The Dead Miss Food (when I first started to realize I was psychic)

The Dead Miss Food (when I first started to realize I was psychic)

My Grandpa Abe was a formidable presence in my childhood. He modeled for me a powerful example of what it meant to be a man. In the home, my father taught me the value of confidence, articulateness, follow-through, efficiency, and excellence. Outside the home, Abe taught me other values: he was a philosopher, seeker, political junkie, and raw poet, prone to fanciful yet often brutally honest flights of language.

When he died in 2012, I was an adult, married with an infant son – whom he never got to meet, as by then I’d moved from New Jersey to California. But after he was gone, we kept in touch, as Abe started talking to me constantly in my right ear…

It wasn’t auditory, much less hallucinatory. I couldn’t “hear” him. We speak of the “mind’s eye”; Abe was in my “mind’s ear.” He still is, sometimes. When it started, I figured it was my imagination; it was my way of consolidating my memories of him into an active, present-tense personality, a sort of comical angel on my shoulder. 

More than anything else, a source of comfort. Kind of like an imaginary friend. 

It didn’t feel like a mental illness, meanwhile. I’d experienced anxiety, OCD, mania, depression, and ADD – this was nothing like any of those. It was gentle, comfortable. Mental illness is generally harsh and abrasive. Abe’s presence was welcome.

What I didn’t expect was that he’d keep talking for years.

He’s still here. He hasn’t gone anywhere else. I think he loved his last life on Earth, and valued the personality structure he took on in it, and is in no rush to come back in another form. Or maybe he has already, in some other way or some other form, and yet I, his grandson, can still access an echo of who he was to me. In any case, what he told me, shortly after his death, was noteworthy:

He told me I was living life wrong. Not that there’s any “right” or “wrong’ way to do it, but he wasn’t happy with the way I was acting, day-to-day. I was gaining too much weight (he’d struggled with this himself). Eating too much salt. Taking on too much stress. Obsessed with my career. He urged me to go slow. He explained I wasn’t letting anything good happen because I was too clenched and self-serious about making strides and proving myself. 

He was right, of course, but I didn’t make adjustments quickly. It would take me about seven years to listen. I tried, at times, but I’d revert back to my old habits and patterns. As time went on, though, I realized what many ambitious people do: the more you excel, the more you crave excelling. Then you realize you’re a hamster on a wheel. And you find that however much you accomplish according to human beings’ societal standards, it will never live up to your utmost dreams or expectations. Abe was trying to deprogram me from the hamster wheel. He was trying to teach me that if I could just slow down, be gentle with myself, and enjoy myself, I would actually discover a version of “success” (more like grace) that transcended all my myopic career ambitions.

Like I said, I eventually started getting there. In the meantime, Abe kept delivering the message. But his lectures weren’t as good as his example. In other words, he started demonstrating, little by little, the things he missed from life. When I’d go near something that he missed, he’d start talking in my inner ear so fast that I couldn’t understand a word he said.

This happened most acutely when I ate at a good restaurant.

There’s this one place in Berkeley, half an hour from where I live, called The Butcher’s Son. The food there is mouth-watering; the menu’s an instrument to induce indecisiveness. In other words, you want to eat everything on it. And I realized when we went there and I cracked open the menu, Abe would start chattering a mile a minute. He wasn’t even “sound” at that point; he was more of a light language – stars and glitter sparking ‘cross the menu’s surface.

Just like I couldn’t “hear” his voice, I couldn’t “see” the sparkles; I just sensed his buoyant, jubilant presence.

Abe missed food.

It made sense! He exists outside of time and space. There’s no food where he is. Food is dense. Earthen. It’s made of the Earth’s materials. Wherever he is may be heavenly, but you probably can’t get a good sandwich there. 

He made me appreciate food more. And walks. Sunsets. Laughter. It sounds corny and generic, but then again I’d been too uptight to get there on my own, so maybe corny-and-generic was what I needed.  

Still, I wondered if this was all my imagination…

Then in 2018, a year before my psychic ability came online in full, I visited my family on the East Coast. My sister and cousins called Abe “Poppy.” I was the only one who called him “Grandpa.” Over dinner one night, my sister said to me, “It’s crazy, ‘cause Poppy always talks to me. We weren’t even that close! But he’s always talking!”

I looked at her, smiling. I needed a minute there.

I told her I had something to share with her, too.

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