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.
Life was a different adventures with Dad.
- We worked through the year to earn 2 weeks summer camp through the Boys' Club.
- 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 glazed, 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 wished I could bring him back.
Grandma showed up all 4 days of Dad's wake and burial. This meant everything to me.
I wished I could go home with Grandma, 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 as unbearable and dangerous.
- The COUNTY WASN'T giving them enough money for us any way.
This is what I heard when I asked for the allowance that was promised yet not delivered from the start.
- As Youngest of 3 sibling, I was elected to ask.
Each week I asked, I received a longer, more brutal lecture.
- 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.
- Because I didn't have a choice, until I reached a "certain age".
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.
But I knew... Grandma loved me.
- Grandma's Love was my source of strength.
When Mom would pick us up occasionally, 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.
- So I accumulated friends in another neighborhood, had a girlfriend and “adopted” a surrogate family.
- These were my sources of sanity and acceptance.
At 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.
- I blocked every attempt to strike me.
- Then I remembered, from her lectures, I had no choice... until I reached "a certain age".
Thirteen must have been “a certain age”, I contacted my case
worker and requested removal from the household.
- After insistence, and persistence, I was ultimately moved to the county orphanage.
At the orphanage, 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 me, through the grapevine.
She 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 these moments were important and fleeting.
encouraged me to forgive.
I followed her advice.
I made peace with my aunt and uncle, and keep in touch with their children, my cousins. Sometimes we vacation together.
- Grandma encouraged me to visit my mother.
Which I also did.
- Mom was open, understanding, and warm.
Occasionally, not often she would vent about Dad.
I listened to HER side.
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
apartment, with a phone.
We talked at least 3-4 times a week.
- 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
- 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.
Strength, Position, Authority, 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 name of the street where we lived - North Ave.
- The same direction we traveled together - Up North
- The home where we returned - Love
I use this metaphor, like a navigation tool, like a compass, to check my bearing.
In any situation, I might ask myself the question:
"Am I aligned with Love?"
This gives me a better world,..
Now, it's up to me, (and perhaps all of us) to maintain a course calibrated to 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?