I’ve stared death in the face before;
Yeah, I ain’t afraid to die, but when
I get lowered in the ground, will you
care enough to cry; Yeah, that’s a long time
from now, but just cherish that I’m alive;
when my parents are gone on,
I’ll have tears all in my eyes. Old
memories of my PaPa still vivid
in my mind; Yeah I’ve made mistakes
but God I wanna fly;
we all have a countdown
and death’s checking the time;
sometimes I gotta feeling that
I see Jesus in disguise; my faith
been tested but it remain
solid as ice; life is just a game
and we all roll the dice;
basically what I’m tryna say
is that we all have to say goodbye
Dad loved both of his grandsons. Jonathan, having come much later in life, had a different kind of impact on him. He was born the year after Mom died. It think Jon kept Dad around a few more years in his heartbreak over Mom’s long battle with cancer. Jair was his grandson, beloved truly. But Jon was his “little Greg”. Even as a baby, Dad would hold Jon, look at me, and his smile seemed to say: “oh yeah you’re about to find out what I went through!”. Sometimes he would even say it. It was both reassuring and deeply unsettling!
Dad’s death was Jon’s first loss up close and personal. For years, on Veteran’s Day, or around Dad’s birthday, Jon would wake up crying. He would ask me deep questions. He missed his Papa.
One Veterans Day he came home from Intermediate School, stormed up to his room. I found him there in tears. Had had taken a picture of my Dad in uniform. He was a staff sergeant in the Army, which had recently begun desegregating. The photo was old, in black and white, from the late 1950’s. His white classmates laughed at it.
As he enters his early teens his relationship with white students has never been the same. There is neither hate nor animosity. Just a learned emotional distrust.
But he remembers his PaPa. Last week was my Dad’s birthday. He’s been gone seven years.
Jonathan has started writing songs this year. His first was to some girl. Oh Lord, maybe dad was right!
During the week, Jon was talking about a song he was writing. He ask me several times to read it after he finished. His excitement palpable in his understated way.
It’s is amazing to see aspects of yourself in your children. Helps keep me from playing the fool. Pushes me to try harder to be my best self. Especially walking before my boys.
I see so much of myself in him. He sees so much of himself in me. So you can imagine the tears welling up when I read his song. I stand on the shoulders of his PaPa. Jon stands on mine. These are all his words above. Only some of the punctuation was added.
The photo is credited to my son, Jair, Jon's older brother and budding photographer. If you'd like to read one of my poems to my sons, Lyric for My Sons, you'll find it here.