Unexpected Mindfulness

I recently watched a video online about intuition.
It wasn’t anything fancy; just a young woman, sitting in a room, talking to the camera on her laptop. She talked about the importance of listening the little voice inside us—it’s our guide to true happiness. “Your intuition will guide you, all you have to do is listen.”

Puh, I thought. Who’s got time to listen to the voice inside when the outside voices are so demanding?! A few days later I was on the phone with my grandfather, Wally. It was his 92nd birthday. I called him from the back of an Uber on my way to meet Michael for dinner.

Sweet Wally was in an assisted living home in Minnesota where he moved shortly after my grandmother passed away. After catching him up on the general happenings of my family, me listening to how unimpressive the food was in his cafeteria, and spending a silly amount of time trying to explain Uber to him, my grandpa asked the inevitable question; would I be coming to Minnesota in the summer?

“I would love to Grandpa, but… probably not.” The truth was, we had decided not to go months earlier. It was just too much. Long trip. Hard to be away. Michael hates mosquitoes. And it’s expensive. “Oh I understand,” Grandpa said. He couldn’t hide the disappointment in his voice. I hung up the phone, bummed but resolute, when I heard a quiet voice.

“Go,” it said. I looked around. There was no one there. “Go,” the voice said again. And that’s when I recognized it—the voice I hadn’t heard over the dull roar of a busy life, my intuition.

I decided to listen.

Minutes later I joined Michael and announced I would be going to go to Minnesota after all. He was not impressed. “You don’t have to go,” I told him. “I’ll figure it out. I need to Go.”

A few months later, I arrived in the doorway of my grandfather’s room. There he was; frail, sheer-skinned, sitting in his favorite chair that had now become his home… my grandfather. He chuckled and shook with excitement as I crossed the room to hug him and then sat on his bed to catch up.

Truthfully I never spent much one-on-one time with my beloved grandpa. I mostly saw him during the hub-bub of the holidays or when my high-energy, talkative grandmother stole the show. But now, with just the two of us, we could talk about things we’d always wanted to know. He asked how I found myself in Arizona and met Michael. I asked him about World War 2 and he told me about being deployed to Perth, Australia. We reminisced about playing “store” in his basement and eating cherry nut ice cream. He asked if I’d made my first million yet and I asked him if he missed Grandma. “Well, yes I do. But you understand, your grandmother was gone long before she passed away…”

Just about the time I was supposed to head out to meet a friend for a cocktail, Grandpa asked if he could buy me dinner in the cafeteria. “It’s turkey and stuffing. It’s their best meal. There’s creamed spinach too, but you don’t have to eat that.” He hadn’t even finished the question before the quiet voice within me answered: Go. My grandfather beamed as the nurse wheeled him to the elevator, his granddaughter in tow.

I sat right beside him, watching the subtly of his expressions; the way his eyebrows twitched slightly when he said something witty was identical to my father.

I wondered if someday my children or grandchildren would notice traces of expressions passed through generations in me.

One clean plate (mine, not his) later and just before America’s Got Talent came on, I wheeled my Grandpa back to his room and we said our goodbyes. He hugged me, told me how he loved me, how proud he was of me, my brother and sister, my parents and how very glad he was I came. I promised to mail him my next newspaper story and told him I’d see him next year—even though I knew he was hoping to be gone by then.

Just shy of three weeks later, I was on a morning run in Coronado, debating which route to take. There was the long one I loved where the street was calm, the trees were grand and the air smelled particularly sweet… but who has time for the long way? I needed to get back to Michael and the kids and our busy life as fast as possible. “Go.” The voice again—as if it knew I’d need a few extra minutes on a path I loved. So I went. The long way. Moments later, my playlist was interrupted by a phone call from my father.

Grandpa had passed away in his sleep the night before.

My feet kept a steady pace as my dad told me what happened. It was fast, fortunate. And even though my dad’s voice was coming straight through my headphones, I struggled to hear him; struggled because my inner voice was talking so loudly. “You went,” it said. “You were there. I told you to Go. You listened. You were there. Thank you.”

After I told my dad goodbye, the rest of my run was calm, grand and particularly sweet as my emotions transitioned from sadness to the profound joy of following intuition’s guide.

Life gets loud. And I love my loud, crazy life. But when the dull roar threatens to take over, all I have to do is imagine my grandfather; his fork clinking on the plate as he moved the creamed spinach around, the twinkle in his eye when he got away with not eating any, and his knowing smile as he told me goodbye for the last time.

And I was there. Because I listened.

In loving memory of Wallace McGrane.