October 14, 2012

The South is filled with lots of sayings. If someone says, "a hit dog will holler," it means your toes were just crushed because someone told you about yourself.  If you're being blessed out, it has nothing to do with the Bible. When a woman is living on the flowerbeds of Eve, she's lazy and getting handouts from suspicious donors.  These sayings conjure fond memories of my elders as they sat on the front porch of my childhood home shucking corn, shelling peas, or gathering tomatoes or fruit for the canning season.  My grandmother, Lillian, was the ring-leader of the pack. She rocked back and forth on a lemon yellow glider while dishing out the dirt on people near and far. When she tugged on the collar of her flowered housecoat, a profound saying usually tumbled out.  Her most solemn expression was, "Child, ________ ain't long for this world. They don't think __________ will make it through the night."

Ain't Long For This World came rushing back to me last month as I drove home from church.  My dad, eighty-six, bedridden and in renal failure, insisted my sister call me so we could chat.  In a weak, raspy voice he said, "Fat came to see me last night and he wouldn't stop smoking them cigarettes.  He see I got oxygen in this room and he kept right on smoking." A visit from my uncle, John Henry "Fat" Lawrence, wouldn't have been so disconcerting had he not died over thirty years ago.  I listened as my dad told me how they talked and laughed about everything and nothing. He ain't long for this world.  He also told me all his "white" grandchildren came to see him, too. Angels, perhaps?

The elders believe when a person is transitioning, the loved ones who've gone on come back in visions or dreams as a way to make the journey easier. Our conversations of late have been Isley Brothers-esque with dad looking down dark corridors and wondering what might have been.  In less than a month I've learned of his old stomping grounds, his regret over alcoholism, his gangsta-side after taking a coat back from an old flame who had the audacity to wear it with another man, and the education he forfeited because sharecropping called.

He's still here in this world and I'm listening. Loving. Being the daddy's girl he made me until God calls him home.