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I am a restless writer of fiction, film, and music. I scripted such films as 9 and ½ Weeks, Sommersby, Impromptu (personal favorite), What Lies Beneath, and All I Wanna Do which I also directed. Both my documentaries, Marjoe and Thoth, won Academy Awards. Formerly a recording artist, I continue to write music, posting songs on my website. I live in New York with my husband James Lapine. My second novel, the paranormal thriller Jane Was Here, was published in 2011. My latest film, Learning to Drive, starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley, came out in August 2015, now available on VOD, DVD, and streaming media. This blog is a paranormal memoir-in-progress, whenever I have spare time. It's a chronicle of my encounters with ghosts, family phantoms, and other forms of spirit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

At Home With a Ghost - 3

(Those who are coming to this serialized story for the first time, you can read the complete opus to date by clicking here.)

“Why?” My father looked at me skeptically when I asked him for a photo of his dad. I couldn’t very well tell him I was in communication with his father’s ghost. And I’d never before shown any interest in my grandfather. Maybe because Dad didn’t talk about him much.

Dad still resented both parents. They had fobbed him off on nannies from the time he was born. Once they even left him for months with a strange couple in Italy while they blithely toured Europe. They were emotionally restrained; my grandmother wouldn’t greet him or give him a kiss whenever he came home from school because she was afraid he’d become a mamma’s boy. They stuck him in St. Mark's boarding school when he was only 12. He was passionate about music, and Grandpa provided him with the piano and teachers but never gave him a word of encouragement when he started to compose seriously. Dad once said, “Why did they have me if they didn’t want to be around me?” He became estranged from his mother, finally, when he was in his twenties and mentioned that he was going to an analyst. His mother hit the roof. “You can’t do this to our family! People will think you’re crazy!” They had a falling out; possibly he pointed out that he had to go to a shrink because of his parents’ utter failure to be parents.

So he wasn’t that happy to dig up a picture of his father for me. I told him lamely that I was just, um, interested in Grandpa, without giving a reason. Dad gave me what I wanted, and off I went to Frank Andrews, the psychic, for a second visit.

I started to give Frank the photo when he stopped me: “Don’t tell me anything, and put the photo face down.”

He started off by describing the man in the photo without having seen him. I still have my notes from this session: “Sloping forehead, hair receding on either side, used to be thicker.” He got that right, judging from the headshot I’d brought. But I had no way to corroborate the rest: “Beautiful hands, long tapering fingers, with a big puff of Venus [the part under the thumb]. He has a Mercury forehead – all mind, too fast a thinker. Used to having his own way but easy to work with if you’re doing it his way.”

Frank looked up. “I see him darting, pacing, agitated around you. Impatient. You’ll get signs, like things falling off the wall, or he’ll steal things. Do you know his birthdate?” I didn’t. “I’m getting that he was a Sagittarius, Gemini rising. Healthwise, his heart was his weak spot. I’m surprised he got married because he was an independent sort. He was buried with a ring. Another ring of his will appear in due time. Did he have an east coast retreat, in the Cape Cod area?” That much I could confirm. We had gone as a family to Grandpa’s beach house in Martha’s Vineyard after he died, a trip I remembered very well because we got trapped in a major hurricane. “You should go there,” said Frank. “Something’s there for you.” Oh yeah, I wondered, whatever happened to that house?

At length I blurted out my problem: that I was being bombarded by music before waking and I didn’t know what it was for. My recording career was over and I wasn’t performing anymore. I’d stopped writing songs – until now.

Frank said, “When he was alive, he was working on a long piece like an operetta, which he never completed. He wants you to complete a similar type of piece, kind of like Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins. And then he might go.”

“Might?” I look at these notes now, and I have to laugh at the “might” part. Because he did go…but then he came back. He goes and he comes back, still to this day.

It’s 36 years later and I’m still stunned how accurate Frank’s reading was. Some of it I could corroborate when I got home afterwards and got my Dad to talk a little about his father. I found out Grandpa’s birth date. Yes, he was a Sagittarius. No birth time was recorded so the Gemini rising wasn’t verifiable, but he certainly sounded, from Dad’s description, like a quick-witted, impatient, dominating man. As for the physical characteristics, you can see for yourself from this photo of Dad with his parents:

Grandpa did get married later in life, age 37, after a lot of clubbing and partying. And he did die of a heart attack – in the Martha’s Vineyard house, in fact, while he was getting dressed to go out for yet another night of carousing with his rich WASP mates.

Some other details given by Frank took longer to confirm. I’ll write about the ring later. But things like Grandpa’s hands: Frank had described pretty much what my dad’s hands looked like, so I figured he got them from his dad. None of the other pictures I ever saw showed my grandfather’s hands. It wasn’t until 2008, a year after my dad died, that I finally saw them. We had just sold Dad’s house, and my brother and I were clearing out the attic when we came upon a decrepit oil portrait of Grandpa. He was seated in front of his piano. A cigarette dangled between his beautiful, very long and slim tapering fingers. They looked like a cast of Chopin’s hands I once saw in a Paris museum: made for playing music. And there was a handsome ring on his pinkie.

And the house on Martha’s Vineyard? There was something there for me after all. But I didn’t get it until ten months ago. I was finally able to buy the house next door.

(To be continued.)


  1. Oh my gosh, what an amazing story. I love how you have serialized it. It would make a fantastic book. Keep writing. I need to know what happens. You wrote beautifully.

  2. Thanks Susan! I'm so trepidatious about telling this story that I'm writing it as fast as possible before I can change my mind.

  3. well, seems we are kindred spirits after all

    l o l

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