provided a home, warm, always open, simple, predictable.
- Dad thrust us into
the world, in its harshness and wonder.
- Life was easier with Grandma. I yearned to return.
- But this was my family: father, brother, and me.
We adventures with Dad.
- We took the greyhound to horse tracks in Illinois. Helped Dad with his “system", and enjoyed the winnings.
We knew every tavern in our neighborhood. There were 4
taverns within a ½ block of our house.
- Dick’s Tavern
was my favorite. He let us play in the back room while Dad sat at the bar.
One day we discovered Dad lying on the couch, eyes glaze, not speaking.
- We called for help.
- An ambulance took Dad to the hospital.
- Days later, Dad died.
- At Dad's funeral, I felt numb
- I felt guilty. Once in anger, I told my Dad I wished he were dead.
- Then he died, only months later.
- Now I wished I could bring him back.
- Grandma showed up for all 3 days of Dad's wake. And at grave site on the 4th day. This meant everything to me.
- At grave site, the reality and finality of Dad's death hit me, the moment I saw the casket descending into the ground, I screamed out spontaneously.
- "No!" My involuntarily outburst broke the silence.
Thankfully Grandma was standing next to me.
I wished I could go home with her, but other plans were being made. Life was being interrupted again.
brother, and I, plus sister, moved in with an aunt and uncle.
In this household:
- I felt uncomfortable
- Walking on eggshells became the norm
I learned that:
- "I should be grateful I have a roof over my head."
- I could be living in a orphanage, in conditions described to as dangerous and harsh.
- The county wasn’t giving them enough money for us any way.
I received these statements in lectures when I asked for the allowance that was promised yet not delivered from the start.
- Youngest of 3 sibling, I was selected to ask.
Each time I asked, I received longer, more brutal lectures
- After a while, I stopped asking.
- Allowance never happened.
But lectures continued.
- - I was told I
could not return to Grandma
- Because Grandma
was not actual family
- Because Grandma
was too old to have foster kids.
- I didn't have a choice. You had to be a "certain age", before they would listen.
I was just turning 9 years old.
My aunt said
she couldn't imagine how a non-relative could love a child, who was
not related by blood.
- My aunt was not
related to us by blood either.
But I knew... Grandma loved me.
- This was a source of strength for me.
When Mom would pick us up, for the day, our aunt would lecture us on why we shouldn't see our Mom.
- “Where was SHE
when YOU needed her?” was a phrase I would hear.
I saw Mom struggling to see her children with minimal cooperation.
I saw Mom was struggling with life, and coping with alcohol.
I coped by staying away from home.
- With chores done, I would disappear until it was time to eat or time for another chore.
- On my block, I was invited me to participate in petty crimes.
- My biggest
crime was breaking a heart.
That's another story
- I accumulated friends in another neighborhood, had a girlfriend and “adopted” a surrogate family.
- These were my sources of sanity and acceptance.
As I entered the age of 13, I found myself at greater odds with my aunt.
- She was threatening to INTERRUPT my time with my friends, and girlfriend.
- When I objected, I was assaulted by my aunt.
- I blocked her attempts to strike me.
- Then I remembered from her many lectures: That I had no choice until I reached "a certain age".
Thirteen must be “a certain age”, I contacted my case
worker and requested removal from the household.
- It took insistence,
persistence and some pressure, until, in the words of my case worker, "You got what you wanted.".
- I got a shared room at a county facility for orphan children.
- I felt isolated, and alone.
- I was separated
from my brother, my sister, my friends, my girlfriend, and my surrogate family.
- Except this time it was MY choice,
- This time, “I” INTERRUPTED my life.
- NOW I had NO
But I had NOT interrupted my faith.
- My hope continued
- My prayers continued
- Plus, I had Grandma’s phone number memorized since First Grade.
Once I was able to reach Grandma, she said she had already heard about it through the grapevine.
And was already requesting to bring me home.
It felt good to actually be wanted.
As I approached my 14th Birthday,
- I returned to
North Avenue where Grandma and Grandpa lived.
I resumed those trips up North and was reacquainted
with their families.
I was SO grateful to be returning home,
Where I KNEW I was appreciated.
- - I cherished Grandma!
I made sure to listen to her.
I savored her stories.
I knew moments like these were important and fleeting.
encouraged me to forgive.
I followed her advice
I made peace with my aunt and uncle, with
whom I lived during my middle childhood.
I am in contact with their children, my cousins, nephews, nieces. We even vacation together.
- Grandma encouraged me to visit my mother.
Which I also did, mostly for Mom’s sake.
- Mom was open, understanding, and warm.
Occasionally, not often she would vent about Dad.
I listened to HER side of the story.
I asked questions too.
I didn't judge.
Mom's life improved.
She stopped drinking.
- And she went from a transient homeless status to her own
- Now with her own phone, we talked 3-4 times a week, often more.
- I got to know my Mother.
- What an amazing gift!
I even got to know relations I didn't even know I had, aunts and uncles, and cousins on my Mom's side.
All this by simply following Grandma’s lesson of love and
- I was even able to forgive myself.
That’s another story.
There was a time, when it seemed, I had NO family.
Now when I visit home, I am welcomed by
3 families and their relations.
You see, in the face of difficult times and
INTERRUPTIONS, there IS ALWAYS HOPE.
Hope accompanies difficult times and INTERRUPTIONS.
We also have POWER, each one of us.
Some people think of power as Physical Strength
Some people think of power as Position or Authority.
Some people think of power as Money.
I think of Power as LOVE.
Physical Strength, Position, Authority and Money can be INTERRUPTED at any time.
Your Love can ONLY be INTERRUPTED if you allow it.
LOVE is ALWAYS beneficial. It can be applied anywhere, anytime.
- It's as simple as a smile
- A kind word
Goodwill toward your neighbors, friends, co-workers, even those you don't know... or understand... yet.
Love can even be as BIG as a BIG OLD HUG from Grandma.
(Feel free to give yourself a BIG OLD HUG.)
Grandma pointed me towards Love, a direction as steady as North.
- The same direction we traveled together.
- The name of the street we lived.
- The home where we returned.
I use this metaphor, like a navigation tool, to check alignment regardless of position,
In any situation, I might ask myself the question:
"Am I aligned with Love?"
This approach has given me a different world, a better world.
Now, it's up to me, (and perhaps all of us) to maintain a course set towards Love, regardless of difficult times or INTERRUPTIONS.
So as a way to honor Grandma, and to share a reminder to maintain course, I've written a Song for Grandma - North.
Would you like to hear it?