino was the most opportune time for Eugene to connect with Frank, to let him know he was near and always will be.

Even though Frank didn’t walk away with a “big win” and lots of cash that evening, I feel he did walk away as a millionaire in other ways, which was won through knowledge, validation and contentment.

I believe that our friends and family who have passed on are always with us, in our minds, our lives, our hearts. They share messages with us all the time, however, our eyes and mind must be open to receive. They may appear in the form of a fluttering butterfly, that special cologne they always wore or that special song that suddenly appeared on the radio.

We are never alone and we will never forget. They are our guardian angels, our protectors, our confidants. I know the reading wasn’t meant for me that evening nor was it meant for Arla. Therefore, it didn’t matter if we turned back or not. Simply, it was a message meant for Frank. Two souls who were meant to make a connection that evening. In some giant way, I hope that Frank’s message from his brother, Eugene, has shown Frank that life can be kind, joyous and full of love, regardless of the hardships that we may face in our daily lives or the loved ones that we may have lost. These learning lessons are what make us stronger; the people we are today, they are a part of life’s struggles and, if we have faith, hope and love, especially from others, then we can conquer the world regardless of what stepping stones are thrown in our path. I pray that Eugene’s message has enlightened Frank’s heart, opened it up where he can learn to love and be happy again. I’m hoping that this is the message that Frank needs in order to see beauty and peace, not only in the world, but all around him, to open his heart to kindness, to see all love that surrounds him.

“There is no death, only a change of worlds.” ~ Duwamish, Native American Indian Tribe

Eugene with Frank in Kitchen

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Remembering Halloween

Kids trick or treating

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” ~ Dr. Ben Carson, Neurosurgeon

It was the early 1970’s and my family and I grew up poor, but I didn’t realize how poor we were until the holidays approached us. We weren’t a family that had stacks of gifts lined up underneath the tree at Christmas time or a table full of delicious delicacies at Thanksgiving, with different entrees or desserts ready to be eaten, nor did we celebrate birthday parties with our friends, acknowledging another year older.  But, like most kids, Halloween was one of our favorite holidays.  It was our chance to get a treat, free candy, and all we had to do was knock on a few doors, say a few words, and candy would be tossed into our bags like riches.  However, this particular Halloween would be different than the others and it will be a part of my past that will always be embedded into my memory forever.

My brothers, Steve and Jeff, and I didn’t have Halloween costumes that year, which meant no trick or treating for us.  We knew there were no plans for us to go from block to block, building to building, door to door, shouting those three infamous words that would give us lots of candy, filling our bags to heaviness.   I was about ten years old and my younger brothers and I were waiting for my mother and Melvin to come home, with Halloween candy, we hopped, so that we could at least pass it out to the kids who did have plans to haunt that night.

It was becoming darker and darker and mom and Melvin were still not home.  I knew what it meant when it became dark outside on Halloween night; the trick-or-treaters would soon be knocking on our door.  Unfortunately, we had no candy to hand out to them and I was starting to feel bad.

Prop 2

We lived in an apartment building on Sheffield Avenue, just off Montrose in Chicago. Our building had had three floors, with several apartments on each side of the building. I shared with Steve and Jeff that we had no candy to give to the trick or treaters, but if I dressed them up they could go gather enough treats within our own building so we would then have at least few treats to hand out until mom came home.  I knew we would never be allowed to leave our building, traveling the neighborhood, so I told my brothers that they could only trick-or-treat, collecting candy, within our own building.

“One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.” ~ George Elliot

Scary Shadow

I decided to dress Steve up first, but as what…  Not having any Halloween costumes of our own, we suddenly had to be creative as to what Steve could be.   Looking around our apartment, I asked Steve to put some of Melvin’s clothes on which, obviously, were too big.  Disheveling Steve’s hair from left to right, he started to look like something out of a cartoon. With mom and Melvin being smokers, I took ashes from the ashtray and spread them all over Steve’s cheeks, around his chin and under his nose, making him look as if he had a three-day beard.  Taking a cigarette butt from the ashtray and placing it into his mouth, Steve’s costume was suddenly born!  Steve was transformed into a bum!  Not bad, I thought.

Steve hobbled to the front door, wearing Melvin’s oversized shoes, holding onto his pants with one hand and his pillow case for a candy bag with the other. I felt that we created a pretty good costume, convincible, as he went to ask for Candy, not for himself, but for the kids who would soon be knocking on our door.

Prop 1

Steve went to all three floors, from apartment to apartment, collecting as many Halloween goodies as he could. Once Steve returned home and looking into his pillowcase, I knew that he didn’t have enough candy that would last the evening.  Looking at my brother, Jeff, it was becoming apparent that I would have to dress him up as well.  Once again, looking around our apartment for ideas, we soon came up with a costume for Jeff to wear.  Taking some of mom’s make up; a little lipstick to paint his nose red, some eye makeup, along with some of mom’s mixed matched clothes, Jeff was transformed into a silly looking clown.

It was now Jeff’s turn to enter the hallway of goodies.  Going from door to door, I was hoping that he would collect enough candy for the evening.  Moments later, Jeff returned, but still not having enough candy to hand out. Any moment, I knew kids would be knocking on our door yelling, “Trick or Treat!”

Steve excitingly volunteers to go one more time.  Surely, he felt as if it was more like a game instead of a dire mission to collect Halloween candy for other children.

Taking another glance around, we came up with the idea of making him look like a hobo.  To be completely honest, there wasn’t much of a difference between Steve’s first costume, which was a bum, to his second costume, which was now a hobo. They both looked the same, no matter how much we tried to change!  However, being young kids, with very few resources, ideas were limited, and we were really hoping that nobody noticed.

Bats

Opening the front door, Steve is quick on his way as he ventures out for his second journey through the building in search of candy. It was almost as if he was on a race, trying to beat the clock before the buzzer went off.  Steve hurried, knocking on all the doors once more, making his way up to the third floor and winding back down to the first.

Steve finally returns home, where he said that one of the tenants in the building commented that he looked awfully familiar, asking if he had already been there before trick or treating.  Shaking his head no and saying thank you, Steve scurries back home to our apartment to share his bag of Halloween goodies.

Dolls - Negative View

With finally more than enough candy to hand out, we placed all the goodies that Steve and Jeff collected into a kitchen bowl. We all stood over the bowl, as we eyeballed each and every piece of candy.  There were Mary Jane’s, Pixie Sticks and Root Beer Barrels. There were Smarties, too.  Then, there was my favorite, the orange and black peanut butter kisses that everyone seemed to hate. Someone in the building even tossed in a large walnut! What are we going to do with that, I thought.  We decided to keep that treat out of the bowl.

Our trance that we held over the Halloween candy was soon interrupted, as my brothers and I heard a knock at the door.  It was our first trick or treater for the evening!  With smiles on our faces, we grabbed the bowl of treats from the table and ran to the front door.  As if on cue, the little boy in front of us yells, “Trick or Treat!” as we opened the door to greet our Halloween goblin.  As Steve grabbed a piece of candy, tossing it into the treater’s bag, we couldn’t help but to be excited handing out the Halloween candy with delight!

I don’t believe my brothers and I showed any selfishness that particular Halloween afternoon. Not once, did we think of ourselves or why we couldn’t go out and participate in the holiday ritual that so many other children around us were.  It was within the innocence of ourselves that we wanted to share with others. That day, it was all about how we could help and give to others; to a child who was soon to knock at our door, a child who we didn’t want to leave without a piece of candy. We may not have had the opportunity to walk from street to street trick or treating ourselves, but we still had fun creating costumes and collecting and giving candy to others. Perhaps, this is why Halloween today is my favorite holiday of the year and, anyone who knows me, would agree.  It’s a chance where I can create and be expressive and hand out candy to all the goblins that knock on my door.

That Halloween day, we may have been poor in candy, poor in money, poor in life but, I believe overall, we were very rich in spirit.

 

Have a Happy and Bootiful Halloween!

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