I feel as though my roots have been severed. My voice has been lost. For the most part I feel like I don’t know how I feel. I hide behind my work like a coward, like a sociopath, like a man. My grandmother died in the first part of February and I haven’t cried about it yet.
I’ve put in a lot of hours at my job. I’ve continued to take care of my child. I went to the play at her after school program and I cheered her on at all of her basketball games but no tears for mama.
My sister called me when I was at work to tell me that “Mama was dying.” Silence. “Are y’all at the hospital?” I asked. Then she said yeah and waited for me to say that I was on my way but I never said that. I didn’t leave my job until very late that night. Then I drove slowly, very slowly to my house. I got on Facebook and discovered that mama was dead.
I didn’t want to be around all the drama. All the howling and shouting that accompanies the death of a family member. I was in the room when my uncle was dying of AIDS, along with all of my other family members, until I looked at his face twitching and his body convulsing. My Aunt rubbed his forehead and gently gave him permission to let go and said that it was OK. I left. I went into the waiting room until I heard all of the lord have mercies accompanied by the guttural moans. When I came back in he was still and gone. At the age of 14 I didn’t cry. I remember feeling very proud of myself and ashamed for my family for not letting the man die alone. I told myself that if I should perish in a room full of people then I would use my last breath to say, “Get the fuck out.”
It’s strange because most people believe that is the most honorable way to die but not me. I would never want my family to see me weak. Maybe god won’t forgive me for being so prideful, maybe my family won’t respect my wishes when I tell them to leave or perhaps I’ll die very suddenly and it won’t matter.
My grandmother’s death wasn’t sudden at all. It seemed as though she died steadily for about 10-years straight. She slowly lost everything. At some point I could no longer tolerate it so I ran. I ran to the boxing gym, I ran to my job, I ran 10 miles a day. All the while the powerful lady who bore 12 children and never forgot anyone’s birthday began suffering from senility. She saw things that no one else could see and started to tell secrets that only she knew and I heard about all of this through the gossipers because I was gone; away, inside my own head, hiding from memories of me trying to take care of her and her leaving, saying that we were trying to poison her, she’ll never know how much that hurt, I held my grudge, now she’s in the dirt, what does it matter, it doesn’t matter at all because mama is dead.
I work all day. I run around the Lake and I sweat. I bought my daughter a new pair of shoes. I flirt with the women. I talk shit with the fellas. I forgot how to cry. Does that make me a real man now?
Am I a real man?