Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tarot Cards: One wild reading

It was harmless fun until the Tarot cards came out.
I’m pretty sure the old Dutch-Indonesian woman was moving the Ouija Board. But I still can’t explain away the cards—not entirely. Her predictions were too specific, too nuanced, too bloody accurate, to be completely dismissed.
Our goofy Ouija session went about how I thought it would go. After a day of cajoling me into using it with her in her Manhattan apartment, we placed our fingers on the rolling indicator, whereupon she fired off pointed questions concerning my life choices she didn’t approve of back then, when I was in my mid-20s. She nodded sagely as the indicator moved to “Yes” repeatedly. I tried to move it to “No” a couple times, but she’d squint at me reproachfully and finger-muscle it back to “yes.”

I won’t use her name here, but this amazing, deeply spiritual woman has been a part of my life since I was four months old. She believes in angels and spirits. She’s had other fascinating friends who do, too. Some, she says, are no longer living but still communicate with her. She survived hardship in the internment camps of the WWII Japanese occupation of Indonesia-- called the Dutch East Indies then--and fled first to Holland with her mother and then alone to New York City, where she still lives. My friends and I used to call her Yoda, partly because she wouldn’t reach five feet on high heels even with her curly hair, but mostly for the sense of otherworldly wisdom she exuded, a connection to a higher cloud of consciousness that rained truth and enlightenment only upon her. She was mostly funny when she'd amble up to us in her cowboy boots and dimpled smile to dispense advice, but she’d been through things we couldn’t imagine, and she wasn’t shy about discussing life’s darker side, either.
This brings us to the cards. Me and my wife’s first time with the cards.

Mine weren’t great. No, they said, you aren’t going to medical school. No, no, no, no, and more no. I was getting annoyed. I took my latex and surgical steel dreams seriously. NO! they insisted. No stethoscope for you! But my health was good, I’d get into another kind of graduate school, and I’d find something else fulfilling to do outside of medicine. True, true, and more true, as it turned out.

But these aren’t the cards I’ve come here to recount.
Despite thinking it was nuts, my wife’s a good sport and she sat down before the old woman and her cards. Though my wife asked seemingly innocent, mundane, inconsequential questions, a heavy cloud hung over them all. No, the cards kept saying, your friends from Finland won’t be coming in two weeks. Why? The old woman worried over this. A child. A child is sick. Are they travelling with a child? Indeed, our friends were bringing their 2-year-old with them. Well, she is going to be sick, and they won’t be visiting next month. And… well, she will be sick.
My wife asked about jobs. Great news! She would get a job within the next month. She had the sun card in both decks, the Waite Tarot and the Madame Lenormand (a lesser-known variation named after the French mystic who used them). Unlikely, stated my wife, because she hadn’t even had a proper interview yet, just an informational interview with a woman doing her dream job at a university that wasn’t hiring; oh, and there was an informal interview with a similar group offering part-time public health research work. The old woman looked at the cards a bit, then said resolutely, Yes, you have met your future employer, two women and a man, and it’s full-time. The old woman declared that she’d get offers from both places, it was absolutely clear. My wife smiled and said that sounded nice, but that she highly doubted it.
Then my wife asked what that cross was in the Madame Lenormand cards. It kept popping up at the periphery of all her questions. The old woman sighed, and chewed her lip.

This cross, it’s following you, she said. I don’t want to scare you, but is that little girl sick? Really sick? This cross, it really follows her. And you—are you sick? And how about someone else? An old man? It’s even following your job question. You’ll get this job, and you will be happy, but there’s still this cross for the girl, for you, for the old man.
My wife got concerned. Her grandfather was very sick at the time. The atmosphere plunged from light to dark in the room. The old woman said not to worry, such cards don’t mean death literally but figuratively, a change of some sorts followed by a new beginning.
Two weeks later, our friends from Finland canceled their visit to us due to their daughter having contracted a terrible flu.  
One week after that my wife received two phone calls. The first was to say good-bye to her grandfather as he lay dying in his hospital bed. He passed away during the call.
 Moments after hanging up, her phone rang again. She looked at it in red-eyed disbelief. Answered it with the sobs still choking in her throat. Thank you, she tried to murmur to the woman offering her a full-time research position at UMass Lowell, virtually out of the blue. She accepted the position.
A day later, my wife was also offered the part-time position.
The weekend after those phone calls, we went snow boarding in Vermont. On the second run of the day, my wife broke her wrist and elbow falling in the icy conditions.
I’ll end the story here, where I hope it indeed ended. More things happened years later that could appear connected to this reading, but I won’t get into here.
I understand the power that vague predictions have over us as we try to link events with signs and omens (read: Nostradamus). Even so. The reading with the old Dutch-Indonesian woman stayed with me. Always will.

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