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"A Spiritual Experience"

The back country road led to Cassadaga, the Spiritualist center. 
We turned right at the old hotel and threaded through the little lane 
that winds past the church and around Spirit Lake. 
Not a living soul was out in the afternoon heat.

I'd been here before to do a series of articles, 
and was well past the stage of being spooked. But I was nervous today. 
I was here for my first "reading" with a medium.
It wasn't ghost fear I had, but fear of letdown. 
I had tried to be open-minded, I just didn't believe in talking spirits.
As our tires brushed to a stop against the high curb under the Spanish moss, 
I was preparing myself for disillusionment. 
I looked at the small countrified house and was already pre-hearing the vague, 
but tricky generalizations that fortune tellers are known for. 
I was going to have none of it! 
No table thumping either.

First of all, I thought, if the medium does actually contact dead people, 
my dad, John, and my grandparents, Clair and Ethel, would surely try to reach me.

I tried not to look suspicious as Mae Graves Ward led me into her pleasant little 
reading room and invited me to sit in the old rocker in front of her desk. 
Before I sat down she said, "John is here".

"I know it's a common name", she apologized, "but there's a man named John here. 
Do you know him?"

John then proceeded to recap our lives together, 
making comments on things I'd done since his departure. 
He joked around a little, in his way, and sent greetings to my mother,
although he knew she wouldn't believe it.

The sun came through the white lacy curtains as Mrs. Ward continued to 
doodle with a pencil on scrap paper and cheerfully relay messages from the other side.
"Did your father have a younger sister who passed away very young?" she asked. 
I said no, a little embarrassed at her mistake.
"Well", she smiled, "We can't win 'em all. This young girl is here anyway. 
She seems to be about twelve years old, and her name starts with an 'Ro'. Maybe Roberta."
"I don't know who she is", I said.
She came a little too close for comfort with my grandparents. 
Right on the money. And she introduced a lot of other people. 
Most I recognized, a few I didn't...

I left the five dollar donation, said goodbye, and returned to the car in a daze. 
Misty asked how it went. 
I said, "I can't talk about it just yet. I have to try and digest all that just happened."
The sun was setting and the fishing boats were coming in as we crossed the St. Johns River bridge,
and I began to talk.
And I went over it again later for my mother's benefit, as we sat around the dining table.
"But the medium missed a couple of things", I said. 
"For instance, she asked if Dad had a sister named Roberta who died young."
"Her name was Rosie", my mother told me. "She died at twelve years old."

Copyright  Jack Blanchard.


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