Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Grandmother

This is a photograph taken on my Grandparent's 50th Anniversary.
Ask yourself who is or was the most positive influential person in your life? For me, it was my Grandmother, Lucille Wheeler. On January 29, 2014 it will be twenty five years since her passing. When I look back on my childhood,  it was my Grandparents who were the "rock of stability" in my life as I grew up. Having gone through my parent's  divorces from each other twice, it was my Grandmother who was always there, never flinching, strong, loving, and dependable.

There are so many happy memories of Mom ( we called my Grandmother Mom, never Grandma). She would always welcome any and all of her ten grandchildren with open arms and a welcomed hug. She never shyed away from demonstrative love, it was she who taught me to show love to others.

Mom who worked hard all of her life, taught me how to be a good person, about honesty, truthfulness, living as good a life as possible. Words cannot adequately describe how much I attribute the kind of person I am today to my Grandmother. She lived her life by actions, not just by mere words, she demonstrated genuineness and goodness in all she did. In a childhood wrought with the usual fighting and arguing that comes along with divorce, it was at my Grandparent's home I found solace.

I think of  Mom often and in a way I am glad she never lived long enough to see me go through the loss of my legs; it would have broken her heart to see one of her grandchildren suffer such a devastating loss. I must credit some of the  strength I feel I have demonstrated, to my Grandmother, a very strong person in her own right and well deserving of the title, family Matriarch. Mom held her family together through many tragic events and we all surfaced stronger and better people for the experiences we endured and for having such a positive influence in our lives.

After I moved to Chicago in 1980, Mom would write a letter to me once a week, long before the days of emails, and at the close of each letter she would sign it, "May God bless you in a very special this week. Love, Mom." God did bless me, giving me such a wonderful Grandmother whose very words and actions shape my life even to this day.

After Mom retired at 62 years of age, she decided to take driving lessons and learn to drive a car for the first time in her life. Think about how much gumption that took, just a little insight into what kind of a person she was, unafraid, brave, and determined. I hope I have even a small percentage of her zest for life, goodness of heart, and strength of character.

A lot has happened in the twenty five years since  we lost my blessed Grandmother, and although she is not here physically, her spirit is with all of us now and forever. Thanks Mom, I know you are aware of what I am writing now and that you are just as proud of your grandson and I am of my Grandmother. I miss you so much!

Love, Little Glenn

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Fire 10 Years Later

This a statue on an angel Bill gave me for my birthday October 2013

Recently here in Chicago there was an apartment fire that ironically took place in the same building that I lived in when I first moved to Chicago in 1980. This caught my attention because it has been ten years since a mysterious fire devastated mine and Kevin's apartment in January 2004. In another twist of irony our apartment was right up the street from this other fire that just occurred a week ago.

I cannot begin to adequately express how all encompassing a fire can be to one's life, impacting not only where you were living but also relationships with other people either directly or indirectly. As a direct consequence of the fire that Kevin and I endured, our roommate arrangement came to an abrupt end and our friendship suffered greatly. Kevin ended up moving to Florida and living with one of his sisters.

Regretably year and a half after the fire, in June 2005, Kevin passed away from liver cancer. I never got to see Kevin again, this has troubled me for years. I take some comfort in knowing he did receive a card I sent to him while he was in the hospital and the card expressed my feelings of love for him as my best friend for twenty five years.

Immediately after the fire I was overwhelmed with the damage the fire had caused and how I was going to pick up the pieces and move forward. Bill was instrumental is so many ways in helping me not only physically move what belongings of mine were salvageable but also being a rock of stability on which I could lean for emotional support. I will never forget walking into that severely burnt apartment and immediately bursting into tears. I called Bill and he was beacon of hope armed with a plan about how to approach my situation systematically, allowing me to address specific tasks and accomplish  short term goals. The first of which was to move enough of my belongings into my new apartment to be able to sleep there that very night.

Within a week of moving into my new apartment I suffered a blood clot in my right leg. I was hospitalized for 10 days and fortunately the clot was able to be dissolved. I am simplifying this ordeal, it was still a very involved set of procedures in which I suffered a great deal of physical pain. It was probably the complete set of circumstances of helping move heavy furniture across the street and up the stairs, coupled with the emotional distress of the entire fire fiasco that led to the blot clot.

The beginning of 2004 was a very difficult time for me in a myriad of ways. I had lost a great deal of my belongings from the  fire, I had a huge fight and separation from my best friend of over twenty five years and ended up in the hospital with a blood clot.

One of the reasons I am recounting these events is to let my readers know that no matter how hopeless a series of events may seem to you as you are living them, there always remains the glimmer of hope for a brighter future. I have lived through many difficult times in my life; the loss of many close friends, the loss of my artwork through another person's act of violence, the loss of my artwork through a fire, many operations, and the loss of both of my legs, one at a time.

Ten years after this fire, I am here, I am well, and I am thankful. I am thankful I am here to share my story with you and to offer you sympathy, compassion, and understanding for whatever loss you may be suffering today or tomorrow. Even though circumstances in our lives change, it is our responsibility to change along with them. I found through my life experiences that when things seem to be overwhelming, it is best to address one issue at a time.

I have dealt with the loss of many close friends by remembering the good times and for me, remembering that although people are not here in a physical sense, they are here with us spiritually; that has brought me comfort through the years. I dealt with the fire by focusing on getting my life back on track, it helps if you have someone in your life to help direct you and assure you things will be ok. I had Bill and his being here for me has helped me immeasurably.

The loss of a limb or in my case both lower limbs has been by far the most life changing event of my life thus far. I made a conscious decision after the loss of my first leg that I was not going to let this occurrence ruin my life. I was not going to allow a terrible loss dictate my future happiness. I have stuck to my resolve and although it has been quite difficult, I always remain optimistic about my future.

Everyone deals with loss differently but that does not mean you cannot deal with it successfully. I feel the magnitude of my limb loss everyday, but it has, in it's own unique way, changed me for the better. It has made me a more aware and thankful person in many ways. Sometimes when change occurs, those changes that on the surface appear to be for the worse, can in other areas of your life, make you grow as a person.

If you find yourself going through a really difficult time, remember that it will, in most instances, not last forever. If it does last forever, every person has within themselves the capacity to overcome adversity. I send my love and hope for your future happiness no matter how devastating your situation may seem at the present moment.

The picture posted at the beginning of this blog post has no real relevance to what I have written, but I like it and it is a beautiful statue and that is reason enough for me to share it with you.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year

This is a photo taken during my first Christmas in my condo in 2007, I am sitting in front of the Christmas tree with Bill's dog, Cyril.

Well another year has begun and I thought I would review some of the events that occurred during 2013 along with thoughts and hopes for 2014.

Probably one of the most constructive and beneficial accomplishments of 2013 was my joining the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's gym for persons with disabilities. It will be a year in February that I have been going to RIC and although I have mentioned it before, it warrants repeating. I have met a lot of interesting people at RIC and most importantly those people have taught me just how lucky I am. There are so many others whose  physical limitations are much more pronounced than are mine and it has made me rethink how unrestricted I actually am compared to some of the other patrons at RIC.

The above realizations coupled with being physically back in a gym, make me a happier person. There are a lot of exercises that I can do at RIC that I was not able to do at home because I lack the proper equipment and RIC offers a free personal assistant on the gym floor to assist patrons with all aspects of working out.

Another accomplishment I am proud to have completed was staining the rooftop deck of my condo building. This was a project that desperately needed to be done and I am happy to report I was able to do almost the entire  thing by myself. I did enlist the help of my friend Brian to do the areas I was not physically capable of reaching. This was an opportunity for me to make some money and at the same time show everyone including myself that there are jobs I am still capable of doing.

I had my balcony elevated so that I can now get out onto the balcony with a minimum of effort and enjoy weeding and watering my own flowers, something I had greatly missed doing for the past five years.

Through much trial, error and drama I finally managed to find a suitable roommate. One would think that finding a roommate would be a somewhat easy thing to do, however this did not prove to be the case. After my first roommate got ill and went back to live in his home state, I found another roommate who ended up being a drug addicted, alcoholic, mentally unstable individual. Upon his forced removal I finally managed to find a law student named Charles. He and I have been roommates for seven months and things are going well between he and I. Charles will continue to be my roommate until at least July, perhaps and hopefully longer.

Over the past year I have not driven my car very much, mostly because it is in need of repair and I have let the city sticker, license plates and insurance expire. I am going to rectify that situation this year, I feel I have become too dependent on my assistant for rides and such. The main reason is of course lack of sufficient funds, but I have a tentative plan.

If all goes according to my plan, I would like to paint the two hallways of my condo building this year. I have already spoken to the board president about this and am currently trying to figure out who can help me reach those areas that I cannot reach by myself. I have spoken to my nephew, Jeremiah about assisting me, however I do not know for sure if he will be able to help me.

I plan on using that money to get all the car stuff done so that instead of having my assistant drive me to the RIC gym in his car, I will drive my car and he will drive it back home. I miss driving and I particularly miss the independence that driving your own car gives a person. When you are disabled you already have had to give up many of the freedoms that able bodied persons take for granted. It is important to me to hang onto as many freedoms as I can and maintain as much autonomy as possible.

I am also going to investigate the possibility of doing some type of computer work at home to supplement my income. I completed four paintings in the last year and am currently working on a fifth, along with numerous personally painted greeting cards for friends and family.

I kind of got a little lazy with this blog this past  year, sometimes only writing one post in an entire month, I am going to be writing more this year than last. I guess one could say I ran into a writer's block or something, or perhaps that is just an excuse writers use because they were not motivated or were simply being lazy.

I read something recently that reminded me that we as individuals, whether disabled or able bodied, sometimes put ourselves down. This can come in many forms from making statements to others about ourselves or even thinking and saying negative things to ourselves about ourselves; this is something I am going make a conscientious effort to curtail and hopefully eliminate. We have all heard of self fulfilling prophecy and if we are not careful about what we say and think about ourselves we can inadvertently set ourselves up for failure and unhappiness.

On that note I will close by saying that last year was a good year with more accomplishments than failures and I am looking forward to a good year in 2014. I think as I push forward in my journey that I am growing as a person, ever closer to being the best person I can be.

I wish all of you, my readers, a smooth path on which to walk, roll or whatever, bringing you closer to your life mission, closer to God and closer to each other.

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