Jonathan opens a bright purple folder, filled with copies of his handwritten stories. Behind his brown-framed glasses, his friendly eyes dance as he reads each carefully chosen word. Jonathan has attended Catholic Charities St. Ailbe Adult Day Services Center for five years and it’s provided him with an audience to share his work.
St Ailbe is one of three of Catholic Charities adult day centers, which offer stimulating group and individualized activities for disabled adults and seniors in a safe, inviting atmosphere.
Jonathan said he has been writing since elementary school to “get things off his chest. It helps me to think things through and share the stories of my life,” he said.
Jonathan, now 66, had a hard childhood. He calls his father a “no-good, abusive drunk.” He grimaces as he recounts standing in the way of his father, who was abusive toward his mother. In one instance, his father fought back with a gun in Jonathan’s face.
“I didn’t care,” he said. “No one was going to treat my mother that way.” He smiles as he remembers that his grandmother called him “her little boy with a heart of steel.”
His stories share the miniscule, the monumental, and the comical snapshots of his life. In “A Black Neighbor That Saved My Life,” Jonathan writes about the day he was born. His mother had to ask their neighbor for a ride to the hospital because his father was too drunk to drive. After high school, Jonathan escaped his home life by joining the Navy, where he served as a cook. In his story “Hawkman Specials,” he recounts how the sailors loved how he seasoned and grilled hamburgers. They called them the Hawkman Special (Jonathan’s last name is Hawkins).
“I had a distinctly fascinating way of making hamburgers,” he writes.
After the Navy, Jonathan moved back to Chicago and worked as a computer technician at Argonne National Laboratory. He married shortly after and has lived on the south side ever since.
Today, Jonathan gets around on an electric wheelchair as he battles MS. In his story “A Pastor’s Prophecy,” Jonathan tells of his pastor’s belief that Jonathan will walk again one day. On December 11, Jonathan said he walked 410 feet during his physical therapy session, his longest distance in the past two-and-a-half years. The story closes, “Believe and receive or doubt and do without!”
While Jonathan hopes others enjoy his stories, he’s happy just to share them at St. Ailbe and have the stories written down as a record of his life. “When I’m gone,” he said, “my stories will still be here.”