- Grandma provided a home, warm and open.
- Dad left us shivering in the cold, literally.
- Life was easier with Grandma. I yearned to return.
When I complained to Dad about being stuck in the cold, he put me to work selling door-to-door.
- "That should keep you busy." Dad told me.
- We were freezing out there, and Dad's solution was to add work.
- Selling door-to-door in Wisconsin Winters, did NOT make me any warmer, but it DID keep me busy.
I sold greeting cards, various candies, flower seeds, garden seeds from Winter to early Summer.
My efforts paid off.
- I earned 2 weeks of summer camp
- And learned that work yields rewards
I also learned life is an adventure.
- Since Dad COULD take us out of state, we rode the Greyhound Bus to Illinois, to visit the horse tracks, when Dad got a tip.
- In our neighborhood, there were four taverns within a half block of our home. We knew every one, inside and out.
- With Dad, we planned and accomplished a 3 mile hike to Jackson Park, to see Swans swimming in the park's lagoon. We even enjoyed BBQing on the park grill.
One morning, we discovered Dad lying on the couch, His were eyes glazed, he was not speaking.
- We called for help
- An ambulance took Dad away.
- I asked if Dad would be home by night time. No one had an answer.
- Maybe tomorrow?
- Maybe the next day?
- 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 wanted to go home with Grandma.
- But other plans were being made.
Life was being INTERRUPTED again.
My brother, and I, plus sister, moved in with an aunt and uncle, half brother to Dad.
In this household:
- I felt uncomfortable
- Walking on eggshells became the norm
At first, our aunt said she would be giving us an allowance and would expect us to do chores.
This was fine. I was familiar with chores by then.
However, when the scheduled dates for our allowances came and passed, and nothing was forthcoming, we felt a need to ask.
As the youngest of 3 siblings, I was elected to ask for our promised allowance.
When I asked, I was pummeled with guilt ridden statements regarding my gratitude, worthiness and value.
My aunt's reply:
- "You should be grateful to have a roof over your head."
- "You could be living in a orphanage, where you HAVE no family and you have to fight for everything."
- "The County isn't giving us enough money for you anyway."
Weeks later, I was again chosen to ask about the allowance.
Her lectures got harsher, more brutal and more personal.
"How dare you ask."
"You should be grateful to have food on the table."
My aunt would insinuate ingratitude on my part.
At age 9, it would seem, that requesting fulfillment of an agreement was MY flaw.
Allowance never started.
But brow beating lectures like these continued over the slightest provocation.
I was beginning to learn about unfairness, indignation, unworthiness, self doubt.
Fortunately, I remembered Grandma saying, that I was good, that I was smart, and that I was special.
My aunt said I could never return to Grandma.
- Because Grandma was not actual family
- Because Grandma was too old to have foster children.
- Because I had no choice
- I had to be a "certain age" before a judge would even listen to me.
- Not long after, she barred me from seeing Grandma.
My aunt said she could NOT imagine how someone 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.
Occasionally, when our Mom would pick us up, our aunt would lecture us on why we should NOT see our Mom.
- “Where was SHE when YOU needed her?” My aunt would press US for a reaction.
Seemed Mom was struggling to see her children with minimal cooperation from our aunt.
Seemed Mom had lost everything. And was herself struggling with life, and coping with alcohol.
I coped by staying away from home.
- Once chores were done, I would disappear until it was time to eat or... time for another chore.
- From this family, I had already absorbed too many fears, uncertainties, prejudices and opinions.
- So I accumulated friends, had a girlfriend, even “adopted” a surrogate family in another neighborhood.
- These were my sources of sanity, acceptance and living better.
At 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 physically assaulted.
- No worries, I blocked the attempted blows to my head.
- Then I remembered, from all those lectures, I had no choice... until I reached "a certain age".
Thirteen must have been “a certain age”.
I contacted my social worker and requested removal from the household.
- After insistence, and persistence, I landed in the county orphanage.
- Where I felt isolated, abandoned, and lonely.
- I was separated from my brother, my sister, my friends, my girlfriend, family.
- Except this time it was MY choice, MY doing.
- NOW I had NO family.
- This time, “I” INTERRUPTED my life.
But I had NOT interrupted my faith.
- My hope continued
- My prayers continued
- And I had Grandma’s phone number memorized since First Grade.
Once I was able to get a message to Grandma, she placed a request with the County to bring me home.
It felt good to actually be wanted.
As I approached my 14th Birthday,
- I returned to North Avenue where Grandma, Grandpa and my original brother lived. I now had younger foster brothers as well.
- I resumed those trips up North and was reacquainted with aunts and uncles and cousins near and far.
- I caught up with my friends, and girlfriend. And happy to introduce them to Grandma.
I cherished Grandma.
I listened to her advice.
- Grandma encouraged me to forgive.
I made peace with my aunt and uncle, and keep in touch with their children, my cousins.
Sometimes we vacation together.
- Grandma repeatedly encouraged me to visit my mother.
- Which I did.
- Despite her many challenges, Mom DID make it a point to reach out when she could.
I was there for her sake.
Over time, I realized this was for both our sakes.
Mom was warm, articulate, and giving.
Mom shared good advice. I could tell that she cared. I could tell that she loved me.
- 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.
- Mom went from a transient homeless/boarding house, status to her own apartment, with a phone.
After that, we talked 3-4 times a week, at least.
- I got to know and Love my Mom!
What an amazing gift!
- I even got to know relatives I didn't even know I had, aunts and uncles, and cousins on Mom's side.
All this by following Grandma’s lesson of Love and forgiveness.
What an amazing gift!
- There was a time, when it seemed, I had NO family.
Now when I visit home, I am welcomed by 3 families plus 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. It's YOUR choice.
LOVE is ALWAYS beneficial. It can be applied anytime, anywhere.
- It can be shared as a kind word, a helping hand, a smile.
- It can be felt as 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.)
(It's your decision.)
With the faith of a mustard seed, Love grows.
You can point yourself in the direction of Love anytime... or all the time. It's up to you.
By example, Grandma pointed me towards Love,
- A direction as steady as North.
- Which is the name of the street where we lived - North Ave.
- It was the direction we traveled together - Up North
I use this metaphor,
- like a compass,
- to check my bearing.
In any situation, I might ask myself the question:
"Am I aligning with Love?"
This has given me a better world.
How does one align with Love?
In my one hour keynote concert, I share an enlightening story of personal epiphany!
And literally my personal Old Testament and personal New Testament, shared in word and song.
As you've heard, Grandma made an INCREDIBLE DIFFERENCE in my life.
So I wrote a Song for Grandma.
What was so INCREDIBLE about Grandma?
I think my song will explain that.
Would you like to hear it?
Before I sing, I invite you to take a moment to think about WHO that special person is for YOU.
Is it YOUR Grandma or YOUR Grandpa?
Is it YOUR Mom or YOUR Dad?
Maybe it's a relative or non-relative who is special to you.
That special person could even be YOU. You may never know to what extent YOU inspire others.
I feel, the most incredible and inspiring people lead from the heart.
This song is for someone who led from the heart.
Are you ready to hear it? (Yes)
Ladies and Gentleman: A Song for Grandma - North!