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Besides, in this anxiety, am I not admitting something my skepticism denies? A great part of my being concerned about dishonoring my dad, I realize, lies in worry that he might disapprove of my trying to contact him — or, for that matter, any other person no longer alive. But that would mean he still lives in some mode or another that would allow him to still disapprove of me.

Once I make my decision, I try to commit myself as thoroughly as I can to open-mindedness toward everything Meredith will tell me. He has said that he provides all his clients with an audiotape of these, his more thorough, private sessions. Later, after hearing the tape, I can raise all the skeptical questions I want. As a former teacher of philosophy, I am perhaps both the worst and best type of person to give a fair and balanced appraisal of a medium’s work. On the one hand, philosophy represents the most critical component of our learning, while on the other, it encourages a willingness to consider alternatives to normal ways of construing reality.

At a quarter past eight in the morning, I am 15 minutes late for my session, something I explain to Meredith upon arrival — and to myself — as due to heavy traffic on north I-15. When I remembered, while still on the road, that I was losing a portion of the one hour I would pay $75 for, I frantically drove the last winding section of Country Club Drive out of Escondido, past an aromatic chicken ranch, and down a short drop into Harmony Grove’s enclave of oaks.

Meredith owns a house in Harmony Grove, and in a den off to the right of its entrance, we sit down on small divans facing each other over a long, low-lying coffee table. A bonsai tree rests on its surface, and Chinese figurines stand in different niches of the room. Meredith believes that the spirit guide that watches over him is Chinese. I give to Meredith the photograph of my father he has requested I bring with me. As he stares intently at it, I start to get over my initial feeling of preparing to lie back in a psychiatrist’s chair.

He will start with an introduction, Meredith tells me, followed by relaying messages my father wants to give me, and finally providing answers my father has for questions I put to him. Although I expect it later on in the session, I am surprised that Meredith begins his introduction with his eyes closed. At the same time, he moves his dark-haired head vigorously about and speaks loudly, as though addressing a sermon to a large church congregation.

“Over the years in which I’ve been involved in working within the field of mediumship,” he intones, “the people who work with me here from the world of spirit have all tried to get across the point that our life here upon this earth should be viewed as a journey. It is self in search of self, becoming aware…of one’s potential and trying to…bring that potential through interferences like being here in the physical body.…”

But more of these thoughts later. At this moment, I am finding it difficult to pay attention to them, since I want to hear what my father has to tell me. Suddenly the moment arrives and Meredith is saying, “I get the strong impression that your father is very much around and aware of your being here today. As I sense his presence coming in, I feel that this was and is a man that, when he was here in the physical body, he carried a certain aura about him, an aura that people respected, and I also get the impression that some people feared him or were a little bit intimidated.”

And so we begin. Relief envelops me as I detect that there is going to be nothing spooky about this. Although his ecclesiastical manner continues and his eyes (I think) remain shut, Meredith’s speech is otherwise normal. Open curtains allow lots of morning light into the room, and my feet feel a solid connection with the floor.

The major leitmotif of the reading turns out to be that my father is aware of having put, during his physical life, a great emotional distance between himself and other people, including my mother, sister, three brothers, and me. At Meredith’s first words in this direction, my skepticism surges out of its hiding, and I find myself trying to suppress it like Dr. Strangelove grabbing his arm to hold back a Nazi salute. He has drawn on the picture of my father, I think, who, in the photo, sits austerely in a dark suit with his hands folded in his lap. It is one of those photos of a professional man that betrays not a trace of a smile on his face. One similar to it hangs to this day on the courthouse wall in Riverside, where my father sat for 19 years on the superior court bench. At least, I go on commenting to myself, Meredith is not starting with the obvious, which would be to describe a career in the law. Behind my dad in the photo is a bookshelf full of law books.

At the same time that I am harboring these misgivings, it occurs to me that Meredith has read me too, sitting before him in the flesh. “Your father says that you need to be more confident within what you are doing and not, to use my terminology, beat yourself up a lot. You understand? Because he says you tend to go over and over situations. Could this have been done better? Could that have been done differently?”

As he goes on, Meredith asks me, at regular intervals, variations on the question, “Can you verify that?” These moments also seem to bring out the slightest crack between his eyelids, allowing him perhaps to see between them my facial responses to things he is saying. Sometimes I reply in the negative, and then, I notice, the tack of his remarks changes.

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