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Family Focus’s poetry-writing grandparents took the stage on April 24 with new poems about love, work and prayer. The group defined grandparents as Giving, Resilient, Amazing, Noble, Diehard, Powerful, Artistic, Religious, Energetic, Necessary and Terrific.
The setting and sound effects evoked a train. A train whistle signaled that a passenger was on her way, a grandma entered and read her poem that was printed on a “ticket,” which she handed to the conductor and then took her seat. A tug on the overhead strap signaled the stop, and each woman read a second poem as she exited the train.
Northlight Theatre worked with the group on staging and presentation, said Kaiser Ahmed, who directed the presentation.
The poems described hardship and triumph, love and faith. Some women described immense efforts that took years – working past drug addiction, attaining a college degree, becoming a nurse, driving a school bus for 19 years.
“I’ve been clean for 17 years.”
“This is what I had to do – stop using drugs … go to the house of the Lord.”
“I’ve been blessed so much, but I’ve come so far.” “I’m 54 years old. I’ve been through some good times and some bad.”
When she learned her 3-year-old grandson had to have surgery, “It was the very worst day of my life. Lurie Children’s Hospital became my home for three months.”
Change came but “It wasn’t until it shook my core and shattered my spirit that I was then able to surrender” and give up drinking.
“I lost a couple of children, but I have them back.”
“I was so nervous. I was graduating with my degree.”
“I finished my education; my greatest triumph was getting baptized.”
“Our goal is to raise children. … It’s hard to feel sorry for my life.”
“Anger, happiness, peace, love, joy and embarrassment. We ask ourselves ‘Why?’ Did you ever ask yourself ‘Why not?’?”
Others described simple but important tasks such as fixing breakfast for grandchildren, getting them ready for school and saying to them every day, “I love you. Do your best.”
“Life can sometimes be sad …”
“We can only live for the moment. … The only things we know for certain: We live and die.”
“I’m feeling blessed … I see happiness, and, most of all, love.”
“All of this, every day. All of this fast and slow.”
The group, Second Chance Grandparents, plans to compile the poems into a book. “Grandparents’ Memoirs,” a sequel to the 2015 “Grandparents Rock.”
Beth Jacobs, a writing facilitator, has taught poetry-writing to adults and youth at Family Focus for 11 years. She described the genesis of the poems: “The group works together and we write from prompts usually. Sometimes the prompt is a poem or just a topic or a kind of emotional writing exercise. … We’ve done exercises like remembering three pairs of shoes in your life and writing a story that comes from that, or recalling your neighborhood or turning points in your life. The women write and then voluntarily share their writings with each other. The response is less a critique than pure group support and appreciation and sometimes getting up to hug someone. … . I then type up the writing each week and bring them copies of the group’s work to enjoy.”
At the April 24 performance, Ms. Jacobs told the audience, “Grandparents are the people who do what needs to be done. Very rarely do they get to feel like they are authors of their own lives. With these poems, they are speaking from the heart.”