Reconciling Memories of a Child Turned Young Man… Pride, Pain, Regret & Rest … Grandpa Ken
PERSPECTIVES: We can learn so much from one another as we sojourn horizons that both beckon and daunt us. While our general experiences may have general connections, the specificity of our experiences depends on our position, our perception, and how we filter it all. What is this all About?
This grief journey led me back to our family. How do you navigate such a loss? When I nervously asked if they were willing, several vulnerably shared distinctly personal elements of grief, sadness, struggle through this heavy darkness. Each generation recognizing the varying social stigmas of suicide as well as the responses of their closest friends. I am supremely grateful for their honesty. While we share common relationships, every memory is profoundly unique to those who cycle through them; yet, our family’s openness to sharing weaved threads of bravery within me.
“While they spoke, I penned their words…and processed my own.”
– Heidi L. Paulec
When invited to participate in this perspective endeavor reflecting on Jamie’s life and subsequent suicide, most family members offered openness to share their story. However, most did not feel either capable or comfortable to write their own perspectives. Therefore, I sent surveys and conducted subsequent oral interviews from their responses. These were used to establish primary source material from which to write on their behalf in the first person. In each perspective, you can expect “Reflections on the Interview” and “Brief History.” Both sections are written in the third person. Then, the voice will shift to first person for their Perspective.
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Reflections on the Interview:
This original interview was one of my early interviews conducted on July 4, 1997. Grandpa Ken welcomed me (Heidi) , thoughtfully participated, answered my questions, and commended me for taking on this project to honor Jamie’s memory, help others facing similar loss, and ultimately share hope. He sat quietly at times throughout the interview. And while he had already come to grips with Jamie’s absence and reassured by enduring faith, Grandpa Ken acknowledged sadness remains.
Grandpa Ken grew up farming on his family homestead on the plains of southeast Wyoming. This small community was settled by our ancestors who were Swedish immigrants. Third born (second son) to Harry and Carrie Lundberg. Grandpa Ken, a content, hard-working, ever-studying man.
Farming the Great Plains … hardy endeavor for any soul. Short summers. Long winters. Rooting faith seemed the only required element for endurance. As a young man, our Grandpa Ken learned how to work diligently, grow things, sing harmony, write poetry… and he loved basketball.
Somewhere in his junior high years, his Dad needed extra help and hands on the farm, so Grandpa Ken had to work instead of go to school for an entire school year. When he went back to school, the public district acknowledged his maturity and capability, so he skipped the grade he missed and moved up with his original class. (Side note from Heidi … His hand-writing, grammar, and logic… exceptional to read as I prepared for all this.)
As a member of The Greatest Generation, he served in the Army Air Corps- specifically he served primarily as a cargo pilot over “The Hump.” For more details, please read Grandpa Ken’s World War II bio. Upon his return from service, he met and married our Grandma Phyllis… patios & picnics (part 1). They had four children. First, a son. Next, Karen (Heidi’s Mom). Then, Kathy (Jamie, Michael, and Holly’s Mom). Finally, another son. Grandpa Ken and Grandma Phyllis raised their family on the farm where Ken grew up. He took over the farming operation from his Dad.
Ken excelled in carpentry as well. He constructed photo frames, quilt racks, tables, etc. He tackled larger projects as well. As the family grew with grandchildren, he added onto their farmhouse several times. Large windows framed exquisite views summer sunrises and sunsets as well as whistling blizzard in the winter.
On an autumn day in 1982, their home of 40 years burnt to the ground. A couple years of crops freezing in the ground along with this loss opened our grandparents to move east for a season. They moved to Leavenworth, Kansas where Grandpa learned and worked in the oil business. During their time there, Grandpa Ken especially delighted to serve military families in church and in the community.
Eventually, Grandpa Ken and Grandma Phyllis moved back to the Wyoming homestead community and lived out their final nine years on the family farm homesteaded by Grandpa Ken’s grandparents Peter and Sophie Lundberg.
written, researched & edited by Heidi L. Paulec
“Grandpa, can I talk with you and Grandma a bit in the basement?”
I remember Jamie asking of me and his Grandma Phyllis, my bride, on his last visit to our home. It was Thanksgiving 1991. He had traveled with Tim, Karen, and Heidi to our home- joining our youngest son and his family who arrived earlier.
During the days prior to his conversation request, we enjoyed the preparations, the celebration of Thanksgiving, and the hours of college football that followed. The house brims and brews when the kids and grandkids gather. The table expands, so we can all circle around it together for three square meals. At breakfast – just after eating, while still sipping on coffee- we’d read the Bible, Our Daily Bread, and pray together.
Then, we’d all find something do. A project here. An errand there. Working together where we can and around each other otherwise.
As much as the hem and hum of activity warms our home, a few extra quieter moments are always welcome to me. But, this invitation from our eldest grandson serves as a special memory to me. Teenagers don’t often seek out time with their ol’ grandpa. But, Jamie did that day. The night before he left our home for the last time.
continued… Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 2)