Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"Hey there, kiddo!" in a slightly raspy but smooth as quality bourbon voice was the greeting I received from my Uncle Harold for most of my life. His easy going smile and tall presence always reminded me of my grandfather who passed away when I was five. Now I'm left with family photos and stories for my relatives to share because Uncle Harold passed away yesterday. When I received the news from my tearful cousin, I was dazed. I didn't cry. Still haven't. I stood for a moment on the busy rush hour street and let the sun hit my face. I deeply inhaled and prayed his buddy, my grandfather, was there to meet him at the heavenly gates. I know that sounds very "Highway to Heaven" (who remembers that show...LOL) but it brought me great comfort to think of these two strong, hardworking, fun loving family men greeting each other with a big hug , smacking each other on the back. "Long time no see" Uncle Harold probably joked as my grandfather handed him a glass of Dewer's White Label. That vision made me smile and I was able to continue on my journey for the rest of the evening.

Uncle Harold was such a central part of my family but in a quiet unimposing kind of way. Marrying into a family of strong and stubborn women and men, couldn't have been easy for him. But his way with Mama Gloria (yeah that's what we call her. What can I say? My family has Southern "ruuts". LOL) had an incomparable finesse and grace . But don't let that grace fool you. He was a quiet storm - a force to be reckoned with. I remember a family trip by VAN from New York to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, in particular. We used to go every year; but this particular time I had to be about 9 . While Down South (as we used to call it - for the longest time I thought "Down South" was the name of the place we were....LOL), my cousin of the same age said something extremely inappropriate to me. I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about, so I walked over and repeated it to my mother for clarification. My mother asked me where did I hear that. I told her "Jamel said it." My mother grabbed that boy by the arm and dragged him over to his grandmother, Mama Gloria, for him to repeat what he said to me. I remember giggling that Jamel was gonna get in troubbbbbbbble and wouldn't be able to go behind the counter at my family's sweet shop and take whatever candy he wanted. "The candy is all miiiine, " I laughed to myself. Before Mama Gloria could react, Uncle Harold swooped in and started wailing on that ass. Seriously, I started crying from the steps of the house for my cousin. I never saw Uncle Harold that angry before, and I never wanted to see it again, at least not directed at me. I felt so bad for Jamel, who after the ass beating in the yard, was confined to the hot ass house for the remainder of that summer day. I even snuck him a piece of candy. Took the wrapper off and everything, so there would be no evidence of him eating candy while on punishment. Didn't want to witness that ass beating again. I recall during the beating, Uncle Harold told his grandson "you don't talk to girls like that EVER." And I remember being so terrified and impressed all at the same time. Terrified because I never wanted to say or do anything in his presence that would warrant that kind of beating. Impressed because like a superhero, he was defending my 9 year old honor.

There are so many more stories I could tell. It's funny how once someone dies, the levees for your memories break, and every moment spent with that person floods your mind. It's been a while since I last saw Uncle Harold. He was battling Alzheimer's disease, and had to go to a nursing home. To see a man so strong and with such a quick wit deteriorate and struggle to remember where he is and who you are is heartbreaking. One of the last times I saw him he asked me "where's the baby? with Georgie? Confused at first, I then realized he thought I was my mother (hey ma, told you we look alike!!! LOL) and that me - "the baby"- was with my now deceased grandfather. At the time I didn't dwell too long on how sad I was. But looking back, I realize that all I wanted to hear was "Hey there, kiddo".

I'll miss you Uncle Harold. Rest in Peace.

3 comments:

rashad said...

After the initial shock of the death, this is what is supposed to happen. memories, funny stories, and reflection. Good stuff.

Mari Mutt said...

Beautifully written.

Maria said...

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