Ed was a die hard Yankee conservative Republican; a stockbroker/financial analyst who thrived on facts & figures, saw things in black & white with no grey areas, and valued tangible results. Not necessarily a person you would think of immediately embracing concepts as nebulous as ch'i and feng Shui, right? But on closer inspection, Wall Street has its share of superstitious bond traders carrying lucky talismans in the pockets of their Zegna three piece suits. And in Hong Kong, for every fortune made on the Asian stock market, there is a "fortune teller" on the payroll. So, perhaps it is not too big a stretch of the imagination that Ed would find feng shui worth investigating as a tool to help him boost his business. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that his daughter had abandoned a very solid and lucrative career in the fashion industry to become a feng shui consultant. Yes, dear reader, you've surmised correctly: I am Ed's daughter.
When I began the consultation, the first thing Ed told me was that he hadn't had a new "customer" in many years. His client base was built of hard working country folk scattered throughout the state of New Hampshire. Even at the advanced age of 80, Ed spent much of his time not behind his desk, but in his car on the road providing door-to-door service, helping his "customers" understand the intricacies of mutual funds over donuts and coffee in their own kitchens. Because of this, he felt he didn't need or want an ostentatious office. So he shared a small, windowless interior room (the size of most L.A. closets) in an industrial park where the office lessees can book the communal conference rooms, make use of the phone answering service, and have kitchen rights.
He didn't even feel he needed the entire 150 square foot office to himself, so, he invited an old friend and colleague who was an insurance specialist/financial advisor to split the rent with him. The first time I set foot in their cubbyhole I was very pleased to see that my stockbroker father had his desk in the "Wealth" power spot of the room. Unfortunately, the only way it could be positioned was facing the wall with his back to the entry door. This is a classic feng shui faux pas and was compounded by the fact that Ed was hard of hearing; so, this meant he couldn't see or hear who was approaching him as he worked at his desk.
His colleague's desk was in the "Love & Relationship" area and that seemed to be suited to selling insurance to her mostly female clientele. However, there was clutter everywhere and stuff piled behind the entry door so it would not swing entirely open. I could see that their furniture was awkwardly arranged and with a few adjustments I was able to create much more space for them. With my suggestions, my father and his partner were able to balance their office and reported feeling much more comfortable within that claustrophobic space.
Within the next three weeks, Ed told me he had received phone calls from three new clients "out of the blue". The insurance specialist also noticed business picking up. Ed was convinced this was what feng shui had done for him and became one of my most loyal supporters.
In August 2000, my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. From his hospital bed, he asked the doctor point blank how long he had to live. Flustered, the physician blurted out "One month." The next thing my father said was, "Well, I guess this means I will have to retire. I'll have to tell my customers. " He was reluctant to do so and waited another thirty days before actually sending out an announcement!
Dad proved the doctor wrong. My four brothers and I accommodated our schedules to be on hand to help our mother take care of him. However, by mid October it was clear that we would not be able to manage his care at home. Fortunately, yet with mixed feelings of sadness and guilt, we were able to get him a room at Hospice House in Concord, NH (Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association.)
The day Dad became a resident of Hospice House, there were two rooms empty out of the ten rooms. The first thing my dad said to the nurse pushing his wheelchair was that he wanted his feng shui consultant to choose his room for him. He asked the nurse to leave us alone, and I gently wheeled his chair down the hall to the two available rooms.
One of the rooms was located in the "Love & Relationship" area. My first instinct was that this would be the best room. However, when I saw it, I was disappointed and so was my father. This being New England, the autumn days were already short and this room received only morning sunshine. I knew that the afternoons in this space would be bleak and feel very isolated, despite the auspicious positioning of being in the "Love" section. Despite the steady stream of friends, customers, and family that were most definitely going to be there for my father, I was overcome with a feeling of loneliness in this space. Dad's already hunched shoulders seemed to sag further into his wheelchair. The other room was directly across the hall in the "Travel & Helpful People" area. "Let's check it out", I said.
This room had a window overlooking the children's day care center. There was laughter and the sounds of thirty kindergarten kids running around the playground. The parking lot was also visible so that one could see cars coming and going and visitors as they came up the walk. The winter sun was shining in all afternoon. The vibe here, though noisier and not as “private“, felt happier and more lively. In addition, because Dad loved to travel so very much, and was as much a part of his car as his car was an extension of himself, we often called him "The Travelin' Man". What better room for the Travelin' Man than the "Travel & Helpful People" area-
Just as I was about to give my father the head's up, we heard a clattering at the window. Two squirrels were clinging to the window screen and chasing each other away from the birdfeeder placed at the window ledge. Some people might have been annoyed by this, but my father was delighted! We turned to each other and smiled. I told him that this was the most auspicious room for him and my father squeezed my hand in agreement.
Later, those very same squirrels provided hours of entertainment for my Dad, who never tired of watching them (especially when the historic Bush vs. Gore presidential race, which captivated my father's Republican heart, was finally at an end). Dad died on February 5, 2001. His time at Hospice House was about 5 months longer than the doctors anticipated. With a tremendous amount of physical and mental effort, anti-nausea drugs, and personal courage, the Travelin' Man was able to go on three excursions in his car (someone else driving, of course). The last car ride taking place only a couple of weeks before he made his final journey.