Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Losing Grandma Lingholm

Today, my heart goes out to my cousin Susan and my Aunt Anita.  For the past few years, they have been the primary caretakers for my Grandma Lingholm.  Grandma had broken her hip two years ago, sending her on a downward spiral that eventually caused her to lose her memory, her independence and today, her life.

I hope they were able to say what was on their hearts to Grandma.  I hope the rest of the family was able to as well.   Regardless of condition, I believe a part of everyone is still listening as they pass on.  Various circumstances in life have left me on the outside looking in, yet I am thankful that Grandma was not alone, that she was loved and cared for.

A phone call from my mom and a quick check of Facebook confirmed Grandma's passing.  While we have not been close, I still felt a flood of sadness roll over me.  It is further proof that none of us are invincible.  My childhood is fading into a more distant memory.  Another member of the greatest generation is gone.  Another grandparent passes before meeting the family my wife and I are trying to create.

Grandma enjoyed life, from the casinos to her kids and grandkids.  She was quick to laugh and slow to anger.  She ended stories with the phrase, "And like that."

May you rest in peace Winnie.  May you rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taking Care of the Homeless

Tonight I witnessed an incredible presentation by Mark Horvath, creator of InvisiblePeople.tv.  What made his presentation incredible was the passion he spoke with about the plight of the homeless in American and our misguided efforts to help.  Homeless himself, he is putting a face on being homeless.

During the Q & A portion of the meeting, he said we need to go back to a Depression Era mindset when it comes to dealing with our neighbors.

Gumpy grew up right in the middle of the Depression.  He personally didn't talk much about it and the stories he told barely scratched the surface of the struggles his family faced.  The only story he really ever told about how hard it was for his parents was about the time he wanted a red bike.  He was flipping through a Sears and Roebuck catalogue and saw a nice red bike.  He asked his dad, my Great Grandfather Frank, if he could have it.  Frank sat down on the floor next to him, said he wished he could and cried right along with Gumpy.  It was the only time he remembered ever seeing his father cry.

Frank worked hard to provide for his family, putting in several years before and after the Depression working for the Hillsdale County Road Commission.  My Great Grandmother was an excellent cook.  In those days, the highest complement someone could make to a housewife was that she could make a good meal out of nothing.  Verna (who I remember best as GG) could make a great meal out of nothing!  They did not struggle because they lacked initiative.  They struggled because they agreed to take care of the children of so many neighbors and family members.

In those days, there were no homeless shelters, at least not in Waldron.  You could always find a sympathetic family member to help.  If a family had to move or could just not afford to feed everyone anymore, the community would take care of them.

These were lessons Gumpy took to heart.  Neither of my grandparents ever bragged about the things they did to help various family members, but they delayed trips, drove old cars and sacrificed opportunities to make sure their extended family was taken care of.  Nieces, nephews, cousins, close family friends, the exact relation wasn't always important.  What was important was they had food in their stomachs, clothes on their backs and a roof over their head.

Fidelity to family is one of the most important keys to a happy life Gumpy gave me.

I thank Mark for giving me another reason to think of Gumpy today and for challenging our community to do better in taking care of all of our brothers and sisters.  He launched a new website too, one that focuses on getting homeless folks the information they need to use social media as a tool for getting help.  This might sound counter-intuitive until you start watching InvisiblePeople.  Then it makes more sense.

Please, please, please help me get these resources in the hands of libraries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.  They all see many people in need everyday and this might just be the hand up they need to break the cycle of homelessness.


It's a one stop source for teaching people how to get an email address, sign up for accounts on Twitter and Facebook and techniques for using those to find help.  The tools might be different from the ones used during the Depression but one thing stays the same, we need to be our brothers (and sisters) keeper.