People have asked me how I started out.
Sometimes knowing a bit about how someone grew up can be helpful to understand who they are as a person now.
Here’s a little about how I grew up and what matters to me.
I started out life from a “one time, good time.”
So I grew up with my Grandfather, Grandmother, Mother and Uncle.
My Grandfather was a good man and a college professor.
When I was 10, he had a stroke and could no longer speak. But it didn’t stop him.
He continued to go to meetings, write his questions on a pad, enlist a friend to speak his questions and kept on contributing.
One day, after one of those meetings, he suddenly passed away. I was 12 and at 82, my Grandmother started a whole new chapter of her life too.
My family was stunned, so from the emergency room at the hospital, I called the rest of the family to let them know.
I helped my Grandmother pick out his casket and we worked together with the funeral home and attorneys to make the arrangements.
My single mom was a Medical Secretary. She worked hard to help support us, and put away what little money she could into a “Christmas Club” account each year so we could have one vacation a year in Watch Hill RI.
She became a Den Mother when I entered Cub Scout’s and got up with me at 4:30 AM every Sunday to drive her car around Providence hauling the Sunday newspapers I delivered for my paper route.
When I was 14 my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and by the time I was 18 she was totally disabled.
During the following years my grandmother and I did all we could to help her, as she lost her ability to take care of herself independently.
Having lived at home all her life, because she needed her parents support as I was growing up, she realized that she had never lived in her own apartment.
I realized how important this was to her, and as anxious as I was about her not having anyone with her when the medicine that gave her her mobility would stop working sometimes. My Grandmother and I talked it over and we supported her to go ahead. And we’d be here if she needed us.
I can only imagine the feeling she had being in her own place for the first time in her life.
I’m sure it was a mix of “Wow this is amazing” and “Wow this is scary. I wonder if I can do this.”
But she did for one year. She got to experience life just living her life, struggles and joys, living as just Dorothy.
I think it gave her back a level of her own dignity as a person.
At the end of that year, with her disease progressing, she knew it was time to come home.
She eventually lost control of her limbs and eventually the ability to speak.
She passed away when she lost her ability to swallow.
My Uncle Bill was a really good guy. He had a really big heart and a great sense of humor.
He had served in the Air Force and moved back in after he was discharged.
My uncle’s brother, Jim, had taken off as a teenager and enlisted. He never came back to live at our house, so I only saw him in person the few times he visited.
My Uncle Bill however, was a bit of a “Calamity Bill”, and as time passed, we were on a first name basis with the staff at the local emergency room.
I’d developed the habit of having my clothes “ready to go” so when I got the “Hey Paul, What ya doing? call from the emergency room or elsewhere, I was ready to go.
Much of what kept happening to him was the result of being addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs for years.
At one low point when I was about 19, he was completely high, holding a loaded gun to his head. His friend and I talked him down, convinced him to give us the gun and then called 911 to get him into a rehab hospital for treatment.
To make things more interesting, he also smoked, which resulted in various parts of his body being removed from time to time.
But through it all, he was the most resilient human I’ve ever met.
He just kept focused on moving forward, no matter how bazar things got.
When he finally decided to kick alcohol. He did it.
And then when he decided to kick his drug addiction. He did it.
Both with professional help, but ultimately, He accomplished it.
How did Uncle Bill finally pass away?
In “Calamity Bill” style, from a wheel chair accident…
Still, through all of this and more growing up, my Grandmother was always a beautiful, level headed friend.
She was a smart, well educated woman and the kindest, most loving person I’ve ever known.
She gave me a really valuable perspective on the craziness of life.
She was born just before the Spanish American War. She saw the first indoor toilet, the first automobile, first telephone, the 1918 pandemic, two world wars, the Cuban Missal Crisis, political assassinations, race riots in my schools, the Viet Nam War and watched a man land on the moon.
And through it all, she was still positive, loving, hopeful and kind.
She lived to 97, still sharp, and sharing her beautiful perspective.
By the time I was in my mid 30’s, three of the four people who raised me were gone.
So did I have a good life growing up?
The way I saw it, there were some hard times happening to good people I loved.
So I worked to help them get through it.
Because even if I couldn’t fix their problems, they always knew they were never alone.
Not that it didn’t suck sometimes.
Sometimes it truly sucked.
But along the way I learned that happiness is available to us no matter what the circumstances.
It’s all in how we choose to respond.
And learning that skill has been truly life changing.
Paul A. Good MM, MEd
The Power Of Intentional Living™
The NorthStar Method™