Thank YOU Emily for everything you're doing for this project, and for letting me post your powerful email here. I can't tell you how much your passion means to me - and the effect you have on our teammates is apparent.
By the way, readers, stick with us. LOADS are happening on this project behind the scenes. I truly believe that this project is nothing short of a series of miracles. We're still ironing the details so I can't reveal everything quite yet. But what I can say is every dream my volunteers and I have ever had is coming true: satellite classes and blogs, check; video branch, check; teen outreach, check; a public seniors storytelling event, check. Seriously, stick with us. The next few weeks and months will be full of some unbelievable announcements.
From: Emily Antoszyk
To: Benita Cooper
Date: Thursday, May 20, 2010, 10:22 AM
Just wanted to say that I really love what you wrote in the blog about building friendships. It actually made me reflect a little bit on my grandfather, my relationship to him, and the relationships he kept until he passed away, which didn't extend much beyond his immediate family.
My grandfather was a diabetic, a survivor of two heart attacks in the 1970s, and a very ornery old man (but a big softy underneath - especially for his granddaughter!) By the time he moved to Charlotte in the 1990s, he wasn't in the best shape. In fact, in his last few years, my mom said that doctors would look at his charts and proclaim, "On paper, this man should be dead!". Until reading your essay today, I hadn't thought much about what was keeping him alive for all of his 89 - almost 90 - years. Sure, it was his fiery spirit, but I think more than that it was debate. My grandfather would counter just about anything anyone would say, playing devil's advocate. Sometimes I couldn't tell if he truly believed what he was saying, or if he was trying to get me to think. To be honest, I think he liked the sport of it, the way debate kept his mind sharp and helped bring interest to his relationships.
My grandfather was fiercely independent. When he stopped being able to drive and have daily interaction, his health started to deteriorate more quickly. I think the idea of going into an assisted living facility, for him, was the kiss of death. I remember once visiting a nursing home where he was staying temporarily and being completely terrified; most of the residents I saw in the halls were completely listless, without response when you walked by. Upon reaching my grandfather's room, I felt much better. There he was, stubborn and complaining as always (but maybe it was because he knew his stint there was only temporary).
Anyways, this wasn't meant to be a depressing story, but that seems like what it is turning into. There were a lot of funny and quirky things my Gramps and I did together that I will have to share when I make it to the class sometime. The real thing I wanted to say to you in writing this e-mail is: Thank you. Visiting nursing homes I've been to always makes me sad. For some, they seem like places to dump older relatives that begin to need extra care. Maybe I have just been to a few that do not have strong social networks, but I think of what a difference human contact, and friendships, can make in a persons quality of life. I know that a spark was ignited every time I visited my grandfather. My dad said one of the last conversations he had with his dad was a debate about football. You really are giving a generation a voice that is oftentimes forgotten, something to look forward to every week, and a breath of fresh air. You are also giving younger generations new ideas of questions to ask, and in terms of me at least, new things to reflect on. Bravo!
Thank you so much for all that you do!