It’s been 11 years since I have had a chance to see your eyes connect with mine. In that time, so much for me has changed. So much that you would be proud of but also too many mistakes you would probably scold me for. Although I think some of my missteps may have been avoided if I had you, or rather I listened to you, but as you always told me “the older I get the smarter your grandmother is.”
I wish I had one more conversation, well I wish for endless conversations but I would settle for just one. I miss you, badly, so deeply. I miss you more than I could have ever imagined and it’s taken until just this past year to realize the depth of my trauma from losing you. Every October I can feel it in my soul; the entire month I replay that day over and over. I play the records I grew up hearing you play in the house, I want to cook the meals you made for me every night at dinner, I want to tell my children to “always do the right thing”. Those everyday moments are what I miss and cherish the most, to be honest I still have the shoebox with all of the lunchbox notes you left me. It is those moments that you taught me the most. You showed me what love was and I am forever grateful for that.
I try my best to create those everyday moments with my babies that you created with me: dinner together and the conversations that come around the table, a morning bible verse and prayer, the trash talking when we compete and the undying love you gave me.
You gave me more than you had and I am so amazed at how you did it. I am so amazed at you and I wish I would have told you that. The trauma you survived and overcame is unbearable for me to fathom. It causes me to shake and weep uncontrollably because I can’t believe what you were forced to endure; just for my “David Justice lookin ass” to be “hard headed.”
To grow up in the neighborhoods you grow up in and survive would earn you the type of stripes every rapper claims to have and yet despite everything against you, you went on to enroll at San Francisco City College to play football while also having a job. I guess I see where I get my ADHD from lol. To be ripped out of college and forced to serve this racist ass country in Vietnam must have been the scariest thing you had faced as a teenager but true to form you didn’t just survive, you led others young men in hopes to save their lives.
Home within 72 hours “from the bush” to then being recruited by Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale, brah how were you this cool? The only thing I could think of when Auntie Kim told me that story was about the time you took me to Jazz on The River and you started talking to ALL of the musicians and I was blown away. I promise I’ve never met anyone quite like you Pops. Truly one of one.
This day is always hard but with the world on fire and so much changing in my life I wish I could hear you answer the phone one more time “what’s up Youngblood!” 11 years later and this day falls on Friday again, just like it did 11 years ago. I remember being at practice, I remember going to get ice cream and getting the call to get home. The emotions that rushed in but I remember feeling like you would have told me to be strong for everyone. I remember the chaotic nature of everyone around and how I had this unnatural calmness. I remember when I realized you were having a conversation with God debating on when you would go, how hard you were fighting to stay. I could see how much staying here was hurting you, how much strength it took to fight. It hurt to watch my super hero in so much pain. That’s when I wrote you the letter I read to you to let you know it was okay to stop fighting, that I would take care of everything and everyone. I don’t know if I have held up my end of the bargain but I promise I am doing everything I can.
Part of me taking care of everyone is taking care of you as well as taking care of myself. This is what I am just starting to learn, healing from my trauma helps me take care of everyone. I just thought being strong was the answer, becoming someone special would make you proud. I think that’s the hardest part, because to make you proud has always been the best feeling, so seeking to do that I’ve always tied my value to my work. You see, you have always been my hero. Always who I wanted to grow up and be like.
Part of this journey of making you proud has led me to this point. Your belief in Malcolm, your involvement with the Panthers, your lived experience and your politic was always at the forefront of who you were as a man and I have taken that as a core (corpse) value for my life. With this in mind, I make this promise to you: I promise to tell your story. Just as Unkle Neil tried to convince you for all of those years and you finally agreed too late, I will finish it. You, my father, were truly remarkable and despite what this white supremacist country did to you and no matter what not only you but the world was robbed of because the system limited you it was nothing compared to what you were and what you accomplished. I am so in awe of you and so full of your love. I am so thankful to have been your son.
As you told me, it’s never goodbye, but I will see you in the morning. When we will be reunited in the land of milk and honey, liberation and love.
I love you.