My grandmother was born with the caul still on. Her head, tangled in the membrane of the amniotic sac. Superstitious folk will have you believe that to be born still in the caul gifts you with the second sight; gives you prescience, and the ability to commune with spirits. My mother says that grandma “knew things”. She won’t speak further. This is as far as the information goes.
My son, eldritch blue and ten weeks early had his own head enmeshed in the caul. Removing it added precious seconds to the work of specialists standing by my delivery room gurney, poised to save the infant I pushed forth into the world. Desperately premature, lungs unprepared to breathe after he slid from the womb, he did not, however, commune with the spirits that night. He lived, grew to be healthy and strong, in his sixteenth year is broad shouldered and tall. He does not have the second sight. From one year to the next he cannot even tell you whether his idol, quarterback Brett Favre, will retire. I look at this failing with leniency, as it seems that Favre himself does not know either, and has been known to change his mind.
It may not be considered fortune-telling, but my son has a clearer vision that most about what his future holds. He made his career choice two years ago, in grade nine. He has chosen where he wants to live when he grows up, knows that he wants to marry and have children; has the name of his first son picked out. Not for him the adolescent worry about the future. This is prescience, in its own way. He does not believe in spirits. Nor in mind reading, aliens from outer space, poltergeists, or ESP.
Nor would he believe me if I told him about the one night when I became certain that the spirit world existed. I had always suspected that there was more to earth than met the eye, despite my lack of a caul, despite an entire defiency of evidence on my side. Always had I wanted to become a mind reader, to be able to emulate The Amazing Kreskin, to bend spoons with my brain, be a telepath. It did not happen, no matter how many times I used the Ouija board, no matter how many books on ESP I borrowed from the library, or how many countless experiments I conducted with my younger brother. I read every novel I could where the characters had special powers: A Wrinkle in Time, The Chrysalids, A Gift of Magic. None of it worked or gave me that special gift.
I was in my third year of university when it happened. I was studying English and Comparative Religions, and working part-time as a secretary in a large downtown church. And then my mother’s brother was diagnosed with late-stage cancer of the prostate. This was an uncle I had always adored. Almost too good-looking and definitively rich, a successful lawyer and former Member of Provincial Parliament, my uncle had been a decorated Squadron leader in WWII, and drove a Cadillac. I adored him and the reputation and money he carried with him. He was diagnosed with cancer in August and was dead by the end of September. My mother got older that month. Some of the magic in her life disappeared. And I was there when he died.
My parents did not take us to see Frank in hospital, judging that he was so alarmingly sick that it would probably traumatize us. I have ever been grateful for this, as my memories of him picture a natty, white haired, handsome gentleman, gleaming, surrounded by a glow of confidence and charm. But it did happen that before he left the planet entirely I was in his presence one more time. One late September night in 1984, he woke me up in a blaze of light. The blue flowers and vines of my Laura Ashley wallpaper were rendered invisible by the intensity of that glow. How I knew that it was Uncle Frank waking me I will never understand, let alone be able to explain. His presence dominated my bedroom. I was not scared, merely rendered awestruck by the experience. And then the light enveloped what was left of my uncle and all of it, uncle and light, went away with nary a touch of cinema. I clearly remember thinking to myself “Uncle Frank is dead”, then falling asleep again, comforted by the odd vision.
The phone woke me again soon after; my bedside clock radio informed me that it was not quite It was Frank’s daughter-in-law, crying, only just able to tell me that Frank had died. According to the daughter-in-law, who spoke to my parents about it, I said to her “I know”, and put down the phone. I’m not a great conversationalist in the wee hours. I waited till morning to tell my mother that her brother had died. I knew that he had gone someplace full of light and warmth, and saw no reason that she should not face her grief on a full night’s sleep. Telling her was agony. I didn’t mitigate it with my tale of light and presence. She would not have believed me. I wouldn’t have believed me either. I still wonder if it was a dream. Does it make any difference whether I knew of his death sleeping or waking?
After this experience I reckoned that this was the beginnings of my powers on earth. Soon I would be able to conduct séances, do card tricks that weren’t tricks at all, read people’s minds. I wasn’t. I have had one ghost on one night, and one luminous experience, and it has made all the difference.
 I have been reading H.P. Lovecraft. He loved the word eldritch and it has become an important word in my vocabulary lately.
 By, respectively, Madeline L’Engle, John Wyndham, Lois Duncan. I had not really heard of the sci-fi/fantasy world at this stage of my life and these were, literally, the only works I had read on the subject.