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Listening at the Speed of Life

– by C. J. Wade –

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daughters

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #4

Pop, you’re the real MVP.

After raising children on your own, you decided to accept a single mother as your wife and a bitter pre-teen as your daughter. I couldn’t be more grateful for you.

I’m so glad that I was able to tell you everything I wanted to while you were here. I have absolutely no regrets in our relationship. My love for you grew into a beautiful tree that I still pick from well after you’re gone. The fruit of our memories are so sweet.

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One day, I watched you walk down into the dog lot and I said to myself — “They’re Friends.” You walked with God daily. I could hear you praying through my bedroom wall every morning. I saw you bless those that outwardly cursed you. You didn’t just pastor a church; you lifted the Word from the pages and let them saturate your life. You helped widows. You kept deacons out of trouble. You sat at the dining room table with at least 5 books open as you combed the Scriptures (Internet who?). You gave vegetables from your garden to anyone who wanted them. You mentored other ministers. Even when rif rafs broke into our home more than once, you said “Let it go.” I simply remember your kindness toward people and toward my mean self too. It wasn’t you. It was my fear leaking into my actions. I was scared that my mother wouldn’t have enough space in her heart to love us both — after all, it had just been the two of us for all of my life at least. It’s so ludicrous to say aloud, but it was definitely how I felt back then. I’m glad we ended up talking about that too and hugging it out. Your arms were wide enough to handle anything I brought to the table.

I remember the time the school office called you because I needed to be checked out. Mommy was at work and you were at home being amazing as usual with home-cooked meals, clean laundry on the clothes lines, and a freshly mowed lawn. After your stroke, you couldn’t go back to work, so you took care of our home lives without a shred of complaint. That day, severe menstrual cramps caused me to vomit and shiver. I was doubled over on that carpeted floor in anguish. I couldn’t sit up let alone stand up. Trying to hold on to my perfect attendance, I held on until after lunch then I caved and agreed to let them call as I rolled over to my side. With no cell phone in our worlds, you came to the rescue in that old pickup truck with the dog pen in the back like real Marvel Comic hero. The limp from your stroke couldn’t stop you. Your swollen hand couldn’t prevent you from steering to me. It never did. You were the cavalry that day and all the others thereafter.

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What about when you washed my clothes and the whole load turned pink… *giggle* I was so mad as I pulled my shirts and underwear out of the washer like they were sprayed by a skunk. Then, I heard the Holy Spirit say “At least they’re clean.” *laugh* I couldn’t debate that. Then came Mommy’s wisdom about you being man enough to do my laundry while I was at school and how I should be grateful. Needless to say, I didn’t complain again.

I sure do miss you. The snowy white strands of hair on your head. Your quick wit. The multiple pair of overalls. I can still hear your voice clearly giving sound counsel when I want to go off on someone. You had so much trust in me… that I would make wise decisions. You even helped my mother to trust me too. As I write this letter, I am smiling so wide because I had the best experience as your daughter. I was in good hands. You told my mother that you wanted me to feel a father’s love. Well, congratulations Pop, I did.

I love you always. Have fun up there.

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #3

Mommy, you’re a real one.

No, seriously… you are. I can’t think of many people that have endured what you have and still laugh as heartily as you do. You created opportunities for me and others to flourish at your expense and those decisions must have been difficult to digest at times. The reality is that your plans had to be altered because of a little one that looked like you and I appreciate every decision you made.

I know you say that I wasn’t a burden and that I was a gift from God. You’re so kind. I can’t help but think of the moment you found out and just be grateful that I’m here.

Although I’ve told you numerous times, I want to tell you again — there is so much to admire about you and you are blessing to my world.

First, you’re the best cheerleader anyone could have. Period. In all of my creative endeavors, academic achievements, professional frustrations, I stand tall because I know you’re in my corner. No matter where I am in life, I hear you in my heart. Your voice stands out like Love in the darkness. I appreciate that about you… that your arms are always there, straight up and victorious. And you not only do this for me, you uplift others just as high. One phone call from you and that person can’t help but feel like a champion. You hold no love back from anyone who needs it. I get that from you indeed.

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Next, I am so proud of the woman you have become. The Holy Spirit once said to me, “She was a woman before she was your mother.” That sentence enlightened me. It carried so much truth. Before your title included another, you were a young lady navigating through life and now, as time brings about changes, you are a woman still. How you’ve learned to embrace your natural hair again, understand your body, and improve your health… it’s all fascinating and inspiring. Watching you take care of Pop was like watching Jesus in action. You went from pastor’s wife to devoted caregiver in less than 2 years. On many days, I was simply awestruck. I can’t wait to see how you evolve even further into your seasoned self. You still get excited when you learn something new and it brightens my spirit to see you elated. You’re exceptional in my eyes already, but I know you are nowhere near your peak season.

Lastly, thank you for always thinking of me. That may seem weird to say since you’re my mother, but all mothers do not think of their children. I do not take that for granted. You always say “We help each other.” We’ve had our communication challenges, but we did the work and look at us… on the other side of all that mess. When we decided to listen to each other’s heart and put God in the middle, fresh wind resuscitated our relationship and I’m so grateful for it. We know when each other needs a break. We ask for clarification. We catch each other’s tones. We check each other when we’re wrong. We accept one another’s personality types. You don’t try to make me like you and I don’t set you upon unrealistic pedestals. We learned how to grow together without infiltrating each other’s gardens. You trust God’s Word in me. I trust Him in you. Just like our twilight conversations, it’s a beautiful exchange between kindred souls.

Mommy, I appreciate the powerhouse you are. I always ask God to give me even richer experiences with you for as long as possible. There’s so much more that I want us to share. More travels. More laughs. While I know death is inevitable for either of us, I know heaven is too. That’s the best gift you could have given me — Christ. I will always be grateful for that decision too.

I love you/Talk to you soon,

CJW

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #2

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.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

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.

Sincerely,

CJW

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