Tag Archives: loss

Letter To Timile Pt. 2

Timile,
The other day was the first time I’d spoken to you in a very long time. It was rude of me to not have said a word in God knows how long and the first thing I did was vent. Telling you “I’m just tired of this shit,” in reference to several things going on. That was selfish of me. 

While I’m aware you’re looking down, you can’t see my thoughts; but you’ve been on my mind a lot recently. Well, I shouldn’t say that. You frequently cross my mind; nonetheless, it’s different these days. 

What’s prompting this letter was a conversation I had with Chase the other day. I laughed about him being married and the talk of having a kid. It was really funny hearing him of all people sound so domesticated. He sounded like someone in his thirties; but I still remember the 18 year old I met at orientation that wore his collar popped up all of the time. It’s funny because our peers are at the age where they’re settled down and starting families…they’re just catching up to us 10 years ago and couldn’t relate to our lives in 2007. I’ll never forget the time I went to visit Devin in DC a few years ago and this guy left because he and his wife were having a family meeting…it was just the two of them, so every conversation they had was a family meeting. That was the same guy who didn’t quite “get it” when I moved differently because of you.

Anywho, in the conversation, I was telling Chase how I recently lied to someone to get out of explaining myself and you were a part of it. He asked if I felt bad about having to do so. I told him “Not one bit,” knowing that you would’ve understood. You know how we did; we shut people up by any and all means.

In our talk, I told Chase that my time with you feels like a lifetime ago, we both more or less have moved on. A couple of years back, Cydney first told me you were married; then he was just a boyfriend and eventually it evolved to “He was just a boy who is your friend.” So I kind of want to talk relationships with you.

So who is he? I’m happy for you, so I’m curious and would like to know more. There are just so many options up there I presume and it’d better not be someone from the bible or something. How’d y’all meet? Not like I’d really understand because Heaven is kind of past my realm of understanding right now. How’d he die? Is it a he? You could have a girlfriend and Cydney didn’t quite know how to explain it. I have so many questions because I’m a curious guy.

You know none of this comes from a jealous place. I told you when we first started talking, when a man’s on his job, there’s no need to seek anything else…and did the best I could to live up to that. There were times you went astray and in retrospect, I understood. We were young, still living in a world of ideals, and experience hadn’t equipped us with an arsenal to combat the not-so-great times. No matter what, there was never any question of where my loyalty lied.

You’ve seen where I’ve been these days. I can’t seem to escape the wildly dramatic stuff. I be feeling like Carlito’s Way: Every time I get out, I get pulled back in, pull off the caper, try to flee town, and there’s Benny Blanco from the Bronx popping three off in the stomach in point-blank range…I’m trying. But on the other side of that coin, this shit is kind of fun. Whenever I do settle down again, there will be no regrets or stones left unturned…I needed that.

One of the most relevant aspects of our relationship helped me grow was learning how to argue. I used to get my ass kicked in our disputes. Then I became a writer, I remembered learned lessons of backing up my premise with convincing points and facts that can’t be refuted. In my interpersonal relationships with women, I may lose the fight; but I’m going to win the argument. Actually winning the argument is why I’ll lose the fight. I’m okay with that.

Underneath all of my bullshit, I’m still a teddy bear inside. That side just doesn’t get to be seen by anyone outside of my daughter and well…you know. The person that I am at 32 years old, you wouldn’t stay with. Not because I’m some bad person or we wouldn’t have been able to work it out; I have just evolved. There’s a possibility that maybe it would have worked out because we would have grown together. But that wasn’t God’s plan, so I don’t want to go down that lane and second guess perfection, nahmean?

Shit, if you’re married or whatever up there, I’m still trying to grow up and be like you. I presume dating in Heaven is different than on Earth. For starters, I’m on Earth and you’re in something…that in itself makes a big difference. I’m sure whoever made the cut was someone who knows who I am and because he too is in paradise, is happy for Cydney and I, and doesn’t really have a care in the world or insecurity. That shit is really dope. 

Down here, you’ve been the elephant in the room a few times. And I guess I understand that, especially since a few of these people I have dated were people who knew you. I just chuckled because I just heard you saying “Tell them to stop acting like little bitches,” in your snarky tone. Years ago, I had a very interesting conversation with one of these young ladies who said they were a little wary because they feel like you’d be mad. You and I both know there’s only one person you’d really be mad if I dated/talked to and that actually happened about five years ago. I reassured her that you would be happy if I chose her. You and I know you’d be happy because she doesn’t look like what you were afraid I’d cheat on you with.

Either way, I’m just chillin’ and so is Cydney. She’s really trying to marry me off. She wants younger siblings badly. I think she’s tired of being the bottom of the totem pole and wants someone to boss around. But really, she wants me to be happy first and second, finally fill that familial void she’s missing. But that little girl no matter what just wants me to be happy and find happiness. She calls me on my shit all the time. Holy fuck I’ve never heard a kid talk so much about when I need to find a girl by. Cyd said by September, I need to find a girlfriend so that we can all go to WBLS’ Circle of Sisters. I’m sure it’s killing you that Cydney is really Chad Milner, Jr.

This was a great talk I think. I will make sure I do this more often. This season of my life is a transitional one. I’m rapidly evolving and experiencing some growing pains. As of today, I like to think of our relationship as if we were divorced but still really good friends. There’s still love; but no “what if’s” because we just weren’t compatible as lovers. We’re Winny and Kevin from The Wonder Years…

Until next time,

Solo 

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A Year After Confronting My Past

 

June 28, 2016, 9:47 am.  A year ago at this time I was just arriving home from Virginia.  After waking up at 4 am for a full day’s work, I took an hour nap, packed up Cydney, and left New York on the 26th at around 1:30 am.  Just about every trip to the Hampton Roads area was hell; so I didn’t need to be there very long.

I was returning to a place that I said I would never revisit.  I didn’t feel the need to.  I had been told on countless occasions by many people I need to make it my business to finally see Timile’s grave.  In theory, this makes sense.  However, if you know me or how I operate, you’d know I didn’t need to for the reasons people said that I would.  I’ll come back to this.

The purpose of this trip was to finally see Timile’s grave.  For those who are new, I found out that my girlfriend of five years and mother of my child died via Twitter and wasn’t invited to the funeral…her parents never reached out because they were building a court case to obtain custody of Cydney.  Going back to the darkest time in my life was to remind myself where I have been to give proper context to where I’m headed.  We all need this from time to time.

With the exception of driving around and seeing the places I still have flashbacks of, almost nothing went according to plan.  While I made it to the cemetery, no one wanted to help me, so I wound up not visiting Timile’s grave site.

That was perfectly fine.  The trip wound up not about visiting the dead; but to see the living.  I stopped by Chesapeake to visit Timie’s godmother, I saw one of her friends from high school, I called an audible and stopped by my in-laws for an hour.  That made the trip worthwhile because revisiting that house was confronting a lot of my darkness.

While I had been flirting with the idea of going to Virginia for months, I needed a catalyst to push me into actually doing it.  Last year, I got into arguments with the girl I was currently dating and my ex.  That wasn’t the first time.  But once I noticed this pattern of ultimately having this tense discussions, I felt like it was time to assess how and why I wound up dealing with the people that I did.  I was in a place of not wanting commitment and from the first date, I’d be planning my way out.

The girl I was dating at the time had said something to me that really rubbed me the wrong way.  After calling me arrogant and making a few judgments (one of the worst things you can do in my book), she said “I feel like you post pictures of Timile for attention.”  I wasn’t mad.  Five minutes after hanging up from the call, everything registered, and then I laughed.  I wasn’t hurt or angry at what she said; I was offended.  Had she asked me I wouldn’t have been; but that was something else and exactly what I needed.

Logged off from the world, I needed some time to prepare myself for what was coming.  I found myself reliving those three weeks in 2011.  I never had regrets about moving there.  It was the right thing to do.  Before she passed, Timile got to spend quality time with my family in New York as well as hers in Buffalo and Virginia.  If anything else, it was a goodbye tour.  Maybe the reason I needed this was because moving every other time was about Timile; so I needed to make one for myself.

A year later, I still stand by my statement that this trip wasn’t about making closure.  I already had peace with the loss.  If the purpose was for that reason, God would have allowed a sequence of events in which Cydney and I actually made it to Timile’s grave site and not just the yard.

This was about opening doors.  Less than a month later, I would be receiving a call that my good friend, Donnell was no longer with us on earth.  Having visited Virginia made getting and accepting this news a lot easier.  The events that transpired for some reason made me quit smoking.  I didn’t need it anymore as a means to relieve the stress that made me feel as if someone was sitting on my chest.

To Cydney, her mother was just stories and anecdotes she’s her about through pictures and limited video.  Something within her changed.  Leaving Timile’s high school home with toys and a t-shirt with her picture on it gave Cyd a connection.  My daughter began using her imagination and injecting herself into these stories.  If she saw a video, Cydney would say “I remember that” and give her interpretation of the events that occurred.  It’s part of her own healing and acceptance.

Since this is getting kind of long, I will end this here and continue tomorrow.

Mother’s Day as a Single Father

 

The second Sunday of May is a very interesting day.  While we should give roses to those who are living, Mother’s Day is a day in which we all give appreciation to the women who gave us life, as well as those we have created a life with.

Mother’s Day has taken on a very different meaning in my household.  Five months after Cydney’s mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, my mother was informed that she had a malignant tumor in her breast.  While my mother was beginning her process, I was knee-deep into surgeries and living in hospitals in 2011.  I recall a conversation in which my mother was emotionally processing that her oncologist threw out the possibility of a mastectomy.  In the moment, I had to do my best impersonation of my mom-take feelings out of the equation and keep it real for perspective’s sake-and tell her that while I understood, I wished that surgery was an option.

The fall of 2011 was very difficult for me.  While having to hide around in Virginia because my in-laws knew Cydney’s mother was being put on hospice and trying to get rid of me; the only comfort I had was being there for my mother who was just beginning chemotherapy treatments over the phone.  The last time Timile-my daughter’s mother-and my mom saw each other, my mom showed Timile her bald head and they bonded because they were sharing an all-too familiar experience.

After Timile passed away and my mother was finishing up her first round with chemo, I was neck-deep in custody cases in two states for my daughter.  A week after major surgery, my mother did most of the driving from New York to Virginia for us to get my baby back.  In a time where she needed to be resting, what was more important to her was that I had my little girl that I was just beginning to feel the way about as my mom does for me.

I don’t do hospitals.  When my mother had her second surgery, I didn’t visit and she understood.  The only time that I did was to drop my aunt off.  I stayed in the room all of five minutes and spent the rest of the time in the parking lot.  Most people would say “Chad, get over yourself;” but at twenty-five years old, shit got incredibly real for me and she got it.  Before my grandmother passed, I couldn’t visit her in the hospital, either.  I had to wait until she came back home before ultimately saying goodbye.  The way that both my mother and her mother just “got it,” is a manner that only a mother can and will literally hold on to dear life until you’re ready.

Cydney only experienced on Mother’s Day while Timile was alive, and she was only three months old.  All she knows is making that day special for my mother and her aunt, who act as mother figures in her life.  Listening to this week’s podcast, she’s more than happy to do so, as well.

We have just entered a different juncture in Cydney’s life.  For the most part, she wants to control the conversation about her mother.  Even if I am on the phone with someone else and she is within earshot, she begins to feel a certain way when Timile’s name comes up.  It has to be her who brings her mother up, or she begins to get a little sad.  While she is perfectly fine with being different, I feel as if she is become more and more aware that it isn’t the norm to be missing a mother.  Her friends in school don’t understand it.  Yes, saying that my daughter is more than several handfuls is an understatement, she clings on to her daddy because he’s everything to her…I can see it in her eyes.  Hell, she has a mild form of separation anxiety when people she cares about leave and begins to cry, saying “I’m gonna miss them.”

Another interesting pattern of behavior that I have noticed in my daughter is that she more or less sees parts of herself in women that she has seen me date.  She will want to participate in activities that are reminiscent the times she has spent with us….if she liked them.

One can look at my daughter and see that she is mixed with something.  Her mother was half-Puerto Rican.  Whether it is something that she-or I or her mother, who didn’t even find out until she was twenty-three-know much about from a cultural standpoint, it is still a part of her identity.  From time to time, I would tell my daughter she’s part Puerto Rican, she would say “No I’m not.  I’m black.  I don’t want to be [part] Puerto Rican!”  All she knows is the black family engulfed in black culture that use black colloquialism as a means of communication.

From time to time, Cydney would hang out with one woman I was dating, and at one point the woman being of Puerto Rican decent had come up in conversation.  Cydney all of a sudden exclaimed “I’m Puerto Rican!”  In and for a moment, Cydney had begun to identify.  While I dated that lady, my daughter would happily say that she too, was Puerto Rican.  I was telling this to my barber who doubles as my therapist (barbers are therapists); and he said “It was as if you dating this girl gave Cyd the co-sign to identify.”  In my mind, everything clicked.

We all gravitate towards people because we see a likeness between themselves and us.  At five years old, Cydney is slowly transitioning into the phase in which she begins to filter her opinions.  However, these are moments I pay a lot of attention to.  My daughter is looking for those small nuances in various women in my life.  Whether it’s the nurturing and stouthearted mindset of my mother, the resilience of my sister, and the little things she sees in the women I date that she is looking to step in and be her stepmother, it’s very interesting to observe.

I’m very careful of who I let into Cydney’s inner circle.  Because she has no memory of her mother, she more or less is looking for one.  We have very different agendas.  While this may be what she is seeking to acquire, I want someone who love me enough to want to love my kid.  For someone I’m dating, Cydney is not the key nor is she the gatekeeper.  Being there for my daughter doesn’t “do it” for me.  It’s nice and it gives me the feels; but I’m protecting her.  There is a good chance that Cydney’s first heartbreak could be attaching herself to someone she wants to be her mother…and they move on because things didn’t work out between us.  One of my highest priorities in life is to protect my little girl; who with very little life experience could possibly project her hurt on me.  And while that too would suck, I can handle that.

I know this post is pretty lengthy; but there were a lot of thoughts to share.  Enjoy this week’s podcast.

Compassion and Emotional Hypertrophy

I am a little reluctant to write about this.  Nonetheless, it’s part of the journey.

The trip to Virginia was a pivotal point in not just my life, but Cydney’s as well.  Cydney left feeling a little closer to her mother, yet it also made it apparent that there is a very large part of her life missing.

Timile’s parents gave Cyd a RIP Timile t-shirt.  When I saw it, I laughed to myself knowing that Timile herself would say “What kind of ghetto shit is this?!”  However, that dumb shirt means the world to my daughter.  As soon as we got back home, she wanted to wear it everyday.  I told her that it would be best if she didn’t do so because she wouldn’t want to get it dirty.  So every night she would fold the shirt and place it in the drawer.

After inquiring to watch videos of her and her mother before bedtime, making up stories of the two of them when she was a smaller, and on a daily basis telling me her wished of being a baby again, the t-shirt started making its way into the bed.  Cydney had to sleep with the shirt every night.  By September, Cydney talked nonstop about her mother.  The only story she can really remember is the one I had once told a friend in her presence about how I originally wanted to name her Peyton and that Timile and I argued about whether or not our daughter’s name should begin with an “S” or “C.”  Clearly she is trying to figure things out the best way that she knows how.

I come home from work one afternoon, and my mother informs me that Cydney had a little situation in school.  A little girl came to school with both of her parents, Cydney saw them, broke down, and cried to the mother “My mommy died of cancer and I don’t have a mom.”  That broke my heart.

Later that evening, I sat Cydney on my lap and asked her what happened.  She gave a rather detailed explanation and I asked her why did she cry.  Cyd said to me that it was because she doesn’t have a mother and all of the other kids do; so that makes her not special.  I told her that she in fact is very special, she is loved, and while her mother may not be with her, there are many other women in her life who are there for her.  We hugged it out and I proceeded to give her a bath.

These moments are heavy on me.  Not just because I am feeling for my daughter who in her own way is grieving a loss.  Not because I miss Timile dearly and wish she were still here.  It isn’t even because I can’t take it because I can.  Essentially this is all Cydney’s therapy.  Whenever she has questions or wants to talk about it I let her do so.  I don’t want to shut her down because it’s hard to deal with and that can make her feel rejected.  She is simply getting an abstract concept way beyond her years and understanding off of her chest, so I have to let her.

While I may have a degree in psychology, I am not a professional and therapists see other therapists.  The number one principle in physics is that energy cannot be created or destroyed, so when someone unloads an emotional burden off of themselves it is placed on the person they are talking to or is facilitating the process.  What makes this difficult for me at this present time in my life is that the person I would talk to in a time like this-my good friend Donnell-passed away this summer.  It’s tough being the outlet and not having a proper one yourself.  You get depleted.

While there may be a hierarchy of actions that hurt us all, the pain that people feel is relative.  A woman who has given birth can look at someone who just got a paper cut and say “In the grand scheme of things, that is nothing.”  However, based on their experiences, to the person with the slit in their finger, this is the most painful feeling they have ever experienced.  I often look at a lot of things that my family, friends, peers, coworkers, fans, and followers are going through and think “Man listen, what you’re complaining about ain’t shit.”  But for them, it is.

For those that have experienced the childbirths of emotional pain, this is where compassion kicks in.  It is something that people lack at an almost alarming rate these days.  You are the example.  My life experiences have equipped me to be able to handle what my daughter is currently going through.  I look at it as a test of my own emotional endurance.  One cannot experience hypertrophy of any kind without exercising it and putting it under some kind of stress.  However, you must take some time to rest before you hurt yourself.

Seen It All

I joked with a friend of mine saying that after returning from Virginia “I feel like the realest nigga on the planet.” While such a statement may be hyperbole, a part of me does feel as if I am cut from a very rare cloth. I may not have visited Timile’s actual grave like I planned to; but I actually visited her parents and set foot in their house. The feeling of fearlessness and relative peace I have had is empowering.

For my first twenty-four hours back in New York all I could listen to while in a reflective state of mind was Jeezy’s “Seen It All.” It’s a dope song in which the track itself sounds like a song at the end of the movie where one can’t help but look back after the proverbial dust had settled.

I think what really drew me to this particular song was the story Jeezy told about Jay Z’s verse. Jizzle said that Jay Z had tears in his eyes as he recorded his verse.

I believe every verse Jay tells about his past. Coming home during my freshman year from college I sat next to an older man on the plane and read a XXL magazine with Hov on the cover. The man next to me with gray hair and glasses looked at it and said to me “Jay Z. I used to buy crack from him on the corner of Myrtle and Marcy Ave.” That moment put a face to the stories Jay told of “Selling snowflakes by the oz.”

I say that because for that to be one of the most personal tales Jay has ever told, the tone is his voice sounds no different than when he’s professing love for his wife, gushing over his daughter, or being a mysogenist fifteen years ago. For as casual as someone can tell you a tale-even if they have moved on-you have no idea what it feels like. All of the details can affect a listener-or in my case, the reader-and it’ll never do justice to the actual moments that defined them. There’s such an even keel about Jay Z that feels as if there is very little that rattles his cage because of his experience. Behind that nonchalant demeanor is someone still closes his eyes and sees these flashes of traumatic experiences that while he wishes he didn’t live them knows it has played a major role in his success. I know because it happens to me.

One of my close friends died last Monday. I wound up spending most of the day by myself reflecting on all of the times we talked about everything we had been through over the last five years. That night while Cydney was lying in bed she asked to look at pictures of Timile, herself, and me. She then asked to see pictures of the three of us and my friend together and I had to let her know those don’t exist. I did the best I could by showing pictures of her and us separately. She then wanted to see videos of Timile and her.

It was an interesting moment albeit one I wasn’t in the mood for. Cyd would look at them and at “I remember that,” even though the video would be of her as an infant.  The videos gradually progressed from Cydney being held by her mother, to following her mom around in a walker, to her toddling around with me, to a four year old who can juggle a soccer ball exceptionally well for her age. I looked at those videos and said “Aww, I kinda miss you being a baby like this.”

Somewhere between fighting sleep and being Cydney, she said “I miss being a baby, too,” and began to work herself into tears. She has a complex about missing things. She’ll say she misses the most insignificant thing, but in the moment it means the world to her and it makes her cry. It’s because she knows something is missing in her life. Cydney was articulating that she wished she could go back to the time when her mother was alive. She then rolled her face out of the pillow, laid her head on my shoulder, and said to me “I don’t have a mom,” in a very sad voice.

That was a crushing moment. Cydney has said this before. What made this time very different was that the person I would call and would joke with until I felt better died that morning. It was one of those moments I will always be able to close my eyes and see.

They Reminisce Over You Pt. 2

I went to bed this morning around 1:30 am. I woke up at 4:30 am and started my day and work week like many others. I got a call from my former roommate, Devin, informing me that our good friend Donnell passed away this morning from a heart attack.

I hate these phone calls.

Immediately my heart went out to his wife and three children. He was only thirty-one years old. I left my desk, called Devin back and the first thing I could say to him was “Fuck!” I couldn’t say that in my workspace; so I walked into the stairway and let that out because I had to. Donnell Tyler was my boy.

I’ve written about Donnell before. We became friends when I began to produce and manage he, Devin, and their friend, Dyquan’s gospel rap group. Once a month they would drive from Charleston, SC to Atlanta to record. It would be the four of us in Timile and my apartment for twelve hour studio sessions . Donnell and I clicked right away. As the married man, he was the only one of my friends who understood the arguments I would have with her. Many times my venting would end with Timile coming outside and in a confrontational tone exclaim “Are you talking about me?!” He would laugh and say “Go handle the breh.”

We really became friends after I moved from Atlanta and Timile passed away. We would talk two-to-three times a week because we had similar struggles. We were both minimally employed doing our best to take care of our families. A year ago to the week things changed. He finally found gainful employment and so did I. We both felt as if we had finally reached that light at the end of the tunnel that had seemed dim since 2010. We still spoke frequently.

Donnell was there for me through a lot. A lot of my relationship drama he would be the voice of reason to. There was a time when I didn’t have ten dollars to my name. My ex and I were starting to become friends again and she’d recently had surgery. He sent me $80 to buy her a decent get well soon gift and to take the train to see her. We spoke so much that his wife would say “That’s Chad again?!” We just understood each other.

Last Monday was the last time I spoke to Donnell. We had a running joke and our conversation ended with me saying in jest “Let’s be real: you’re not going anywhere, b.” We laughed and he had to go. It was fitting that such a lighthearted statement would be our last conversation.

I deal with death very intellectually. I talk so causally about friends, family, and loved ones after they leave earth so causally it freaks people out. For those of us who are fortunate, the older we get, the more we are going to find ourselves losing people. I don’t say this from a dark and cynical place; it’s logic. You never fully get over the losses. You cherish the time you were blessed to have them in your life and have to continue living yours. Sometimes it’s unexpected. Sometimes people live full lives. Sometimes people gradually go and we have time to process. With the exception of 2Pac and a select few, we never know…

Because of this I try my best to live my life as if tomorrow isn’t promised. For most people my age this is still theory and experience hasn’t made it fully applicable. I make sure I demonstrate and articulate how I feel to those I love. I have no regrets or wish there isn’t anything I haven’t said. My mission in the lives of said people is that whenever God calls me none of them can ever question or have any doubt they weren’t loved by me.

I blogged about T.R.O.Y. over a year ago. So I decided to go with Mr. Cheeks’ remade version that featured a reunited Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth. Mecca jumped on the third verse and once again paid tribute to fallen friend Trouble T-Roy of Heavy D and the Boyz. His verse was so heartfelt. He gave updates about people he mentioned in 1992 and mentions how they continue to live through him and song. My brother Donnell Tyler does as well…

My Experience Confronting My Demons

I took some time off because my schedule tends to get pretty busy around Father’s Day. Once that passed, I was mentally and spiritually preparing myself for my return to Virginia for the first time in over three years.

In spite of declaring that I would never return, I always knew deep down that I would. I planned to going there in September; but I got let go from my 9-5 gig and was back in survival mode. Around January I told myself that I would drive to the Commonwealth State once the weather got warm. Saturday was my first free Saturday in months and I knew I would be pretty busy the rest of summer. The way that things seem to be working out also suggested that this was the perfect time. My life is changing, I’ll be thirty in a few months, and I needed a reminder of where I’ve been to put my future and present into proper context.

I left Saturday morning a little after 1 AM. I packed Cydney up and I was in Newport News a little after 10. The first thing I did was call my big brother Barry and say “Holy shit, I’m back in Virginia.” I talked to him a lot during those hellish three weeks. We conversed as I drove around to all of the places I would be on the phone with him stressed out until my fingertips were numb. I saw that the Starbucks I spent hours at looking for jobs had closed down and relocated down the street. I took a picture of my apartment at Newport Commons down the street from Christopher Newport University, thought about all of the nights I laid on that green couch in silence smoking weed, and thinking to myself “I’m doing this for my family.” I passed the graveyard that gave me chills because I knew one day I would be burying Timile. Barry kept things in perspective and assured me that it took a lot to be doing this. He said whoever dates my daughter is going to have really big shoes to fill because of how I take care of my little girl. That meant a lot. I have thought that from time to time; but hearing it from someone else meant a lot to me. I felt validated.

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The Starbucks on Oyster Point I spent hours at before visiting Timile at the hospital and Cydney at her grandparents.
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My apartment at Newport Commons
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The cemetery on Highway 60 I passed all of the time.
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The 7eleven all of my meals came from for three weeks. $3 meals once a day.

Cydney and I stopped to get breakfast in Hampton. We then stopped by Timile’s godmother and Cydney’s namesake in Chesapeake. Something in me said I should give Timile’s mother a call and let her know I was in town. I sent a text saying that Cydney and I were driving by and I wanted to know if they were home. A part of me was wishing that she doesn’t respond but I would have been disappointed had I been in Virginia and not seen them.

I ventured back into Hampton. I didn’t have chills. The hair on my body stood up but then feeling was a warm sensation. I felt like I was confronting a lot of proverbial demons. I said even if I ever went back to Virginia I would never go back to that dark house where I last saw Timile. On the way there I was replaying that November 18th night. Timile’s father telling me I can’t take Cydney to New York for a couple of weeks because they don’t know if I’m her father. Having the cops called on me as Timile’s mother yelled to her stepmother “He’s taking the baby!” Leaving the house so enraged that I tripped over Timile’s feeding tube and walking down the street where the police that were called to the house told me my parents were looking for me. My parents telling me I needed to stay indoors when I really needed to walk around by myself and their reasoning being that if Timile died that night I better believe her parents would have a case on me for killing her.

I got to the house and the first thing I saw was Timile’s car she had named Fiona. It still had the Spelman College decals on it and that made me feel a way. I rang the bell and put on my best face like I was happy to see them. Cydney was jovial to see her grandparents and the feeling was mutual. They asked if I wanted to have a seat. I was sitting in the same spot next to the chase lounge where I was last holding Cydney and Timile smiled in a way that I just knew she was going to die soon and that look was one in which she could go in peace. Seeing me take care of our daughter was something that always made her proud.

Timile’s parents had toys that she was saving for her daughter since she was a child all lined up in her old room. I have a jeep so I was able to take a lot of it. They said I could take more on my next trip; but in my head I was thinking “Yall gonna have to ship this shit because I’m never coming back here.” They talked about spending Christmas as a family in California and I nodded saying “That’s a possibility,” knowing damn well I wasn’t doing that, either. Before I left Timile’s mother said “Don’t take so long to return.” It was genuine. However, I got sick of hearing her say some fairly rediculous shit the hour I was there. I acknowledged her sincerity and said “Okay.” I took pictures of Cydney and them and then we left.

It was time to do what the whole trip was about: finally visiting Timile’s grave. I got there around 5 PM. The goundskeepers were being lazy because they were about to get off. I pleaded with two of them saying that I just drove down from New York for my daughter to see her mother. They said they had just got off and there was one more person there until six. I knocked on the door and he heard me yelling in his thick southern dialect “I’m taking a shit can you wait?!” I waited for forty-five minutes then saw he left around the back.

Cydney was excited about being there. All day she had been saying “I’m going to go see my mommy and where she’s buried!” She told everyone we visited that day, she lives in the clouds and on the moon but her body is in the ground because she’s sick. Her understanding of things is beyond uncanny to only be four. She’s been here before.

Because she was so excited to be there I called Timile’s mother to ask if they knew where she was buried. She said she didn’t know the plot number because they hadn’t been back since the funeral because it was too painful. “Maybe we can all go the next time you visit.” She continued to talk but I didn’t hear a word she said. I snapped.

I said “Remember, I didn’t have the fun of seeing a burial.” She responded “Woah, let’s not bring that up. We have been getting along and whamp whamp whamp.” I say that because she began to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me. She was still talking. I took my phone away from my ear and almost hung up on her. But I put it back up in time to say “Okay,” and something along the lines of we can go the next time I’m in town.

I was enraged because I was them reminded that I wasn’t allowed a proper goodbye or the chance to grieve who I thought was the love of my life. Not being able to do that has left a darkness inside of me. I was kind of cynical before this happened; but I have had very little to no trust in anyone except Cydney ever since. Nonetheless, I am thankful for that experience because I wouldn’t have been on this path as a writer or many of the other blessings that have come from it. God has a perfect plan and this had to happen for the greater good. That has been the thing that has given me peace since I last left the Hampton courthouse May of 2012.

Cydney was temporarily disappointed but she gets over things quickly. She was hungry so we went to Waffle House. She wolfed it down saying it tasted like waffle cake. Being worked up had upset me to the point in which I couldn’t drive back to DC which was my plan. One of Timile’s high school friends met us up there and we talked for a little bit. I told her I was never coming back to Hampton and she told me I had to at least one more time for all of her other classmates that would love to see Cydney as an extension of Timile.

I headed back to Chesapeake. Timile’s godmother said she would watch Cydney as I slept. I was staggering because by then I had been awake since 4 AM Friday morning, went to work, slept for an hour, drove, and had an emotional day. She woke me up at 2 AM and I was back on the road by 2:20. I had peace. I was able to leave everything that had happened to me with the Seven Cities literally in my rear view mirror.

I was back at my house by 9:35 AM. I feel like a different person. My home feels much different. While I didn’t see Timile’s actual grave I was at the cemetery. That was enough because all that’s there is just a body. It further cemented how I felt and that the memories are the most second most important thing.

Cydney’s happiness is number one. She was happy we went. I think she feels more connected to her mother. She was nine months when she passed away, so all of her memories that she talks about are figments of her imagination. Cydney’s grandmother gave her a rest in peace shirt with Timile’s picture on it. I thought that shit was so ghetto and I know Timile would have felt the same way. However, Cydney liked it a lot. All she wanted to do was wear it. When we got home she demanded that she put it on herself and went to sleep with it on. I had taken it off that night so that she may not pee in it in her sleep. I woke her up this morning for her Moving Up Ceremony and the first thing she asked about was her shirt with her mom on it. She wanted to fold it up and put it in a drawer and she did just that.

We left and this morning I watched her recite poems, sing, and dance as she was celebrating going into Pre-K in September. Tomorrow can finally begin for the both of us.

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Moving Up Ceremony this morning.

Closure isn’t a good word for our experience. I have moved on in many ways. I have dated, loved, been in love, broken up, made new friends, taken on a new career and so much more. I left Virginia three days before my twenty-sixth birthday the father of an infant, with $4 to my name, unanswered questions, and no idea what was next. In that time I have literally transformed myself into another person. I cut my hair, lost seventy pounds of fat and fifty in muscle, a personality that Meyers-Briggs was once ENTP was now ENTJ, and so much more. I returned to Virginia a grown ass man. I am incredibly hard on myself; but being reminded of where I came from will allow me to give myself-and those that I love-some slack.

What Do Dreams About Lost Loved Ones Really Mean?

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A flower given to Timile that sat in her hospital window at Memorial Sloan Kettering in March 2011

Today is February 23, 2015. Four years ago today was when Timile was officially diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Almost all of the celebration of us becoming parents nine days earlier went out the window as our new family went into crisis and began to go into survival mode. With it being that day I thought I would share some things.

Within the past few weeks I have had a few dreams about Timile and my grandmother (who passed away February 20, 2014). I shared my dream in which after having a talk with Timile she called me responding to everything I had to say. I had two other dreams about her recently. In the first one it was 2011. Timile had short hair but it had been growing back after chemo so I assume it was the fall. Cydney was about six months old as well; but I looked like how I do now (which is a drastic change from 255 with [dread] locs compared to a muscular 205 and short curls in my head). Matter of fact, I think it was November. We all went to see the doctor and they said that the three of us were terminally ill. We only had 24 hours to live. That was scary and probably the closest thing I’ve had to a nightmare in a decade. Right before I woke up, it was the morning of my last day. I was in my second grade classroom and knowing what was ahead of me all I could think about was Timile, Cydney, who would go first, and what would happen.

The second dream was about my grandmother. Actually, Timile was alive in this one as well. We were living upstairs at my mother’s house. She had long hair and looked like healthy self. I came downstairs and all of a sudden I was in my grandmother’s dining room. She was sitting in her normal spot at the table and a four year old Cydney was on her lap hugging her whole jumping up and down like a little kid does when they’re excited to see a loved one. I pretended to give her a kiss because she didn’t see me. But then she said something smart so I did. I asked her what did she think about Cydney because she hadn’t seen her in a while. My grandmother said she was happy but Cyd is a handful. She was really alluding to how I was as a child in which much of our dynamic was me getting into things and her shooting me looks to stop doing whatever I wasn’t supposed to be doing in church. While she was sitting down Cydney and I gave her the biggest hug while the two of them smiled and then I woke up.

I feel like that dream was really about me. My last few talks with my grandmother were about me being a single father, what she wanted for me out of life, and finding happiness with someone who would take on Cyd and me. I have been doing some reconciling and rectifying with someone I once cared a lot about…Actually I had been doing some accepting about what was, is, and not being in my head so much. It made sense that this dream of happiness and her essentially telling me to be happy like a kid and move on made sense.

The third dream was one I had the other day. I was visiting my friend Chase who used to live in DC but moved back to Atlanta. I drove with him from Georgia to The District to pick up some old things and while we were at his apartment he found some childhood toys he wanted to give to me saying they were really for Cydney (I was going to play with those Ninja Turtles from the 1980’s or put them with my others that sit on a shelf in my studio until Cydney takes them down to play with).

Looking in an old bucket I found Timile’s driver’s license. What was crazy was that it was a New York one-she had a Georgia license-and it was one of the new ones that have just come out recently. I asked him how did he get it and he said he had no clue; but he’d been holding onto it in case I wanted it. As soon as I touched it it snapped in half.

I’m not quite sure what this last one means. Honestly, I’m not sure what any of these really mean. Just thought I’d share and if any of you have interpretations I’d love to hear them.

Three Years Later and a Phone Call From Heaven

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We remember the days that people die more than birthdays. Why? Because we weren’t there for the birth of our friends’ and loved ones. But we do remember where we were and what we were doing the moment that we received the news that they are no longer with us on earth.On Monday December 8, I received a notification on Facebook from a photo I posted a year ago that same day. It was a picture of Timile and I standing in front of the Christmas Tree at Atlantic Station in Atlanta on December 8, 2007: our one year anniversary. It was one I hadn’t posted any time before so I thought it would be nice for Timile’s/my family, friends, and followers of the blog to see. Here’s a picture of it.

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December 9th is the day Timile Brown’s fight with cancer had ended and God saw fit that she came home. It is one of those days I will never forget not just because of the loss; but how I found out and that it was the beginning of a new life for me.

I have been doing the best that I can to move on; yet somehow I always felt stuck. I have said that I have healed from the loss but the truth is you never fully recuperate from this. Accepting that has been integral in pressing on like I have.

I felt relieved that someone had commented on the photo. Facebook’s algorithm placed it at the top of time lines so I didn’t have to say that it wad coming up on three years since her death. I didn’t have to say or do or even post on this blog about it to honor losing the person who at one time was closest to me…Facebook and the mother of my best friend in college did it for me.

I remember exactly what I’ve done each December 9 since then. I spent time with our daughter Cydney and kept busy. This year I was at home. All I could think about that morning and virtually all day was of someone else I had loved. I even gave them a call to say good morning. Coming to a realization of what and how I felt gave me peace. I wasn’t thinking so much about my past as I was the future.

This morning around 1am I went outside on the back patio and I did something I hadn’t done awake since November 19, 2011: I talked to Timile. I apologized for not reaching out and hoping she understood. I told her how eager I was to move on; but was feeling stuck with facing this and it wasn’t because I wanted to forget her…it was for me. I told her that I’m doing the best that I can with our little girl, how smart she is, and that she would be tickled by her antics that are a nice blend of the two of us (she might be a little ticked that I’m essentially raising a girl version of me).

Then I paused because I realized what I really wanted to say was “Thank you.” I thanked Timile for pursuing me when I didn’t think we were a good fit, for teaching me how to love unconditionally, for Cydney, and for all of the things that I had learned during our five years together.

After saying that I will make an effort to talk to her more often and goodbye it dawned on me what I really wanted to thank her for. I wanted to thank Timile Denise Brown for fearlessness. I didn’t learn this directly from her. I acquired-or refined-this behavior in everything that I have been through since. I’m not afraid to try, fail, love unabashedly, lead, speak my mind, or run from conflict because immediately I’m looking for restitution. That was the “Aha!” moment I was supposed to be taking from this all of these years. But you gotta go through the gauntlet in order for the lesson to be learned.

I went to bed around 2:30am. I had a dream in which my phone rang. It was Timile calling me. I asked where was she as if she were on earth but I knew where she was calling me from. I asked her how is it up there and she said she can’t stand playing Taboo with some of these people, inferring to how well she and I played as a team. She then said “Oh well.” The conversation was as casual as the one I’d had with my friend on the morning of the 9th.

We didn’t talk about Cydney. I told my mother about it this morning while Cydney and my nephew were eating breakfast and she asked “Did she say anything about me?” I said no wishing that wouldn’t disappoint her; but I think that’s because Timile, Cydney, and God got their own thing going on. If I wasn’t or don’t do right by her then she’d step in and ask me “What the fuck are you doing?”

We actually got into it about placing stuffing in a two-chambered tupperware container and I was telling her “Nah, I gotta make room for turkey.” I think this was symbolic of me saying that in this I have to make room for someone else in my heart. Stuffing is the bomb and all; but turkey is the meat everyone is really into. And I think this came up because when I talked to Timile earlier in the morning I had told her I was ready to fully love someone else and that the spot that was once hers I want to give to someone else. You know, it was hard as shit to tell the deceased wife they’re no longer number one but it was necessary to say for my healing and moving on. By the end of our talk she understood.

Actually, right after that the conversation ended because I sneezed. The call had been dropped and all that needed to be said happened. While I will always remember Timile, who she was, and will even continue to talk to her I think last night was about beginning the rest of my life with someone else whenever that day comes. If I wasn’t before or logically was before and not emotionally capable I can fully say that my mind and heart both agree and I have peace.

Why I Still Haven’t Visited Timile’s Grave Site

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I posted this picture on Instagram on Friday afternoon.  Virginia had been on my mind heavily and I decided to share some of my thoughts.  A couple of friends of mine told me I need to stop playing around and visit Timile’s grave site.

Why?

If one had been the places that I’ve been they would understand.  I found out on Twitter Timile died.  The family from Buffalo wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral because they were told thay took Timile away from them.  In actuality, it was them who pushed Timile away.  The day after Timile died I recieved a text message from her phone in which someone was sending off conversations that were between Timile and I.  I never got a chance to say a proper goodbye.  I spent five months regaining custody of my daughter because Timile’s parents said they didn’t know where I was and not only had been given a subpoena with my address on it.  From what I was told, Timile’s homegoing services had been changed to a separate venue because people heard where services were being held.  I had been called a drug addict, an unfit father, a deadbeat dad, treated like I was nothing to this girl but sperm and the one who took her away from the protective bubble they had created.  Fuck no, I don’t want to visit…It’s just a body.

If the tables were turned Timile wouldn’t want to and probably wouldn’t visit me.  She was way more stubborn than I am.  If it took me nearly three years to even consider visiting; it would take her a good decade before she did.

Like I’ve said it’s just a body.  Timile lives through memory.  The part of Timile that is living and my daily love letter to her is the little girl that I got ready for school this morning.

I have made my peace.  I have forgiven Timile’s parents for putting me through the ringer.  It made me into the man that I am.  Yes, I am cynical, guarded, trusting of no one, and strategic about almost every move I make.  But that gives me something to improve upon.

There’s a silver lining in everything.  I had to become someone else in order to adapt to life after Timile left earth.  If I hadn’t been put through the fire there would be no blog.  In these last two years I have entertained many; but most importantly I have helped a lot of people along the way.

When I took the picture above I was leaving court in Virginia for the third and final time.  I didn’t want to come back to Hampton, Virginia.  It had left a bad taste in my mouth because I had been there for fighting, supporting Timile’s best friend in which her parents had pressed trespassing charges and would have charged Timile as well; cops called on me twice-once with Timile-for the trespassing incident-because I was taking Cydney and leaving the state with her…

I’ve been through some shit.  There’s no other way to say it.  The places that I’ve been these last four years almost anyone who could or would tell me to visit Timile’s grave couldn’t handle where I’ve been.  If I actually told many of these stories that I type with ease and casualty would make many cry if I did so in person.  What would probably be the most disturbing part about it is that I can do so as if it were simply a story I heard.  Clearly I am affected by all that has happened; but I refuse to let my past be a part of my present or future.

I have been seriously considering taking that trip to Hampton.  With as much that has been going on in my life I have felt that even though it is just a body I should do so for me.  The truth is I could have the same conversation with Timile Brown ate her grave that I could as I’m typing this…She’s not going to say anything back.  It would be for me.  So if doing so is for me than I’ll do it on my terms.

…….

I took the last month or so off because there has been a lot going on.  There has been lots to talk about and I will be sharing my adventures again starting today.