This morning started like many others: my 6:45am nap on the Long Island Railroad to a soulful soundtrack. As I waited for the A train, I looked at my Facebook account and saw a memory. It was a video of Cydney. It prompted me to shut off DMX’s folk ballad “Niggas Done Started Somethin’,” and press play.
Three years ago, my daughter wished her mother a happy birthday and blew a kiss. A smirk crept out of the corner of my mouth as I remembered it was January 4.
Five years ago, I was getting dressed to go to court. It would be the first of several hearings in two states over the course of two years. I knew my in-laws would not drive from Virginia to New York to attend that day.
I wanted them to know I meant business. Timile hadn’t been buried three weeks. For her first birthday in heaven since 1986, the Browns had to deal with me…and I didn’t give a fuck. January 4, 2012 was the day I became fearless.
My time with Timile Brown taught me how to love with no limits and that made me a dangerous person. FDR’s famous quote “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” became reality. If I continuously strived to get out of my own way, what was the worst that could happen? They died of cancer and custody hearings for my child before the body gets cold? Shit, everything else in life was light work.
I was more than prepared to go toe-to-toe with Timile’s parents five January’s ago. Two months prior, my father in-law’s intimidating tactics scared the fuck out of me and I rolled over for the sake of peace. It wouldn’t have happened that day in court. Hell, it wouldn’t have happened today, either. That morning, I decided rarely would I ever lie down in passivity again unless I absolutely had to. If I did, it damn sure wasn’t going to be because I was scared.
How do I currently feel about Timile’s parents? I still don’t like them. I still have trust issues because of them. I absolutely hate that they only call Cydney on her birthday, Easter, and Christmas; that shit really irks me. However, they’re the ones who are missing out. Cydney is an amazing little girl who is happy. I would tell them everything I have written here to their face, as well.
I have no malice in my heart for Cydney’s maternal grandparents. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean that I don’t love them (I accidentally said it to them last Christmas). Forgiving them set me free from a lot and it might be my biggest act in fearlessness. Forgiveness just might be the most courageous action in all of our lives.
Nowadays I rarely refer to Timile by name. It isn’t because she has become a ghost that I am afraid of or anything like that. It has become a habit. Most of the people I associate with didn’t know her, so to many she is “Cydney’s mother,” or “my daughter’s mother.”
The main reason I have this habit of not saying “Timile” is because of Cydney. As a Kindergartner, her classmates all live in her neighborhood. She sees all of the kids and their moms; there is a heightened awareness that something is different for her.
Cyd seems to get put off-guard when Timile is mentioned around her. It triggers something and she begins to feel sad. One day, while driving home, Cydney says to me “Daddy, I don’t want people to mention my mom. Why do they?” Time and time again, I tell her “Because she meant something to many of us that knew her.” It’s the only thing I can think of to say.
Last week, I was in the midst of my morning ritual mentioned in the first paragraph. A creature of habit, I pulled out my phone and opened up Facebook as Dark Man X growled and yelled “Is y’all muthafuckas ready or what?!” A picture of a very pregnant Timile and I showed up in my memory cue. I immediately pulled up a picture of Cydney from Christmas day and thought to myself “Man, Cydney is a perfect blend of the two of us.”
When Cydney was first born, all I could see is Timile. As my daughter has matured, Cydney Moriah Milner has become a miniature version of me but with no filter.
In writing all of this, I have come to a realization. I’m kind of “over” this. I am-and have for years-been more interested in the future. As soon as I post this, I still have work to do. People turn their past experiences into demigods and elephants in the room. Fuck that. I don’t subscribe to that mindset. Just acknowledge, let the assorted thoughts come, and move on.