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Reflections January 2016

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Close Encounter of An Aunt Yetta Kind

By Bill Levine

Their aunt/niece bond was strengthened by Aunt Yetta’s childlessness and Lesley’s recent loss of her mother, Yetta’s baby sister. Yetta’s pure white hair, thick Philly accent and down-to-earth personality reminded Lesley of her mom.

The medium had just relayed this surprisingly succinct message to the audience from someone’s deceased relative: “I’m getting a picture of a dad or granddad shearing sheep.” One of the many ESP aficionados in the audience quickly leapt up, like he had just won bingo. This living son said that he and his late dad had indeed bonded over fleecing. The psychic then went on an other-worldly run, rolling off several family secrets, all of them vetted by the deceased shepherd’s family. Clearly, the medium had gleaned this information from other worldly vibes or, from index cards. But to my wife Lesley and me, it was clear that we had most likely witnessed spot on mediumship. But without Lesley’s connection to her Aunt Yetta, we may been more amiable to chalking up the psychics hits to his expertise in body language, rather than in out-of-body language.

In the early years of our marriage, three decades ago, 20-something Lesley and 80-something Aunt Yetta. were close, despite their two-generation age differential as Lesley had a geriatric practitioner’s ease with seniors. Their aunt/niece bond was strengthened by Aunt Yetta’s childlessness and Lesley’s recent loss of her mother, Yetta’s baby sister. Yetta’s pure white hair, thick Philly accent and down-to-earth personality reminded Lesley of her mom.

While I applauded Lesley’s relationship with her favorite aunt, occasionally, their family ties could get too close for my comfort, Like the time a spry Aunt Yetta made us a destination on her power walk of the Atlantic City beach. Lesley and I were basking in newly married glow, mesmerized by the impressive sin-city swath of sand that was as expansive as the guts hanging over tourists’ Speedos – and contemplating the endless bright horizon of our future. Yetta immediately took Lesley aside and huddled with her in intense whispered conversation, killing our romantic moment. After Yetta left, I asked Lesley what the hush hush was about. Lesley sheepishly said that it had something to do with her aunt’s gynecological problems and Uncle Izzy, Yetta’s husband. Right then this niece/aunt bonding was too close for my comfort, but several years later. Lesley and I were both comforted and shocked by this familial love.

Our Atlantic City excursions stopped in the mid-‘80s, but Lesley kept in close contact with Yetta by mail. There was. though. one other vacation a couple of years later, where just like on the AC beach we unexpectedly ran into Yetta. We were in Ottawa staying at our friend’s house. I was heading towards REM land when Lesley unapologetically woke me up; it was critical that I be her witness. “I just saw Aunt Yetta and she was crying. I think maybe she’s dead.”

I was a reluctant witness “You were probably just dreaming.”

Les was a little indignant. “No, no, this wasn’t a dream, I’m sure something bad has happened to her.”

Of course when we returned home, we immediately called family members, who said that rumors of Yetta’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Lesley’s psychic career had apparently burned out quicker than a cheap séance candle. A couple of days later, though, Aunt Yetta’s husband, Uncle Izzy died. Aunt Yetta did not constantly cry for the next couple of years, like her ethereal doppelgänger in Ottawa, but her second-wife status did put in serious monetary conflict with her stepchildren after her husband’s death. For Lesley and me, Yetta’s communication in Ottawa was ten times more astounding than that modern miracle of instant connection, the telex. To this day we believe that Yetta’s love of Les jumped time and space to warn us that something bad was about to happen to her.

Back to the seance. Earlier in the evening, the “other side” seemed to be a giving the medium a lot of static, setting him on a fishing expedition with a targeted middle-aged female audience member. I forgot his actual line of questioning but it grew more desperate being the equivalent of: “Does the female name Jean mean anything to you. No, Ok how about ‘G-e-n-e’. No, OK how about Levi jeans, did anyone wear them? Does anyone in your family splice genes” Lesley and I could have right then dismissed the medium as a word association charlatan, but we both figured the woman just didn’t have an Aunt Yetta/Lesley-like transcendent relationship to spark communication in a non-temporal dimension. In other words a medium’s little helper. 


Bill Levine is an IT professional, aspiring humorist and confirmed freelance writer from Belmont, Massachusetts.

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