Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 2)

Grandpa Ken

Teenagers don’t often seek out time with their ol’ grandpa.  Jamie did that day.  The night before he left our home for the last time.

Heidi asked me to describe my relationship with Jamie.  My response, “Oh, I suppose we had an average grandfather-grandson relationship.”  He did live on our homeplace the first five years of his life.  As a farmer, I worked the land from dawn to dusk six days a week.  Whether in my workshop, chicken house, Quonset, barn or coming in from the fields… Hearing & seeing Jamie and Heidi, too… just part of it.  Those two… couldn’t have been any closer, I don’t suppose.

After Carlton and Kathy moved off the farm, I remember Jamie (Michael and little Holly, too) growing up so fast between our visits.  From what I heard, he was quite a good student.  Active little guy.  I remember him wresting for the school.  He read a lot.  He sure seemed to enjoy learning… came easy to him, I think.

As he aged into a teenager, I remember noting I never saw him upset or agitated.  His ability to articulate- clear.  His ability to pass a football – exceptional.  And his self-control was admirable beyond his age.    Always in control of himself.  Mature.  And well-spoken.  Bright.  Very bright.

Struggles for Jamie surfaced during his freshman year.  First, I remember he had to get glasses.  He had dreams of being a military pilot.  Like his Dad, he loved planes.  And the corrective lenses meant he was physically disqualified already.  I flew planes during the war (WWII), so I understood the draw to fly… And the turbulence that sticks with you years after war’s end.

Additional external struggles picked at him, too at a large public school near Denver, Colorado where he lived with his parents by that time. He endured difficulties during football season.  (Later we learned coaches and students were directly part of this.)  Evidently, the struggles worsened over the school year.  According to his mom (my daughter) his anxiety grew.   By spring and summer, his grades began to slip, and he begged to not go back to that school.  For a kid, who rarely complained, this surprised me.  But, I figured he and his folks would figure it out.

Honoring authority can be a curious thing to navigate particularly in cases when authority is misused.

From my understanding, the family thought Jamie’s social needs outweighed his living with immediate family.  The decision:  he’d live with his uncle (our eldest son) deep in the mountains. This way Jamie could have a fresh start and attend a smaller school.

My son’s own daughters lived with their mother in the city.  However, his house in the mountains was already home to several young people.  Those residing in the home at the time consisted of he and his wife, a step-daughter, a girl friend of hers as well as a boy friend of hers.  This is what Jamie joined.  Some thought this would serve as an ideal answer to the social friction of the big city school.  Instant social circle right there in the home.  They all went to the same high school where Jamie again joined the football team.  This move offered hope of a new beginning.  Evidently, it played out with far less optimism than Jamie had banked on.

The eventual inconsistencies of this family structure is exactly what he wanted to talk to us about that Thanksgiving weekend.

We made our way down the stairs and sat down together.  Jamie spoke calmly.  He outlined unfair treatment he though he received while living there that fall.  (He’d return to his parents’ home to live before Christmas.)    Characteristically Jamie, he spoke clearly.  I didn’t sense bitterness.  In fact, I sensed his desire… peaceful resolution.  But, again, he felt that was unfairly beyond reach.  He did not lambaste anyone…he simply shared.

“The thorough integration of strength and sensitivity, of firmness and feeling, is rare.”

Eugene Peterson Run with the Horses pg. 56

From the details (which aren’t necessary to share here), he shared I certainly understood his concern.  In general, Jamie said he carried the heaviest weight of chore responsibility within the home while the other teens either didn’t have chores or got away easily without doing them.  Also, Jamie explained that all the teens in the home were at least 16 years old, licensed drivers; however, Jamie was the only one not allowed to drive.  When he attempted to seek explanation, he said he was silenced without reason.

In such a situation, I see how a young man’s self-respect could easily erode.  Yet, I certainly never imagined Jamie was in the process of giving up on living… He spoke clearly.  Calmly… Compassionately, he really didn’t want to burden others with the conflict.  I think he hoped we’d help.

continued… Grandpa Ken … He Reached Out to Me (part 3)

Grandpa Ken… He Reached Out to Me (part 1)

Grandpa Ken

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.

Brief History:

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

Perspective:

“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)