Well Maya girl, I, on the other hand, learned that lesson a lot later in my life. In fact, I was 37 when I finally conceded. To what you may ask? Good question! I am still working on the answer to that one. So I guess we should explore that. At least that’s what my girl Hannah would say.
March 8, 2010 was such a turning point in my life. A phone call at approximately 6:15 a.m. was the trigger. I was on a telephone conference with a group of my sister cosmetic business owners. We were having our morning prayer session and I was reading the devotional message.
Now that I think back to that morning, I am a little shocked that I didn’t have a sense of something being awry. I have always been able to pick up on when something is just not right. I’ve had that ability ever since I was a small child. I will never forget January 1, 1984 when I sat up in bed and announced that a relative had died. My mommy chided me for speaking such foolishness, but minutes later we got the call that informed us that the person had indeed just passed away. I still get that sense of foreboding. Big C just figures it is another one of those things that classifies me as crazy. Whatever Big C!
But any way…I digress!
My cell rang. After looking at the caller I.D., I apologized to the ladies and indicated that I needed to take the call. It was my youngest aunt…my dad’s baby sister. Now I still don’t know why I didn’t think it was odd. I guess I figured she was responding to my one of my text blasts for my business and was going to place an order.
When I came on the line, she started asking questions about how I was doing. I immediately sensed that she was stalling so I asked her to spill it. Her next words knocked the breath out of me. She said “Sweetie, your dad is dead.”
I don’t remember much after that because I lost it…actually fainted. I walked around numb and in a fog through the day of the funeral. Hell I was actually numb for an entire year…which is shocking. Four days after Pops’funeral, we discovered our teenager Imani was expecting. But that’s another subject…
Then on March 12, 2011, I paid a visit to Pops’gravesite. I had not been back there since the funeral. It was a cool, but sunny day. I stood there in complete silence for about fifteen minutes after arriving at the church graveyard. I noticed how clean the area around his grave was and smiled. That just meant my grandmother had been there often.
As soon as that thought passed from my mind, the dam broke. I screamed and cried. I was angry. Pops’was the target of my rage. To understand this feeling, I guess I need to let you in on a conversation I had with him a few years before.
See when the complications from Pops’ alcoholism manifested themselves, it was not pretty. His first hospitalization was in October 1998. Big C and I were living near my hometown at the time and we only had two of the girls. My dad had gone on some type of binge which resulted in him being fired from his job of almost 30 years. Well, he didn’t stop the binge, so he was rushed to the hospital.
Days after they stabilized him, the attending physician came to Pops’ hospital room while I was there visiting with him. The doctor tried to talk to my father about getting help; Pops wasn’t hearing it. He literally turned his back and showed the man his ass. Well the doctor then began to address me. He asked me about the nature of our relationship, and I explained that I was Pops’ daughter. The doctor then explained that when Pops was brought in, he was dying. His body was shutting down and that in his current condition, Pops couldn’t even drink casually. I thanked the doctor as he left. I then turned to my father and began to fuss at my father. Pops ignored me.
Well when he was released, my father stayed sober for three years. And those were the best years of our relationship. But then he relapsed again, and he was rushed backed to the hospital. This time there was an additional substance abuse involved. I had moved back to Florida at this point, so I had to race back to Georgia. After an eight-hour bus ride, my aunt picked me up in Statesboro and we headed to Millen. By the time we arrived, they had released him and he was staying at my grandmother’s.
I started my fussing as soon as I entered my grandmother’s house and as usual, he ignored me. I was pissed, but I just let it drop. I just prayed that this would be the last time. It wasn’t.
The next hospitalization came in August 2007. I didn’t have to rush there that time. I was already in Georgia. He was admitted two days after my mom had her stroke. So both of my parents were in the hospital. She was in Augusta…he was in Millen. This time Pops’ hospitalization was due largely to malnourishment. Yes, he was drinking, but he insisted it was only one beer a day. The problem was that he was not eating. My grandmother cooked for him daily; however whenever she turned her back he would take it outside and feed it to her cats. It wasn’t because it wasn’t good, because my Big Ma ca burn. No, the years of alcohol abuse had killed his sense of taste. I can laugh now…it wasn’t funny then.
Well I waited until that weekend to go check on him and by that time, he was back at my grandmother’s. Big C and the girls had driven up for the weekend. We rode over that Sunday afternoon after I got someone to sit with Mommy. Before I walked up the steps to the house, Big C grabbed my arm and turned me to face him. He insisted that I should not fuss at my dad. I was about to go off on him, but then Big C treated me to one of his quieting gazes. He then pointed out that my father didn’t hear me when I did that.
So I went inside and sat down. He was sitting in his favorite chair by the window and watching TV. He didn’t say a word…just stared at the TV. And I just sat next to him. We sat that way for hours…the only conversation in the room was my usual catching up with my grandmother.
Well we finally got ready to leave and I turned to kiss my dad goodbye. I told him I had to head back to the hospital. He looked surprised, so I realized he didn’t know about my mom’s stroke. I told him how serious it was…about her coma…about the brain hemorrhage. He looked to be close to tears and said he was so sorry to hear that. I then looked him in the eyes and told him I was tired of this fussing with him about his health. I promised him that I wouldn’t do it again. And then I said something that made him drop his head. I told him that I was preparing for the day when someone would call me and tell me he was dead. I kissed him and headed out the door.
Now that wasn’t my last visit with Pops. The good Lord gave us almost two and a half years of more visits. And I stayed true to my word…I stopped fussing at him about his drinking.
But I lied. I wasn’t prepared for his death. I had no clue it was coming and I am still dealing with it to this day.
So on March 12, 2011, I stood by that gravesite and I just vented. I screamed…yes I even cursed even though I was standing on church grounds. I told him everything I had kept in me most of our relationship…blasted him for denying me when I was 11 years-old….for not listening to me and recognizing that I was abused and mistreated…for missing my wedding day...for not knowing my date of birth…for not responding to my fears and concerns about his health and choosing to stay around for me…for leaving without even saying goodbye.
There’s something to be said about anger. It does serve a purpose. Maya Angelou once said that “bitterness is like a cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” I had held those resentments in me for so long. Even when I fussed at my dad, it was always focused on him getting better. It was never about how I felt. See he never seemed to listen. Or maybe I just never really told him because I feared it would hurt him or make him angry.
But right after I was done snotting and crying, I simply went quiet. Yes, I just dropped my head and closed my eyes. As the tears continued to stream down my face, the poem I wrote for Pops’ funeral program popped into my mind.
That Old Corner Chair
Over in the corner sits that old chair
That you occupied with your own unique flair.
Days would pass while you silently sat there
Without a single worry… no, not a care
Some days it seemed too hard to bear
As you silently and stoically sat there.
Did you notice us? Did you even care?
It just seemed that you were unaware.
So many moments did we share
Without one word...just a nod and a stare
Not much emotion was ever shown there
As you sat in that old corner chair
Now it seems cruel and unfair
Your presence will no longer be found here.
No longer will that curly “good” hair
Peak from beneath the caps you loved to wear.
With great sadness I admittedly declare
My heart has been very heavy with despair
Not knowing why you often sat there,
Without a word, in that old corner chair.
Then God’s Holy Spirit sweeps over me to share
Your purpose while you silently sat there.
Be assured God does triumphantly declare
Your loved one was always totally aware.
Yes, he sat in silence without showing a care
But you should not worry ... no don’t you despair,
With confidence did Johnny sit silently there
Knowing that his burdens I had promised to bear.
As you remember his days in that old chair,
Know that I gave him the strength to sit right there.
No grumble or discomfort did he once ever share
For he was entrusted to my loving care!
So in the future as my eyes rest on that old chair
I will always remember you sitting silently there.
And I promise that I won’t complain or despair
For I know I will see you again up there!
Then all of a sudden a breeze came up. I swear that wind seemed to wrap around and embrace me from my head to my feet. The bitterness I felt was gone. I leaned my head back, and as the breeze dried my tears, I opened my eyes and simply surrendered to the peace that settled in my soul.
Don’t get it mistaken. There are still days I ache for what I missed with Pops. Tears come quite easily when the thoughts come in my mind. I spent so many years silently mad with him. But the resentment has pretty much evaporated. I know writing about it helps. I try to focus on the fun times and day by day, I can see them now. I just miss him. And as time passes, it gets easier to deal with the loss. Surrendering will do that.