Tag Archives: Les Hendricks

Stories Can Heal

Classic LesOne of my favorite memories from my grandpa’s funeral is sitting around his kitchen with my cousins telling stories and jokes. That little kitchen filled up with people and laughter again, which my grandpa would have enjoyed. My grandpa was old and it was his time to go, but that act of storytelling helped to heal the wound of losing him.

I finished reading Tell Me a Story by Scott McClellan this week. It’s good stuff (you can read my review for more). Something Scott talks about in the book that I resonate with is the idea that telling stories can be healing.

I’m not a particularly good storyteller—that’s probably why I’m a writer. I like to edit and rework and figure out how best to tell a story. I work better in the written word than the spoken word. But I think part of what draws me to the word is telling stories. It’s self-indulgent, but one of the things I like to write is simply telling stories about my life. In some ways, I think that’s because there’s healing happening there. The telling of stories allows me to process, to figure things out, to think things through and find meaning or comfort or grace.

That’s probably why, in my moments of greatest distress, I turn to writing. I tell the story. Some of those stories aren’t meant to be told to anyone but myself, but still I tell them.

In adoption, I think this is why it’s important that we tell the stories. It’s easy to gloss over what could be uncomfortable details and avoid those stories. But by telling those adoption stories, we give voice to them, we shine a light on any “messy” details and we find a way to embrace them. A story gives us the narrative to do that. It gives us a voice and something to cling to when we’re confused or fearful.

That’s powerful. Continue reading Stories Can Heal

Connecting a Country: Don’t Slam the Post Office

Raymond Post OfficeThe United States Postal Service has been an easy target of late. Last year they announced a $15.9 billion loss. This year they announced the coming end of Saturday service. The jokes never seem to end as people bemoan every bad experience they’ve ever had. Everyone thinks they can run it better. Everyone thinks it needs to privatize. Or get with the times. We send email for goodness sake.

It’s kind of annoying. I like the post office. Which is why this Esquire article is worth reading.

Nobody seems to understand that this isn’t entirely the fault of the United States Postal Service. The last time the USPS was in the black? 2006. Not so coincidentally, that’s when Congress forced the USPS to pay off 75 years worth of future retiree’s benefits in the next 10 years, something no other government agency has to do and something most private companies would spread out over 40 years or more. The result? 70% of the USPS’s loss last year—$11.1 billion—came from these future health care payments.

A $4.8 billion loss is still something, but it’s a lot more manageable out of a total budget of $81 billion. It’s not quite as dire.

The reality is that for all the complaints about the United States Postal Service, we forget what it really offers.

It connects everyone in the United States like nothing else. You can deliver a letter from one end of the country to the other for the same price as sending it across town. You can literally reach anyone in the country. The Postal Service is required to get the mail to people, even in rural areas, where Fed Ex and UPS rely on the Postal Service to go that last mile. Continue reading Connecting a Country: Don’t Slam the Post Office

Remembering My Grandpa

Last night Yeshumnesh asked if I cried when my grandpa died. Actually, she asked if I would cry if Milo kept eating and eating until his stomach exploded and then he died. I tend to ignore those bizarre ‘what if’ scenarios and then she asked more seriously if I cried whey my grandpa died.

I didn’t cry.

He died in 2002 and I tried to explain that it was his time. I was sad to see him go, but he was barely hanging on. He’d grown so frail and skinny at the end. Medical complications were getting ridiculous and while I don’t remember it all, I think amputation had been discussed. That’s not something an 80-year-old man needs to go through. His death wasn’t unexpected, it was a mercy.

Then I showed Yeshumnesh some pictures.

This is how I remember my grandpa. That and the fact that he called me ‘turd.’ If I had more time I would have explained to Yeshumnesh what I wrote for my grandpa’s funeral. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything else that so perfectly captures a person. That was Grandpa, making people laugh.

While talking about him I realized none of my kids ever met him and even Abby barely got to know him. By the time she was in the picture my grandpa was already frail in body and mind. They all would have loved laughing in his kitchen. And that’s actually one of my greatest treasures—standing around in my grandpa’s kitchen with my brother and cousins and Abby, telling stories and laughing so hard.

A line I wrote nine years ago sums it up: He grew too old before I grew up, and I miss him.

This picture captures him so perfectly, I can almost smell the Old Spice.

Classic Les

Eulogy for my Grandpa: 1922-2002

My GrandparentsMy grandpa died last week. I pulled these thoughts together for the funeral, and read them to a packed house. I had the whole place laughing, and I think that’s the way Grandpa would have wanted it. The words may not mean a lot to you, but for me they capture my grandpa.


I remember spending summers in Kansas with Grandpa. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and now I live in St. Paul and take the city bus to work everyday. Spending summers in Kansas was a bit of culture shock.

I remember waking up early and sitting around the kitchen table and listening while Grandpa and my mom sipped coffee and talked. The Hutch paper was always spread across the table, and inevitably, the conversation would turn to me.

“He probably fails all his classes, don’t he?” Grandpa would ask. A slow smile would spread across his aging face as his gaze shifted from my mom to me.
Continue reading Eulogy for my Grandpa: 1922-2002

My Grandpa’s Final Years

Stepping out of the car, we slowly filed in. I’ve never walked so slowly in my life. I didn’t know what to expect, but dread filled the air. This wasn’t going to be fun. Grandpa hasn’t been doing so well. We were visiting him at the rest home–he’s only been there for a month or so. A car accident last year told us thing were getting worse. Finally it got to the point where he couldn’t stay at home anymore.

I hadn’t seen him in six years. The last time I’d seen him, he was himself, sitting in a lawn chair in front of the house, smoking a Marlboro. Now the house is quiet, the lawn chair is empty, and the weeds are growing up around the porch and in the gravel driveway.

But a lot can change in six years. The man lying half asleep on that rest home bed was hardly my Grandpa. He was more like a tiny child. He never woke up enough to actually talk to us, and he barely even recognized us. I was dreading having to talk really loud and repeat everything I said five times–I’m a notorious mumbler. Phone conversations the past few years have never been fun.

But I would have loved to shout and speak slowly and clearly–anything would have been better than this. The man who once held me in his arms, the man who first let me drive a car–even if it was only on the country roads of Kansas. A weary old man as long as I’ve known him, with rough, work-worn skin and an old wrinkled face–like it had been stretched out over the years. The man who always told me my interest in writing came from my great-great uncle who was an author. The man who would have poked fun at the goatee I grew at college and hassled me about the girlfriend I brought back with me to Kansas.

Here that man was, barely able to keep his eyes open. He wasn’t eating well and was continually falling. He had lost the will to live. The tears welled up in my eyes, and all I could do was squeeze my girlfriend’s hand.