Cydney’s Lament

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Cydney pretending that she's on her cell phone talking to a friend of mine.

A little over a week ago I wrote about how Cydney is grieving the loss of her mother. Somehow I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen, but it was inevitable. I hate to use the term “acting out,” so I’ll say that she is expressing a brand new feeling that she doesn’t know how to articulate: heartbreak.

This isn’t Cydney’s first venture into being heartbroken. I had a friend that she got really close to. Life happened and people grow apart. We did. My friend and I met up one last time and it was pretty awkward. No eye contact and it was as if we both knew this interaction was the “exit interview.” As they were getting ready to leave, Cydney thought she was going with them. She cried and cried in a way I hadn’t heard before. It was crushing for all parties. They even sent me a text message saying “that was heartbreaking.” It was.
Cydney still remembers this person. From time to time she asks about them and says they were her friend she doesn’t see anymore. That was a year ago.

Recently it seems as if Cyd is putting the pieces of the puzzle together. She talks about Timile a lot more. Last Saturday night she looked at an old balloon that was in the living room and said “We sent a balloon to the sky so Timile could catch it in heaven.” Here it is, mid-July and she’s remembering February 14th, synthesizing information, and drawing her own conclusion with literally no discussion about it in five months.

Cydney wants a mom. Children especially toddlers-are intuitive geniuses with nothing to hold them back. I believe everything my three year old says in moments where thoughts come out of the blue. Out of nowhere she said “Timile wants you to be _____’s boyfriend.” I just looked at her and said “Oh really?” She nodded and gave a “mmhmm” in lament.

The next day, I was talking with my mother about taking Cydney to the beach. While playing to the stereotype that black people can’t swim, I mentioned “I guess I have to find someone to teach you to swim.” She responded “I can swim. Timile taught me how to swim.” I said to her “No, Timile didn’t teach you how to swim.” She paused and said “_____ is gonna teach me how to swim.”

After a pause Cydney then blurted “_____ is my mom.” My mother responded “No, she’s not your mom.”

“She’s going to be my mom” Cydney vocalized with all of the confidence in the world; yet the timbre of her of her voice suggested casualty. Cydney is truly a chip off the old block. The juxtaposed expression of her innermost thoughts and feelings with a relaxed demeanor is so off putting one can’t help but pay attention.

After a short pause, “I don’t have a mom” was Cydney’s next statement. It was as if she was rectifying who Timile is, who she wants a certain person to be, and realizing where she currently stands. She didn’t pout at all or show any indications of sadness; but i felt for my little girl.

With much more experience in handling children, my mother quickly changed the subject. That quick, she was over it.

Later that afternoon, Cydney came running into the den where I was watching TV with her toy smartphone and letting me more that _____ was on it and they needed to speak to me. I was told that I am buying the three of us cokes. Right after, Cydney wanted the phone back so that they could finish their discussion.

I told said person that Cydney needs her right about now. They’ve made sure to call and speak to her. Cydney gets too excited when she sees the phone ringing and knows who it is. Aware of how cell phones work, Cydney puts the cell phone on speaker so that she can look at their picture as she speaks. This is her way of having face to face contact. She’ll do things on the phone and ask “Did you see that?” The other day she had Disney Princess bingo cards that she was clapping together. After she did this, she placed the cards next to the phone as if they were in her right and left hand and asked if she was doing it too. They played along and Cydney couldn’t have been happier.

Maybe Cydney sees something that I don’t. I’m an adult who is more than jaded by life and the ways of the world. However, she isn’t. I won’t read too much into it, but I am paying attention. For right now, my little girl is a little happier than she was before. That’s all that matters.

One last thing…last night while playing with some toys Cydney uttered “Timile, my mom died because she was sick and I want a mom.” I told her “Well, I’ll find you a stepmom.” She didn’t hear a word I said and went right back to her toys.

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The Album I Made For Christmas

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I posted this picture on Instagram a few minutes ago…

Recently I’ve had a lot on my mind trying to rectify my past, what role it plays in my present, and how all of this will shape my future.

I’m in the process of turning Cydney and my room into just hers and converting my studio into my bedroom. While cleaning up I came across this. I remember that I’d kept it in hiding because I didn’t want to look at it. I wanted to keep this buried but not quite let it go.

Why? It has nothing to do with Timile passing away. It’s about the time period in which it was made. I had quit my job at Walgreens because I was hired as a mortgage loan consultant. It was supposed to be my first real job after graduating from college close to a year earlier. It was October 2008. The mortgage crisis had happened and the company went bankrupt the day before I began.

I was feeling particularly crushed because after being with Timile for almost two years this meant my plans of proposing to her were put on hold. I was unemployed and she was trying out school to work in advertising. Our circumstances got Timile frustrated and she took it all out on me. In an  argument she said that the person she was talking to that she chose me over was happily married and that could have been her. Crushed. All I wanted to do was make her happy but life had just got in the way.

She went home to Virginia for Thanksgiving. I picked her up from the airport in my car. The window was broken and the fall was just about over in Georgia, so there were leaves in the backseat. She looked at them and was fed up. She went off in the car and said she was moving back to Virginia in a few weeks. I didn’t understand.

Christmas was coming and I was broke. My credit cards were maxed out trying to pay bills and keep our apartment afloat. Timile wasn’t working so everything was on me. On December 8-our two year anniversary-I made her an instrumental song entitled “Timile’s Song. I played it for her in the car on Cobb Parkway and halfway through the song she looked at me and said “Remember when we first started dating and you said that a girl is going to move on if she is unhappy? I’m unhappy. I have to be honest with you.” I looked at her intently while waiting at a red light. She then said “When I went back home I ran into “Felix” (that’s what I’ll call him). Felix was someone I liked in high school and it just didn’t work out.” Once again. This was our two year anniversary and life was already kicking me in the nuts.

I had no words. She was leaving for Virginia in ten days. There was nothing I could do or say that would sway her. I didn’t even try. Her mind was made up so my attitude was “Fuck it.”

I began to say everything I wanted to sat through music. No pen or paper was needed. I freestyled the whole thing. She was staying in one bedroom and I was in another. So while she’d go to sleep, I would work. I’d be up until 5 am working diligently on this passion project. If she was gone and attempting to find happiness somewhere else at least I said everything I felt. I made the whole album in five days. It was a double disc in which the first one was all of the old songs she’d heard already and then the new ones. I made a book of the lyrics, the samples, and gave a brief anecdote about each song. Heartbreak tends to bring out the best of creative people and by all means I definitely was at the time.

Timile lamented that she wanted us to still be friends. We were friends while she was in the bedroom right next to me and I could hear her laughing and joking on the phone with this guy. That shit was brutal.

Right before I took Timile to the airport we exchanged Christmas gifts. She bought me this tie. I wear it a lot but I hate looking at it. She said to me jokingly “Nice tie.” I replied “Thanks. My ex-girlfriend gave it to me.” It was said playfully but she wasn’t feeling it. Not one lick. In my head I thought “Oh well. It’s true. Don’t be mad at me when you made these circumstances.”

We said our goodbyes and that was that. I had quit smoking cigarettes some time before that; but I couldn’t help but pick up a pack at that time. I got back to what was our place, sat on the trunk of my car, lit one up, and looked at the December night sky. I saw planes fly by and thought about Timile flying away. She was coming back in a few weeks to get her car and Felix was coming down to drive her back to Virginia. I wondered what she would think when she listened to it. Then I stopped caring. She was gone.

For the next month we fought everyday. Something kept telling me to keep trying although all of the details around me said “Let it go and leave this one alone. Take your loss. She’s just not that into you anymore. There’s another nigga in the picture.”

Yet somehow that added to us fighting. We were fighting about every little thing, but we were really fighting about us. Tensions were high and it got ugly. Her leaving had played into every insecurity of mine. That I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t her type, I didn’t make enough money, etc. It came out in our conversations.

After she’d come back to Atlanta in January we fought even more. She said that she was moving back but planning on doing her own thing. She was still going to carry on her  relationship with Felix. I was done. Something in my heart said to continue preparing a home and then just let her go. If it’s right she’ll come back.

March 1 I flew to Virginia to drive back down with Timile. I vented in the car the whole way to my friend Kofi and was not looking forward to seeing her. I had my game face on by the time I left arrivals in Newport News ready to have left this all behind once Timile got to her apartment. She greeted me with a smile and that changed everything.

So those are my thoughts on this. Since I’ve made it I have never listened to it in its entirety. It was too painful thinking about that time in my life. I still haven’t and can’t. That’s why I’ve kept it buried until today. Maybe I’ll let it sit on my desk as a reminder of where I’ve been. And if I’m ever there again to remember how far I would go to win back the one I loved…even if it meant letting it go.

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Soccer Dad Chronicles: Week 7

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I meant to post this over a month ago. I just didn’t get around to it. However, I thought this was an interesting way to tell the tale of Cydney’s soccer experience May 31st.

11:39 Scissor kicks. Practicing footwork and ball control.

11:40 Cydney needs a little assistance.

11:41 Scissors and kicking it with the inside of the foot

11:42 Run in to the coach. To speed up the process and not be the last one Cydney picks up the bank and runs with it.

11:43 Practicing shooting. Running up and shooting. They’re teaching with the right foot but Cydney’s strong foot is her left.

One mom obviously used to play soccer so she’s helping out. Maybe she’s one of the pink teams coaches.

11:50 Water break.

11:51 Outside cuts, dribbling, and shooting instructions.

11:54 Cydney scores first goal during drills. She measures up perfectly because she wants it to go in.

11:59 One little girl is getting winded. She dribbles to the goal with her hand on her hip.

12:01 While it’s her turn to go Cydney stops mid dribble to pull up her socks.

12:03 Water break

12:06 Scrimmage time.

12:07 Cydney almost makes a stop.

12:08 Cydney throws up her hands and gives up. Subs herself out.

12:10 This pink team is beating the crap out of team Frozen. She’s making stops, faking girls out, and everything.

12:11 Cydney puts her name sticker on her head.

12:13 Water break.

12:14 A wave to me from Cydney.

12:17 Cydney sees me putting on chapstick. She stops so she can get some.

12:20 Number 6 on the pink team scores her millionth goal.

12:21 Water break.

12:22 Cydney’s one chance at a fast break goal her teammate gets in the way, takes it from her, runs and scores the goal.

12:24 Instead of scoring goal one million and two, no 6 on the pink team stops and gives the assist to her teammate

12:25 Cydney wants a break

12:27 I throw it right to Cydney and one of the girls the ball from her.

12:28 lining up. All done.

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Cydney Grieving Her Loss

I know…I haven’t been posting anywhere near as frequently as I’d like to or used to. I’ll work on that. I have plenty of stories to tell.

Cydney has been going through some changes over the last month or so. She had been making so much progress since she started daycare. She was finally getting the whole potty training thing, she was listening a lot more, and life almost sweet. Recently, she has regressed. While she would have almost no accidents at school, she started having a few. Cydney has been listening less and less. Normally when I’d count down from five, she’d fall right in line at “five.” It hardly works at all. Some days it’s as if she doesn’t care.

Cydney has reverted to acting like she’s eighteen months old. She’ll cry over every little thing for long periods of time, whine, grunt, and point at things she wants. She’s looking for attention.

Cydney has started calling my sister ‘Mommy.” In theory, that is great because that is how she is feeling about someone. But I could tell that there was something more than that. Not that my sister isn’t great with Cydney. She’s been reaching out more and more to women. When it’s bedtime, she’d rather sleep with my mother or my sister when she’s in town. Cydney would cry for my sister saying “I want to sleep with my mommy,” or cry “I want my mommy! I miss her!” That shit is hard to hear.

I was talking with my mother a few weeks ago. She said that she thinks that Cydney has been acting out because she’s finally realizing that she doesn’t have a mother. She was saying that now that Cydney is in school, she’s seeing the other kids get dropped off and picked up from their moms and they probably talk about them, too. I think the Mother’s Day thing made it much more real, too. Everyone made Mother’s Day cards for theirs, and she had to give hers to me. That broke my heart a little bit, too.

Ever since Mother’s Day she’s been reaching out. She’d been saying for a month or two prior that Neighbour was her honorary mom. She didn’t really reach out and express it until that time. Sometime later, Cydney and I had a conversation and she’d expressed that she was mad at her. I won’t say why, but she did. Why she still was crazy about Neighbour, she had been a little more hesitant towards her. Little things were different. I started putting a lot of the pieces of the puzzle together. Neighbour had been really busy with work so she wasn’t around.

There isn’t much that I can do about this. It’s a passing phase and Cydney is expressing herself non-verbally and reconciling something she can’t help. On Saturday, Cydney and my nephew got into a little dispute like kids do. I told my nephew, “Look, you gotta understand Cydney is going through something right now.” I explained to him the best way I could to an eight year old. Out of nowhere, Cydney exclaimed in a pretty hostile way “Because of my friends!”

Breakthrough! What my mother said was right.

I’ll let her refer to my sister as mommy sometimes. This morning she asked about my sister and referred to her as mommy. I said to her “Remember, Timile is your mom.” She responded “I don’t want Timile to be my mom!” She’s said that a few times. It’s hard to hear every time. What Cydney is trying to say is that her mother isn’t here and she wants her own mommy who is physically here.

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The Confessions of a Cynic

God gave me the gifts of uncommon levels of self-awareness and discernment. I truly belive that the two go hand and hand. Being very sure and comfortable with who I am has made me observant and as a result I see people for who they are. 

Whoever first said that the eyes are the window into one’s soul was indubitably accurate.  I make strong eye contact with people. However, I tend to not do so for very long because I don’t like to see all of what I generally see in people. I’ll play it off with a brief look away, as if I am just being aware of the surroundings and no one will notice it. 

Why?  Because I’m cynical.  My life experiences have shown me that people almost only look out for themselves and what is in their best interest. People don’t really care unless it’s effecting them.  I have almost always been this way. The last four years haven’t helped this cause at all.  For example, Timile’s parents.  They wanted Cydney.  Not at all were they thinking about the fact that many people-including Cydney’s father who had taken care of her the whole time-weren’t grieving a loss.  They tried to manipulate the system to get what they wanted with their claim being that when Timile died this is what she really wanted.  I looked at them differently when they spent time with Cydney after court.  I saw them as people who were just like me who were devastated by a loss.  They reacted selfishly, but it humanized them a little bit to me.

I live a life in which I have very little expectations.  I will often assume the worst so that I am pleasantly surprised when the desired outcome I am looking for actually happens.  If something needs to be done, or I am emotionally hurting I will solve the problem or self-soothe as much as humanly possible until I am at the point where I feel the need to reach out.  People have their own lives and their own problems. 

Often the people in my innermost circle will want to just try to give me advice on how to solve my problems.  It’s been  insinuated and told to me basically that my story is too sad or that it’s too depressing to deal with when they have their own issues.  I’ve been told I need to seek a support group and let others comfort me so that we can be there for each other since we’d all have lost people.  They’re not really paying attention.  I’m not grieving.  I haven’t been for years.  Being a parent is  overwhelming and I need the time to breathe, blow off steam, and just not pretend that I’m happy all of the time because life isn’t always rosy.  In fact, life is mostly hard and overwhelming.  Things like this make me not want to share and I shut down.

When I know that my friends are in similar places I try my best to be there.  I have one friend who has said on a few occasions they’re about to become cynical or some variance of that.  I moved heaven and earth to make their days a little better with because I know what it feels like and I don’t want them to start seeing life or people the way I do.  At the time I needed that reciprocated for a moment months later I was told essentially they couldn’t be there at the time because I always seemed unhappy.  Well, yeah.  That will do it.

I haven’t lost all faith in humanity, though.  At heart I am optimistic and truly believe that things will work out.  Most days I am a happy person.  I just don’t like to show it.  Recently I reconnected with and made a couple of new friends and it has really helped.  For once I have been able to really get things off of my chest and speak with no filter.  I haven’t had to be fearful on the days that I need to vent that it’s too much.  It has very much been appreciated.

If course there’s Cydney.  While she may be several handfuls she often means well and gives me reasons to smile.  She’s definitely softened me up.  The world can be really harsh and my biggest motivation to fight cynicism is because I don’t want her to view the world this way.

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I Wanna Be Where You Are: Michael Jackson and the Pursuit of What We Can’t Have

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Here’s another excerpt from the book that I have been working diligently on.  With today marking the five year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death I thought this would be a good one to post…

I Wanna Be Where You Are

“It’s not my thing trying to get back. But this time, let me tell you where I’m at.”-Michael Jackson

Until I was about seven years old you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t going to be Michael Jackson. Singing on stages since a kid and being the world’s greatest entertainer was my mission in life. I wanted my parents to have three other kids so that we could be like the Jackson 5. I used to draw pictures of it all the time and I was the lead singer, of course.  What looks glamorous is almost always a façade. The things we covet only seem bright when light is reflecting off of it. Gold is just an element no different than the oxygen we breathe. We give the former so much value as something it literally is the foundation of all that we work for while the latter is what keeps us alive. We value what we can’t have. We put a premium on chasing something we make ideal and consider it the pursuit of happiness. We seek gold-or currency-relentlessly while taking advantage of the inhaling and exhaling that make this possible. We don’t even think about how important air is until it’s being taken away from us.

As much as Michael Jackson was and is loved not many ever considered the pain behind the singing voice. The boy, who became the breadwinner for his family, never grew up, and he died trying to find middle ground between the two. He gave so much that it literally killed him. And after all of the money made and the music we will always remember he never got the one thing he always wanted: a childhood.

Once Michael became an adult he would tell interviewers stories about how he would be stuck in studio sessions. He would look outside, seeing all of the kids play, and would cry because that’s what he wanted to do. Unlike his other brothers, all he knew what music because he had been working as hard as an adult since he was five. Meanwhile, his brothers were older and they got to spend those formative years scraping their knees, playing sports, and all of the above. Michael became obsessed with his childhood. Children became his life outside of working and since he had more money than any of us could imagine he spent it on doing kid stuff. He made his home an amusement park where children who were sick could have a moment in their life being happy doing the one thing he never could. The trade-off was that he got to live vicariously through them. His work ethic supported this.

His pursuit of happiness failed him as a few of those children betrayed the part of his mind that hadn’t developed-and became child-like naiveté-and he was labeled a freak. But everyone who was calling him that and treating him like one were all people who had a childhood. They didn’t understand being six years old going to school in the morning, rehearsals right after in which if you didn’t nail moves with precision you got whippings, walking off said whippings, just to perform at strip clubs, get home at 2 am, and do it all over again. The people the crucified him had the one thing Michael Joseph Jackson would have traded almost everything in the world to have.

I get it. Becoming a single father wasn’t the plan. It just happened. I can’t be mad because ultimately the road that I have traveled was made just for me. I’m twenty-eight years old; yet I have had life experiences that many do not until they are much older, and I am caught somewhere between rectifying and enjoying what is left of my youth and the responsibilities of being someone’s father. I don’t get to hang out much. Whenever I do, it requires a lot of planning and negotiation. By the time it happens I’m tired and it isn’t even worth it. Many of the times when I do get to go out and have a good time with adults I bring Cydney with me. This means I can’t stay out late because I have to get my little one home.

One of the last conversations that I had with my grandmother who recently passed away will always stick with me. As we watched Jersey Girl-a movie that just happened to be on about a single father to a little girl whose wife died-she said to me that she wants more out of life for me. “I want more for you than just taking care of children, [sick], and old people. You’re twenty-seven years old. These are the best years of your life.” She and all of her wisdom had hit the nail on the head of everything that I was feeling; yet I couldn’t explain to anyone in my inner circle because they couldn’t understand. My parents get it in theory; but they raised their children in a way and with a life that would be deemed “normal.”

That was the summer of 2013. I pretty much spent the whole summer doing family stuff, being home with the kids, helping my mother who was undergoing chemo for the second time because her cancer had come back, and wanting nothing more than to take Neighbour on a date. There is nothing like summer in New York City. Places to go, everyone is outside, parties on rooftops with an awesome view that don’t end until 4 am, and more skirts to chase than one who hasn’t been here could imagine (they liked being chased too). As I am at home, loving all of the aspects of being a father to my little girl, I’d look at my phone in the same way a young Michael Jackson would look out the window just wanting togo out and play. I would rather be at home raising my kid and doing all of the amazing dad stuff that I write about; but a few nights would have been nice.

I work from home. Up until two months ago, Cydney was at home with me all day. I wouldn’t-and still don’t-have much adult human interaction on a daily basis that doesn’t consist of being on my phone.  That is probably one of the worst things that could happen to a widower’s psyche than basically being by themselves for two years after their other half dies. The only two people who have “got me” fully since December 9, 2011 were my grandmothers. It’s great to have people that get you; it just sucks that what you have in common other than genetics is losing a spouse. They would both say “All you’re left with are memories” that you pretty much relive every day.  My grandmothers were able to smile saying that because in their old age they have lived. There is more past to reflect on than future to look forward to. With me it’s the opposite. Writing this at 6 am on Father’s Day is when it has just clicked why I have pretty much been on a downward spiral since one of them died in February: I lost one of two people who understood what I have been going through. While we didn’t talk very much because she knew that it was hard for me to sit around and see another person dying; she got it when we did.

While I am coveting and chasing some semblance of what is left of my free spirit fulfilled, I know many who are my age and want what I’ve had or currently have. There’s a price for this. Truthfully speaking they aren’t ready. For all of the writing and pictures that I post making parenting look awesome-which it is-means sacrificing of self and it isn’t easy. I’ve had conversations with a friend or have seen them visibly worn from working all of the time and have thought “I wish I had your problems. Solving the riddle of your life would be easy.” Of course I can say that because after going through what I’ve been through it is. Then again, my parents and older people could say the same about me too because I damn sure don’t have it all figured out. I say this to say that we all wish for what we don’t have. We want something different regardless of paying a price we couldn’t afford and if we really had the opportunity wouldn’t. Knowing how that movie played out, I wouldn’t want to be Michael Jackson anymore. Sure I may not really get to date or have the freedom to do as I please spur of the moment; but the life I’ve lived is by all means amazing.

One thing I thought about the night that Timile was diagnosed with cancer was “The hardest thing in life I am ever going to go through is happening while I am twenty-five years old. Things will only get better from here.” I told this to my grandmothers and they both said “You’re right!” When I’m their age I will see that my thirties and forties are still my youth. They may not be as wild as one’s twenties are but I’ll do my partying then. I’ll also make a killing off of giving my friends and their friends advice because they will have just started becoming parents.

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What Fatherhood Means To Me

Father’s Day is on Sunday. I’ve been beyond busy writing this book and dealing with life that I haven’t posted much here. I shared a rough draft of one of the essays yesterday. You should read it because I wrote it.

So with Father’s Day coming up Sunday I know I’m not getting what I want. I wanted to see Outkast perform at Governor’s Ball in New York last weekend and it didn’t happen. How it didn’t happen was beyond wack as hell but whatever. Other than that I’d like a day off. Not in the cards and I know Cydney is going to want to be attached to my leg all day. A trip to the beach and just getting a chance to be lazy would be nice, but at this point that too has a 50% chance of happening.

That’s being a father. Your role as protector and provider isn’t something you learn, it’s instinct. Being a father is a thankless job. Most of the things that we do go unnoticed because we make it seem effortless. You work all day and the look of what is really stress just seems like dad’s normal face so kids are desensitized to it. I don’t complain because I know my role as a man in the lives of the ones I love is that if servantude.

Being a father is about sacrifice and making it look seemless. I’ve been getting my hair cut once a month or every other month to save money to do little things like buy B’Donalds (ss Cydney calls it) as an after school snack or something like that. My money that I was saving for a car went towards paying for daycare, Easter, Cydney’s birthday party, and making Mother’s Day special with gifts for my mom, sister, and who Cydney has deemed her “honorary mom.” I’m happy to have done all of those things because making everyone else’s life just a little bit brighter makes me feel good.

I am writing this from my phone while receiving physical therapy at a chiropractor. On Saturday I got into a car accident while taking Cydney to soccer. We were late but I had to make sure Cydney got there to for her last day and I wanted to make sure Neighbour got her gum that she asked for. They seem like really small things that I’m paying for in the long run but that’s what I signed up for.

Being a father is about making time when you don’t have it. I’m never too busy for my daughter or loved ones. If there’s 168 hours in a week and I worked 90, slept 50, and commuted for 20 of them that still leaves eight for everything else. I’ll get my day off rest when I need it and I’ll dream my big dream of “me time.”

So yeah, Sunday will be like the one before it and the one before that. I’ll get my happy Father’s Day calls, texts, and such. But I’ll still be asked a million questions from kids and that too. I’m happy to do that. And Sunday night when everyone is asleep I will have a drink to myself and get ready to do it all over again Monday.

Happy Father’s Day

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First Book Excerpt: I Still Love You

As I stated last week I have been in the process of writing a book.  I just finished this essay and something in me is saying I should share this rough draft.  I don’t have a title just yet, but enjoy…

I Still Love You:

“I remember when we first fell in love.  I was too young to know what it was.  I couldn’t address what made me melt.  But quick to tell you how I felt.  That love was so real; and it still is.”-Kameelah Williams

When I first started writing this compilation of essays the magic number in my head was to write somewhere between ten and twenty of them.  The latter of those numbers stuck; and then I decided to make it twenty-five with a foreword.  Tomorrow it will be two weeks since I first started writing.  I have completed twenty-two and I have the concept behind the other three.  As I am beginning to revise edits and writing the first paragraph of “Rooftops,” 702’s ‘I Still Love You’ begins to play in my head and I have to write about it. 

‘I Still Love You’ was released my senior year of high school.  It was the tail end of The Neptunes’ three year tear churning out pop hits for just about everyone.  Their trademark synth strings and the plucking of a guitar made a very simple melody.  The difference in this and just about every other track they had on albums and all over radio at the time were the drums.  It was a booming kick drum with lots of reverb and the clap one would recognize from Clipse’s ‘Grindin’.’  The track didn’t move around a lot and made for the melody of the words to stand out yet blend in nicely.  I was weeks away from graduation, and heading to Atlanta.  I was ready to leave everything I knew in New York not knowing-yet speculating-what was next for me.

Eleven years later I’m listening to the song while writing essays answering the questions that Chad Milner at seventeen may have had.  My three year old daughter is sitting to my left drinking a Capri Sun playing with the travel bag that houses her soccer goal.  Funny how that works.

I was writing about Timile, Cydney, and I first moving to Buffalo.  I pictured Timile chopping all of her hair off and styling it one last time before chemo made it fall out.  The short haircut made her feel good in spite of the fact that there was a feeding tube protruding out of her abdomen which six weeks earlier was poking out because a baby was in there.  The brief moment of feeling like she looked good was because most of the time Timile looked at me and wondered what I thought of her.  All I ever saw was the twenty-one year old girl with hair all the way down her back and bangs.  That moment in a black robe while holding Cydney is what made me think about that moment.  Not sure how things were going to go during this next leg of our journey I don’t know if I was any more in love with her than in that moment.  Just when she felt the least attractive was when I was craziest about her.

*Takes break from writing to clean off said child who at three still doesn’t want to be potty trained and has gone number two in her underwear.  Not diapers…underwear.*

Okay, where was I…Every once in a while Timile would say something to me inferring how I felt about her.  She would show some glimpse of insecurity in her words.  Reading behind the lines I could she wanted to know if my eyes wandered and even if this was all she’d be for fifty years would looking at what she thought was hideous was enough.  She just wanted to know that I found her desirable.  I did.  She was the mother of my child and while we weren’t married, she was my wife.  Timile would even slip dilaudid-which is stronger than morphine-into my drinks because I guess that’s the only way she assumed I would have sex with her.  Bald headed and weighing eighty-eight pounds she was still my dream girl.

One of the moments when I felt the saddest was one September evening.  Timile was staying at the hospital for a few days because that happened every three weeks or so.  One day after work I was sitting by the bed and we were watching something on TV.  A commercial came on that had something to do with children.  Timile paused and said very casually “You know, at this point I wouldn’t mind having a second child.” Shit.  I’ve had my heart broken quite a few times in my life; but nothing had ever crushed me like that one sentence.  I was hurt because since Timile had undergone chemo, even if she were to survive her bout with cancer she would never be able to have another child.  That was the moment when shit got real.  That was the moment it really hit me that Timile wasn’t making it out of this.

While I died several deaths, and visited all seven layers of hell in Dante’s Inferno within seconds; I looked at Timile Brown with a smile on my face and said “I told you you’d be ready to do it again!  I gave you eighteen months.  Cydney isn’t even a year yet and you got baby fever!”  She laughed and said “You’re right.”  The moment was over and the conversation shifted immediately.

 

I took the long way home that night.  I took Timile’s weed; smoked two pretty huge blunts back to back, and lapped around the whole city of Buffalo before I went home and passed out when I got home.  It weighed so heavily on my spirit I didn’t know what else to do.

 

What may come off as a weakness is almost often a strength.  Had I shown that what Timile had said crushed me our evening would have been morbid and filled with tears and long-term lingering thoughts.   I made a joke, let the moment end with a smile, and while she never mentioned it again it played in my head repeatedly.  She didn’t need to know that, though.  

In physics one of the first things you learn is that energy cannot be created or destroyed; they are just transferred or converted or something like that (it’s been a while but that sounds accurate).  If a ton of bricks fall from the sky and hit the ground that energy gets absorbed and it vibrates.  That vibration turns into something that I would have learned in Physics 102 but I was a business major so whatever (an earthquake?).  Emotions work the same exact way.  Some people absorb others’ hurt and pain by internalizing it; and it manifests itself in other outlets.  Whatever is receiving force does not externally show any signs of stress or affect whether it be the ground getting pounded by bricks or a person listening to another’s inner most thoughts.  With that said, at this point in life I’m okay with my role in people’s lives.

With all that was going on around me was it easy to love Timile and not take care of myself?  Yes.  I made a choice.  There was no looking back.  For those who mix love up with a bunch of other things I will say it again: it’s an action.  You make a decision to love someone.  “Falling” in love is bullshit.  Maybe you “fall” into it because one unconsciously makes a choice.  Once one puts their mind to doing something, it’s pretty easy.  It may be difficult to make it a habit at first, but eventually it becomes second nature. 

Timile and I had fought many times during our time together.  When we broke up and she started a relationship with someone else in Virginia I could have said to myself “This is gonna hurt for a second but I can’t do this anymore.”  By that time, I was on autopilot.  Timile wasn’t quite sold on us working out many times.  She had even convinced herself that I wasn’t someone she would marry.  Me?  I was making shit happen regardless of what she thought or wasn’t sure of.  There aren’t many things that I think can’t accomplish.  I believe in myself that much and I am arrogant enough to say my track record backs this up.

By the time Timile was who I described her to be at the beginning of this essay I was prepared to love our family through it.  I had been given tests of patience and adversity with this one person. 

I’m going to end this right here….I can’t really think of a way to end this.  Confirming that this essay needs to end here is that Cydney who is in her high heel slippers and a Cinderella dress is holding her hand out and asking for me to dance with her.  I may even leave this one unedited and publish the rough draft.

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Finally Purging

I haven’t written much on here within the last week.  I used to write six days a week.  The first half of 2014 has been me coming to grips with a lot of things over the lest few years and finally beginning to deal.  I have been tired, in desperate need of a vacation, more money, and been mustering up what little patience I have to trying to be a decent father.  I don’t have much patience at all these days.  I just don’t feel like talking to children most days.  I need to miss them after a long day or a weekend.  I know, there are no real days off; but I’ve just been running and dealing with problems without having the time to restore myself after these last four years.  Timile’s pregnancy was horrible and I caught flack from my family and her because for most of the time they were not getting along.  I was the one in the middle and it sucked.  You all kind of know the rest of the story…

Since last Friday I have started writing an e-book (Yep, that’s right!).  It’s going to be about twenty or so essays of stories I haven’t posted on here chronicling different aspects of the last four years with music being the narrator.  Writing about topics has had me reliving moments I haven’t given much thought to or have suppressed because I have been keeping it moving.

Writing these essays has been very cathartic.  I am finally releasing all that I have been internalizing.  I’m enjoying the process as well.  I have been laughing to myself the whole way.  I love taking on and completing a new project, so any chance that I get I have been sitting in front of my computer to write.  If not, I am fulfilling my fatherly duties, or taking a break just to think about what I am going to write about next.

While it has been good to purge my thoughts out it has taken a physical toll on me.  I’ve been writing at a pretty frantic pace-fifteen essays done clocking in at about 20,000 words all while enjoying my nephew’s birthday festivities over the weekend-and it’s exhausting.   I’ve woken up from naps and nights feeling almost drunkenly disoriented, chest pains from stress and I assume reliving heartache amongst other things.  But it’s all good.  I’m beginning to feel emotions and I am allowing myself to let it happen.  Seeing my thoughts in front of me on “paper” is allowing me to come face to face with my thoughts, flaws, insecurities, rights, and wrongs.  I welcome it all.

So far the few people I have let read an essay or two have been entertained.  I should have one up by the end of the week to share with you guys as well.  I’ve got writing to do…

Soccer Dad Chronicles coming tomorrow.

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Words, The Creative Process, and Maya Angelou

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Humor is how I deal with things.  The first thing that popped in my head when I heard about Maya Angelou’s passing away this morning was a bit on the Chris Rock Show were he played clips of poems she had done to honor Marion Barry and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.  Someone imitating her slow baritone voice saying “Good morning, Crack Man.  Mr. Mayor Crack Rock” rang in my ears.  I laughed to myself thinking that the way my mind works is scientific evidence that God has a sense of humor.  

As I was checking the newspaper (read: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) quotes about love, truth, the poem Caged Bird and Phenomenal Woman literally appeared dozens of times.  Most of my familiarity with Angelou’s work revolves around being in school.  Today I read Caged Bird for the first time in maybe twenty years.  With my own farily unique life experiences I related to it–it was no longer just a white early twenty something’s attempt at a black history lesson in February.  I observed the different way that her words had affected many others of all races and religions.  Whenever I read or hear the words from Phenomenal Woman (mostly in Poetic Justice) I think of my middle school’s black history pageants we’d have every year and my friend Dana reciting the words like a grown ass woman while her cousin Damien played the violin behind her (That violin thing turned out pretty well for him).  The image in my mind is as clear as if it happened yesterday.

Reading how Maya Angelou influenced many people that I know personally, acquaintances, strangers, etc. made me think about what made her just that in their minds: her words.  Her poems aren’t particularly verbose.  She used prose and everything you’d read sounded very conversational; as if one was just having a talk with a wise woman who can tell you about life because she’d lived a rough one.  In fact every quote I have read today I have heard her voice reciting it just as casually as she spoke during her role in Madea’s Family Reunion.

Almost every time I think about Maya Angelo it is in regard to her creative process.  She has said that she kept a hotel in her hometown where she would go to from 5:30 am-2 pm where she’d keep a bible, ballpoint pens, paper, a thesaurus, a King James Version of the bible, crossword puzzles and a bottle of sherry.  She also said that when she wrote she kept her her tied as if it would keep the thoughts into her head.  She’d toil away at ideas that generally started off as simple as “cat, hat, and bat.”  

Angelou had her other objects by her side that would help serve as her muses other than her thoughts.  This was on my mind as recent as last week.  I was having a conversation with my friend who is a writer who told me that they want to write.  They said I wouldn’t understand because I haven’t dedicated my life to writing.  I told them that was false.  Halfway offended I almost said “You know there’s a treble clef and a pen in hand inked on me arm for life, right?”  I just told them that I’d been writing in some capacity in my life since I was six even if it was mostly music.  I said the process is still the same and I pictured Maya, her tied head, and that bottle of sherry next to her as she wrote.  I have different things that I do depending on if I am writing music or essays and think pieces.  The same way my friend has told me that they play games on their phone when they get stuck I’ll play Free Cell or Minesweeper while listening to music I have composed to write to.  When I am writing thoughtful and loving things about the joys of parenting I use ignorant rap music as my form of sensory deprivation to be creative *pauses to yell “Similac!” because we’re ridin’ ’round and gettin’ it right now.*  When I’m in a pretty creative place I don’t shave or get haircuts unless I know I’m making a public appearance.  I’ve been writing my ass off in 2014-close to 2,000 words a day, completed one album and working on a second-right now I look like a scruffy mess and have got my haircut maybe five times this year.

I say all of this to say that Maya Angelou has influenced many of us in different ways over the last fifty years.  For some it may be a quote on TV, her experiences, being a family member, her words, or in my case a reminder of facilitating the creative process.  Rest in love, Maya Angelou and your influence in any capacity will never be forgotten.  Thank You. 

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