Friday, December 23, 2016
He just called to let me know how he was doing, reaching out to make contact before leaving for the early morning surgery at the hospital. With a forced smile on my face and tears rolling down my eyes I face the reality that this might be the last time I speak to him. The deadening silence of a loved ones voice is the hardest thing we live with. It amazes me how people who are suffering the most are so quick to relieve you of your pain through humor or gestures of accommodation to soften the impact on you. The valiant soothing of the stress they know you must be going through too is one of the herculean gifts the frail and dying can muster to make it easier for you. Even if that person wasn't generous in their lifetimes somehow this generosity of spirit arises like steam on a wintry day melting away fears and calming the deep waters of loss.
The tragedy of the moment is further heightened by the thousands of miles we are separated by, in land and water and cultures, because I happen to be on the other side of the planet, trying to hold the hand of the voice that wakes me with a start each day. The fact that we have rarely been in one another's presence for years only intensifies the friendship, because it was not predicated on the things that most friends do together. Our memories of actual time together are few relatively but the hours on the phone seemed to fill in those gaps sufficiently for us. However, I promise to change that paradigm and visit with him in DC more often.
Becoming instant friends when meeting at Two Steps Down a popular restaurant and bar in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in June of 1986, where we were neighbors for several years, we immediately took to making sure we connected each day to share the most useless information about our days. Changes in his career had him move to different states before finally settling in DC. When I said to him upon his move in 1989 that I suspected I would never hear from him again, he boldly retorted, "That's a damn lie!" And he was right.
Intense prayer and waiting will make up most of my day today however, as others note my preoccupation.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
The value of an embrace goes by unnoticed in many cases because they are freely given by loved ones and friends as a beginning or closure to a rendezvous. Even then the quality of it can touch us deeply because each is embedded with years of trust. Nothing is more welcomed than a friends arms that says "I'm here for you."
My mother shared such an embrace. One that was spongey in its initial draw, that seemed to absorb me with its acceptance, that washed over me with an abiding love, that singularly said I belonged to her...one that I achingly miss to this day.
These are among the gifts of life we cherish but place no relative value on in the marketplace of commodities. They are the real physical needs that are eschewed in place of shiny objects that don't give back. We fill our days in pursuit of those things that will not embrace us in the dead of night nor soothe us at the break of day.
If we made the embrace our goal, rather than riches, maybe we wouldn't have to fear an affront from loved ones, friends, strangers and peoples we don't know. Maybe a wall to separate us would crumble in the space of an embrace, where fear is replaced by love and happiness is truly a pursuit. I am not saying an embrace will bring world peace but it goes a long way toward bringing peace into your world. Today maybe a good day to give and receive a hug.
TUNSTULL From Fashion to Fine Art
A new book by Glenn Tunstull and Jelani Bandele
Friday, September 4, 2015
The heaviness of the day was further emphasized by the thick grey ceiling of clouds that snuffed out any ray of sunlight that would lift the sadness in our hearts as we prepared to say our last good bye to our cat, Kyle. Our two cats were our binding pillars that held us together like a family, attached to every movement and utterance a family cat is likely to make, we would talk endlessly of what he and his sister, Keyla, were up to. Ironically, the more weight he loss because of illness, the younger he looked, until he almost reverted to being a kitten in appearance. Now what is holding us together is the impending sense of loss that will finally and forever wash over us as we ring the death knell that will lay him to rest. The entire process of deciding his fate has weighed like Solomon's judgement on us...the power of life and death. We now move forward in the direction of removing him from life's misery and carrying him to the point of finality at his equally saddened vet's office.
Not wanting to believe he is going to be gone forever we hold on to each second, watching each breath hoping for a familiar whimper, a reassuring gesture, a helpless meow. As he lay limply in my arms, we deliver him to his vet who tries to calm our fears with a soft and encouraging explanation of what we can expect in this process. It seems so benign for all it's deadly results. We try to recall moments in his life with one another, that will stay in our hearts, but the sting of tears makes it impossible to complete the sentiment. With nothing left to say, we turn him over to the vet who administers the succession of shots that renders his virtually lifeless body to a body without any life in moments.
Once the lifeless body of Kyle was placed into a biodegradable box, sealed with tape the emotions slowed to a trickle, the flood of tears receded and finality sets in. There is nothing left to do or say and no one left to say it to. Though relief replaced the heavy weight of sadness, a shroud of disbelief now blocked the sun that now fill the skies.
Photo by Joe Steele
Sunday, August 30, 2015
That awareness is key to how we enjoy the lives of those around us and whether we devote time to them so they are truly long term relationships. Many people that we have known for the same amount of time have different impacts on us based on how much actual time we spend with them. Not to say you have to devote actual face time, but certainly conscious time thinking of them and yes communicating with them. Oftentimes we think we have the "luxury" of waiting until a more opportune time, only to realize either the depth of our friendship has thinned or disappeared altogether. Time will not wait until it is opportune for you and neither will your friends.
Social media has increased our connection to a multitude of friends but it hasn't increased the depth of those friendships. The assent of "Liking"friends posts is not the same as speaking on the phone or better yet having lunch with someone you care about. The pursuit of brevity in our communications is literally a shortsighted concept that seemingly deflect friendship rather than attach them to us in a meaningful way. The back and forth banter of a telephone call is a missing commodity today that we can remedy with a simple call.
We are now spending conscious time with our pet cat Kyle, who for almost a dozen years has been a constant source of pleasure to us but now is at an end of life stage in our relationship. Now we spend every waking moment in his presence, absorbing and sharing our love, capturing every inkling of his beautiful spirit before time slips away, as we perceive it, too quickly.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Renaldo Barnette, said blankly, "I can't use all those terms...I just prefer to say Black." Although I use that term as well, along with many of the other interchangeable ones, it struck me that my willingness to jump between them came with qualifiers, that required an "in the moment" mental calculus.
Unlike other racial groups, as Black people we have to continually address how we want to be referred to. This seemingly age old discussion remains unrelenting among ourselves. That is different from how we want to be described, which is fraught with its own challenges because of the range of looks that are encapsulated in the "Black" community and the historic sensitivities some terms continue to have. Add to that the options that are the result of national, ethnic and religious variations, and a plethora of terms abound. Where someone is from, how they look or language they spoke would determine whether they were Black, Negro, colored, a person of color, African American, African, Caribbean, Latino, light-skinned, dark-skinned, fair-skinned, mulatto, and the N-word notwithstanding.
I prefer having the choice of terminology to make, but, wonder if they add to a lack of cohesion as a people, or, does it provide us with a greater expanse. Unlike "white people" who universally gather under the singular term, by willing default, to describe themselves, but with a slight scratch of the surface could be found to have a plethora of extractions that remain hidden unless asked, we have been known to repeatedly search for an acceptable universal moniker. No other people deal with this ongoing challenge that unwittingly speaks to a history that is equally unique.
As a nod to how our friends influence us on these decisions, I find myself using the more encompassing and broadly descriptive term of "Black" when I speak of my people now...that is until something better comes along.