I really do believe you did the best you could with what you had; nevertheless, I have so many questions.
First, thank you for serving our country. I appreciate you for signing up during a time when Black men were still seen as inferior in many places. You volunteered to serve anyway and I will never forget that.
I see similarities in us and wonder if we would have been a winning team. Your laugh, according to others, was bright. I don’t know what it sounds like but I do remember your smile. I remember your embrace in the two memories I can recall. You seemed like the life of the party. I found out that you were so musically-minded that you scratched records like a disk jockey just for fun.
You wrote poetry. The only one I remember had a line about a tree in it. Grandma had it framed and it sat on the coffee table well after you were gone. The syntax was too complicated for my pre-school-aged mind even though I had written my first short story in Kindergarten and it won a place in a state competition. I was so proud of that —- that I could write just like you— and I wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t. I had grown accustomed to your absence.
It’s easy to create an alternate ending to our story without the dark fibers woven in between. I can’t paint you as a villain because again, I believe you did the best you could with what you had. You were dealing with a lot. Processing a lot without allowing it to digest through your soul.
What I do appreciate is the way you would bring me chocolate cupcakes when you came to visit. It let me know that you thought of me while you were gone. Your nickname for me always made me smile too. Your skin was chocolate… like mine. I wanted to touch your face many times just to test the smoothness of your cheeks and the roundness of your nose.
The genetic material that makes up half of my existence is filled with parts of you. Your passion for life. Your spontaneity. Your friendliness. Your lightheartedness. Your poetic pen. I believe I get that from you. Some days, I wish I could go deep sea diving into your psyche… to see your heart space through these adult goggles of mine and find where my spot was located in the darkness. Since you left Earth early, I’ll never know except what others tell me and that will have to be enough. It has served me with rich information so far yet left me yearning to fill the canyon of emptiness.
God knew what He was doing. That’s how I have to think about it. God knew there was trouble ahead and that Mommy could handle it. I have to admit — it was weird grieving over someone I barely knew. I remember going back into my grandmother’s living room to watch television after she and my mother broke the news. I could hear them talking in the kitchen, but it faded into a muffle behind Nick At Nite. I didn’t know what to feel, so I felt nothing. I remember my mind going blank as the black-and-white images flickered on the screen.
When I returned to school, a teacher passed out an information sheet for us to complete. I raised my hand when I got to the line that said “father” because I didn’t know what to write. I was only in 2nd or 3rd grade. I learned that day to write the word “deceased” whenever I saw “father” on documents. It was an odd revelation for a kid. I knew the meaning of the word “cease” from the soulful Douglas Miller tune My Soul Has Been Anchored In The Lord, but de-ceased made no sense to me. The prefix was supposed to cancel out the root word, so I thought. Confused, I wrote it anyway because that’s what I was told was proper. That was one of the distinct moments I realized you were gone forever, and a part of me that I would never know went with you.
All in all, I know you would be proud of the woman I have become. I know you would be reading every word I write and we would talk about it over the phone. We would probably laugh a bit too. You just seemed to be that type of guy. I don’t know if we would have seen each other often, but I’m certain we would have talked. I believe you would have tried to make every graduation and tried to call for birthdays. I believe you would have done the best you could. I’ll hold on to that. Forever until.
I love you and thank you for what you’ve given me.