Ain’t nobody talking about it
the strong black woman is tired by Tuesday.
and on Thursday,
She buries another virtue so Friday morning can be a
She goes for unavailable men
cause of Her father’s absence.
it’s your problem
cause your daughter plays with Her daughter
I need you,
To care for her.
from the book “Pocket Honey Wind & Hips”
My Dad never mentioned his grandfather from his Dad’s side. It’s like my grandfather just fell onto the face of the planet with no father. Now, my research finds his Dad in a boarding house as a child. Perhaps he was an orphan or he ran away. But my Dad had an immense love and knowledge of his grandmother and her family fight for their native land in Oklahoma. Anyway, my Dad’s father was a musician. He played the trumpet. He frequented around the jazz scene in Kansas City down on 18th and Vine. He was educated. His back up plan was being an English teacher. He served in the Korean War. He fell in love with my grandmother. They married and had two sons. He loved my Dad and his brother. I suppose that is where my Dad learned that seamless love for his grandmother. Then my grandfather didn’t want to be an English teacher. He wanted to be a musician. But all his friends were in Europe playing in bands. He went to the war remember… Then he didn’t love my grandmother anymore. And he didn’t love my Dad or his brother. I remember my grandfather singing to me. He was tall and thin with a gap between his front teeth like me. I remember khaki pants and a black hat. My father remembered the police being called. He remembers slammed doors and black jack beatings. He remembers empty gin bottles and knives. He remembers kidnappings and abandonment. That’s the first chapter.
My Dad stayed away from home. He ate meals at friends homes because my grandfather cooked half raw hamburgers because the doctor said he would die if he continued to drink on an empty stomach. My Dad was teased a lot. He wore third passed down clothing and the same one pair of shoes all year. So he developed a quick wit and quicker right hand punch. And he was a gentleman because his grandmother would have it no other way. And he knew what praying with purpose meant. And his poker face earned him instant street credibility. And he was a fast runner and loyal to the game of fostering respect. He earned the friendship of my uncles and won the heart of my mother. He loved her. He said I came about after them messing around one day after school. They were 16. He got a job at Church’s chicken and bought my mother food home. Then, some say it was an attempted robbery some say it was my father being witty. But, he was shot. And paralyzed. And then he didn’t love my mother anymore and moved to another state away from me. That’s the second chapter.
He started over in a new city. And later told me stories of girlfriends with snakes and winning dance contests in his wheelchair. He had a devoted love to his mother even though she never came back for him when she moved and his father kidnapped him. He sometimes called me. He sometimes visited when he came back to visit Kansas City. That was very weird looking at somebody who had the same eyes and chin and cheekbones and smile. I would turn my head but he would stare at me. My uncles still had a sincere respect for my father. My mother was married now and I had a younger sister and brother. And my dad’s father was still mean to my father. And one day the time ticked and the gun went off. There were no prison accommodations for my father being in a wheelchair so it was self-defense with no trial no nothing. And my father never came back to Kansas City. And 26 years went by. That’s the third chapter.
After everyone had left the room, he told me he was afraid I was going to come in and slap him. He was nervous I was going to curse him out in front of everyone. Because of the 26 years. That never crossed my mind. I wanted to see if we still had the same cheekbones and smile. We did. We also discovered we prefer brown liquor and we’re not embarrassed to curse wherever. Our combined comedic timing kept the conversation easy and flowing. He wanted four things, (1) that I look him in the eye and say I forgive him (2) that I spend the night so we can talk and he can stare at me (3) we keep the television turned on with his favorite video game, “Call of Duty” on the home screen and (4) his hand held bible stay on the hospital tray. I gave him all but #2. I spent the night over my cousin’s house. My father died. That is chapter four.
He was at peace with all he had done in life. He had space in his heart to justify everything and have no regret. He told me stories upon stories that filled 26 years but in none of them did he try and justify why he wasn’t there for me. He simply thought I would be better without all he was carrying. Me forgiving him was his primary goal in January of 2009. Everyone knew my name at his funeral services. People that had gone on my website and bought my books and cd’s wanted my autograph. He was my public relations person in the Midwest and I didn’t even know. He told everyone about me. I was this mystery daughter that he described as a go-getter. They told me 26 years worth of stuff on me. Things that I didn’t even know he knew. That is chapter five.
And all these chapters have a direct impact on my mental health. My emotional capabilities as well. The chapters set the parameters of how much of a risk I’ll take in life. How much I will let one get away with before I respond. That is why this book will be written. So I can demonstrate to others that parents being there or not being there does matter and generational cycles are as real as the sun in the sky. Love and hate can easily be mixed with the same atoms. The proof is my life paralleled with the chapters of my Dad. That is chapter 6.
from the book, “yardwork”
My father died in February. Around the 22nd or so. I purposely misplaced the obituary and forgot the date. It was the year 2008 or 2009. It was such a blur but I know I was living in Atlanta at the time.
He was my biggest fan but I didn’t know. He was consistent with inconsistency. Or maybe it’s “we” were consistent with inconsistency. But usually the child is allowed to blame the parent so I said “he”. We weren’t consistent like the hurricanes that you expect every year. We were more like tornadoes in the south. It can happen but it would be a surprise. Except we never made the news. Not together at least. So that was the weather of our relationship.
I called in December, around the holidays cause that’s what you’re supposed to do. His girlfriend answered and told me he was dying. They had given him a few months to live. He told me he was dying a few years before that, so I kind of didn’t believe her. I can’t remember where he was or why she answered the phone. But then he picked up and said, “hello”.
Continue reading the memories in February
My younger brother hadn’t heard from his father in a few months. But this is not unusual for their relationship as they could go months on end without talking. They had a unique way of communicating. They usually communicated through other people in the streets, “Have you seen my Dad around lately?” or “I saw your father he told me to tell you to come by and see him.” Well, the fall of 2013, my brother had been asking around about his father for a few months and everyone continued to tell him, “no, I haven’t seen your Pops.” Christmas morning of 2013, after the kids opened their gifts and everyone enjoyed a light breakfast, my brother said he was physically moved to go to his laptop and type the words, “homicides in Kansas City” to do a search for his father’s name. I imagine he held his breath as he waited to be satisfied that this intuitive notion was simply a crazy thought. However, the search was conclusive, September 16th his father had been murdered.
My brother was screaming in the phone. I haven’t heard him scream since he was a young boy perhaps frightened by a spider. The sound of this chilled me to my bones. A piercing baritone is not melodic. It shatters the musical science of healing and bends wavelengths. My breath sat in my throat. His father was stabbed in September and died a few weeks later in early October. A search for funeral services or posted obituaries turned up nothing. See, his father was a loner, a rolling stone. The online documentation stated he was stabbed several times in the chest and once in the heart during an argument on 39th and Main. My brother was flattened at the thought that his father probably went into surgery and never gained consciousness to give the name of a next of kin. He died alone. My brother’s Christmas turned into Memorial Day.
Continue reading Tears are for Clowns
my hand ached. my right hand gripped the pen with mission. I had to write down everything he was telling me. can’t miss a single adjective because I had not been there and he would not be here. /soon
jake or jacque? what tribe in Oklahoma? who is still there? do we have land? where is your mother buried?
‘nik, memorize the smells and sounds’, ok… slight hint of ben gay is embedded on his heating blanket, his body reeks of medicine excreting from every pore, … I smell water…
his face / his face, looks so worried when the doctors enter the room. his eyebrows raise with storyline spaces for someone to hear him until the end. he wants his bible near by and his playstation on the television screen. (some army game, the name escapes me right not) still so tender towards me, he entertains everything except my conversations of him barbecuing in the summertime. he never says it from his mouth, but his eyes tell me / beg me… accept he is leaving soon.
so I write the secrets he kept even from his brothers. I write about the alcoholism. I write about the child abuse. I write about the abandonment. I write about his mother’s beating with a black jack. I write about the robbery. I write about the players ball. I write about the love he never lost for my mother. I write about his fears of being a father to me.
I write about his girlfriend with the snake. I write about Tall Mike. I write about his grandmother’s pet ducks. I write he never speaks of his father. I write he never speaks of the shooting. I write about the look in his eyes when I finally mention his father’s name, Big Kenny. I write about him overcoming paralysis and living a life he loved. I write about his voice cracking when he mentions how often he thought of me. I write the definition of dead beat dad. I write it doesn’t fit him. I write he was afraid I would be mad at him. I write how proud he was of my books and poetry cd. I wrote until after his funeral… then stopped. and cried.
my dad was true to his word and true to his heart. viewed selfish by some but he passed with no fear or regrets. he has given me a great story. he has given me beautiful cheek bones. he has given me a golden smile. he has given me an example to live true to my heart. Kenny the Leo.
Catch the memories like fishnet
too many to hold in my palm
and too capacious for the thesaurus description
Now that I carry the tales behind my 100 year old cheekbones
and my cheap heart you repeatedly bought with
yet made strong with your explosive hustle
When the matter is your Dad in the wind.
For Kenny, transition 2/20/09