Category Archives: Charlie

Speaking with Spirits


It’s been several days since I met with the Medium in the small, quaint, London apothecary come coffee shop;  I guess I needed time and space to process the experience.

Yes, yes, I know…  I can hear your groans and see your eyes rolling from here!

Put aside your rational, logical, naysayer beliefs for just one moment;  even YOU must admit that you’re the teeny, tiniest bit intrigued by this, right?

Oh come on!  We’ve all wondered about the “other side.”  

We’ve all dared to imagine that it just might exist.  We’ve perhaps even wondered (privately, of course) if we might be able to communicate with a friend or loved one, who’s crossed over.

And wouldn’t that be awesome!

My day started off like any other.  An agreement to meet at London Victoria, we’d find a quiet place to talk and just see what (if anything) unfolded.

We weren’t strangers per say, but more like friends or acquaintances who had never actually met each other face to face.

She was exactly as I had anticipated; warm, welcoming and unassuming.  She had the kindest eyes and an infectious laugh as well as a beautiful smile.  There was a soft, reserved, quietness about her that made me feel immediately calm and at ease.

Being “me,” I just couldn’t help asking questions about her life? Family? Friends? History? We chatted for over an hour and then it was time.

She was supposed to “read” me first… to get a sense of who I was; the kind of person I am and what I’m about, so to speak.

The first word that came out of her mouth was “Horses.”

(Okay… yes, I like horses, I guess… at least as much the next guy I suppose.) 

However, if you know me, you know I was hoping to connect with my brother Charlie; and if you know Charlie you know his most favourite thing in the world (along with watching football) was Horse Racing! 

He LOVED everything about horse racing! The horses, their names; the jockeys, the  design and colours of their silks, the trainers and the tracks.  He went to the Saratoga Race Course opening every year!  He had visited Aquaduct, Gulfstream, The Meadowlands and more.

(Okay, she had my attention!)   

She talked about my childhood; my being outside a lot in nature; running through long grass, playing “pretend” and hide and seek games, climbing trees.  (I loved climbing trees. I lived in the top of “The Apple Tree.”)  She said she saw me as a “Tom Boy.”  

She could see the wispy tops of the long wheat grass, floating thick in the air as a bunch of us kids ran through it.

She was reminded of Huckleberry Finn.  I was reminded of Bell Hill and Green Hill Park.

(Seriously, how did she know I was Tom Boy?) 

I laughed as I admitted that I hadn’t realise I was a “girl” until I was about 10 and yes all of what she had told me, about the type of person I was, my childhood and my sensitivities… was all right on the money!

His {Charlie’s} first words were something like, “I never thought I’d be talking to you through this Little Witch, but here I am.”

(Damn! That sure sounds like Charlie!)

He was excited and happy to be there.  He thanked me and apologised for always being in a bad mood towards the end and for taking things out on me.  He said he was not ready to go and that he had a very difficult time accepting that this was is fate.  He struggled to accept the “defeat.”


Do I remember the barking dog?  Hmmmm?

OMG!  Yes, yes I do remember the barking dog!

(When Charlie was really sick the next door neighbour’s dog would be tied up from early morning till after dark and at some point during the day, he would start BARKING like crazy, for hours!  Charlie used to curse both the dog and the owner.) 

He told me that when he was sick, I was kind.

He laughed again at the fact that he was speaking through this “Little Witch”

She laughed and said he had a nice smile.

(He did have a nice smile.  He had the BEST smile!  A Cheshire Cat grin, I always used to say.)

He said he was ok now, and that I should not worry about him. He said he never thought he’d have to go so early, and that in the end he felt “humiliated” and “pissed off.”

(He was embarrassed by his illness and humiliated.  Pissed off, would definitely be a word he would use to describe his feelings! )

Now, he knows it was the right time and that being here was a gift.

He told me he loved me.  He was proud of me and again that I worry too much.

He laughed at the thought of my first cigarette and how I always had trouble “rolling.”

(Hmmm?  Weird.  I smoked Newport’s or Marlboro’s, which came pre-rolled in a box?) 


I get it, yes…  Yes, he’s right!!!

I could not roll a joint, to save my life!!!!

Yes, that is funny!

He talked about how he sometimes missed being here…  but how he especially missed the  taste of an iced cold “beer.”  

(WHAT?  This made my day! Charlie loved beer.  He washed is cancer meds down with beer! He had beer for breakfast.  This more than anything made me believe he just might be there.)

He also used the word “fuck,” (another convincing sign) but I was so busy laughing, I can’t remember the context.

He said I’d remember the “creaking floorboards” (which I do) and all the wood in the house.  He mentioned all of us kids running up and down the wooden stairs.  (Hey Mark… do you remember the noise we made as we all ran up and down the back stairs?)

He said there was a time that we were apart, but we ended up back together again.  (Yup… that would be when he was in prison for 5 years.)

He told me he knew I had always been there for him and that even when I disapproved of something he had done or was doing, he never felt that I judged him.

He said he loved me.

I said I loved him.

There was more to the day…  there was so much more.

A good friend.

My father.

Someone mentioned the fact that as a child I had a “nickname.”  Was it Lisa?  Lissa?  (Yes, it was Lissa. )

The time went by so fast.  Before I knew it, 4 hours had past and I had been taken on a journey through various parts of my life.

I listened, laughed, cried…  Mostly I just remembered. I remembered things I had long forgotten.

It was an amazing experience.

Yes, I feel your scepticism.  I know that many people will think I’m silly and will question my intelligence, my sanity or both…  and that’s okay.

It was MY experience. It was real to me and that is really all that matters.

In the end does it really matter?  Does anyone really care what I believe in? Isn’t it about whatever makes each and every one of us happy, content, safe and secure?

Isn’t about whatever helps us through this crazy life?

As Frank Sinatra said,  “Basically, I’m for anything that gets you through the night – be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.”  

Maybe even a Medium.

Peace Out














About A Boy


Charlie was the “middle child.” He was born between the first born son and the baby daughter.  I know, it’s hard not to begin sizing him up right there…  based only on the fact that he was the “middle child.”  All those stereotypical traits we’ve all heard about come rushing to mind.  You know the ones; shyness, lack of self confidence, the “problem” child.  Charlie exhibited all of these traits, to some degree, at different periods in his life, but I wouldn’t say he was ever defined by any of them.

To the contrary, in his teenage years, while other kids went through that “uncomfortable in your own skin,” gawky, awkward stage… he exuded charisma and self confidence. I remember I’d run to the living room window as he’d be leaving the house; and watch as he’d stop to wipe dust off his shoe and then brush away invisible lint off this pants… of course with all this primping, he’d never notice his adoring little sister, waving like a fool in the front window.  One could say… his confidence boarded on narcissism, but I’d never say that! *wink*  

He was always a little bit quiet and introverted, but not really shy.  He knew everybody and everybody knew (and liked) him. Now, as for being a “problem child,” that one comes painfully close to being true, but more about that later…

There were 6 years between Charlie and I, so my first real memories of him start when I was about 9 or 10.  Before that I have only snapshots of our childhood; the Christmas that Santa left him and Tommy “space guns” that lit up in the dark and shot out sparks when you pulled the trigger; going swimming at Bell Pond, where he’d make me stay in the “baby-pool,” while he and his friends went to dive off “The Rocks,” (where Mom specifically told him not to go!); ice skating at Green Hill Park… he was quite a good skater, while I skated mostly on the insides of my feet and my ankles!

I remember the first days of school, the three of us, all dressed up in our new school clothes, standing out in from of the house at 15A Everard Street… My Mom would line us up, frame the shot, and “click” the button.  “Just one more to be sure.” she’d always say. We’d have to wait a month or so because she’d have to wait for another event to finish the roll of film.  It was usually after Christmas when we get to see what we actually looked like on the “First Day of School.”


We’d walk to school together, with me having to walk the obligatory 8-10 feet behind them.  Each year, just like all the others kids, I’d be filled with the hope and promise of the new school year, always thinking, “This is going to be my year!”  The day would start and the teacher would begin reading names off the roster;  “J. Williams?” “P. Edwards?” “R. Saksa?’  You’d then hear replies from various parts of the room, “Here.””Here.” “Here.”  I’d wait and listen, until I heard, “M. Grassel?”  …and just as I’d start to reply “Here,” the teacher would add, “Are you related to Charlie Grassel?”  “Oh God…” I was doomed.

Even at a young age I knew Charlie had “it.”  I didn’t know what “it” was, but he had “it.”

He had this quiet, brooding, self confidence that set him apart from the other kids.  He was by no means an introvert, because he was quite social and everybody adored him, but he had a way of holding back, just a little…  as if to give himself room to assess and evaluate the situation.  He came across older and more mature than he actually was…  but to me (his little sister) he was always like a young, troubled, adolescent; always screwing up, getting into trouble and then asking forgiveness… which of course, I always gave.

He is gone now.  Left earlier than I ever expected. I miss him terribly.

The Untouchables


My earliest recollections of my bother Charlie are short snippets of us playing “Gangsters.”  This was a role play game (like girls play “House”) that he had made up.  It was inspired by a TV show on in the late 1950’s, called the “The Untouchables.”  

In the show, a group of U.S. federal law-enforcement agents worked to end Al Capone‘s reign of terror on Chicago, in the late 1920’s.  You’d assume, in this role play game, that Charlie would play the role of Elliott Ness; the handsome, charismatic Federal Agent who fearlessly led his team in the fight against crime and corruption.  However, even at the young age of 11, Charlie had a propensity towards the underworld.

In this role play, I was always given the role of the “Bank Teller” and my he was the “Bank Customer” (aka The Bank Robber!) Money from the Monopoly game came in useful, as did my Mom’s dress up clothes and junk jewelry. He’d meticulously set the scene laying out the money in neat stacks, of same denomination bills on the seat of a kitchen chair.  I’d be all dressed up, adorned with way too much jewelry for a Bank Teller, sitting on the floor behind my the chair (aka “the bank counter.”) The slats, on the back of the chair were perfect for providing that “cage” like atmosphere that bank tellers used to work behind, back in the day!

Charlie would swagger into the bank (yes even at 11 he had a definite swagger!) pretending to be a normal customer and he’d begin “casing the joint.”  He would then casually stroll up to my counter and I’d say something clever like “My I help you?”  He would give me that devious “Charlie” grin, pull the plastic gun out of his pocket and say something like;  “This is s stick up lady, give me all the money!”  I’d of course act surprised and panicked while I filled a brown paper lunch bag with the multi-colored Monopoly money.  He’d want my jewelry too… so off it came and into the bag as well. He’d look around nervously, wave the gun in my face and shout, “Hurry up, before the cops get here.

He would grab the paper bag with the money and the jewelry and then walk behind the “counter” (because even the imaginary bank walls couldn’t keep him out)  and he’d handcuff me!  He’d also (just for good measure) put a gag over my mouth, which was usually one of his socks!

And then…  he would leave.

No really, he would leave!  I mean he would leave the house, not just the room!  He’d just run out the back door, go outside and look for his friends… And there I’d be, sitting on the floor, handcuffed and gagged, with a dirty old sock!

These are some of my earliest memories of my big bother Charlie…  who even after this, I adored.