February 25th…

Friday, October, 16, 2015 | 11:27 a.m.

I stood in line behind two women anxious for the opportunity to get the paper. I wasn’t entirely sure how I got here or why I decided it was time, but I fidgeted with my fingers in a way to mirror those sentiments. I kept staring at the sign: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Death Certificates. It was a morning of tagging along with Rob to pick up a copy of his birth certificate and playing catch-up on all of the things that go unsaid at home. We laughed and exchanged stories on the hour-long commute into lower Manhattan just 90 minutes before; before I walked into that building and overheard cryptic conversations on wanting answers to so-and-so’s death. That’s all I heard:

I want answers.

I went into that building with giggles and a goal in mind–to get in and get out. But the Universe lets words whisper past our ears to stir memories and demons and unwarranted thoughts to wake our consciousness. I stood on line, sweaty palms and underarms, thinking about the results of this moment. I questioned if whether or not I would be able to get my hands on my father’s death certificate. I couldn’t prove anything. More so, I didn’t know much. A person I’ll never see ever again in life said “I want answers” loud enough for me to hear and God lead me to a line to find them.

What’s your father’s name?

I told her, uncertain in my response, but mentally revisiting a conversation with my mom on my 25th birthday about his name or a variation of it. I had to repeat his name a little louder, as if I had to be confident about it. Everything has been–what feels like–a secret regarding my dad, and my whispering of who he was, personified the confidentiality about it all.

I leaned into the glass and said it two notches higher, trying to swallow the barrage of tears I held in. I squirmed with my phone reciting his social security number found on Ancestry.com and Rob looked at me with a hope that things would work out.

Why are you requesting this death certificate?

“Answers” moved around restlessly in my head.

Um, genealogy purposes.

What’s your relationship to the deceased?

His daughter…I think. 

The woman questioned my knowledge and the apprehension of spitting facts out courtesy of a free online trial overwhelmed me.

I’m going based off what my mother told me. And what I found online. 

Do you know his parents name?

I don’t know anything.

That broke me. That was the wave that caved in on me and drowned everything, taking me back to 13 days prior where I accepted an award for my Afro-Latina identity and dedicated it to my father. A father I didn’t know, a man I never will. It took me back to feeling like this and questioning myself and trying to find a spot in a culture that may or may not accept me because I didn’t know much of anything about it. It was that night I found his name on the internet and looked at my mother differently and cried on a floor with a partner who could do nothing for me. It was that moment, in that building, wanting to crumble because I was back at square one–that place of self-examination and feeling empty because I just didn’t know.

I did leave that place knowing that in two weeks, I would have his official death certificate in my hands and would finally get some answers.

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015 | 2:58 p.m.

Usual weekday afternoon of picking up the boys and mentally prepping to sit down and go over the school day, do homework, check emails for the 20th time, etc. I arrive to mail from the DOH and my focus shifts to what’s in my hand.

I glance over it at high speeds and yet, catch every detail in the small letters before me. I go for the year of death and incoherently whisper, It doesn’t add up. I’ve been living in the same city with the man I’ve asked about for the last 22 years of my life.

Two boroughs away.

He passed the same year things started to go awry for me. He departed; boys came in. (Good ol’ ’01…)

On the same day of the hardest day of my life.

February 25th was there to haunt me again. Or bring me closure.

I will never write a more heartbreaking blog post than what I conjured up about February 25, 2014, but I am so grateful for what came out of that. A sigh of relief. Stories from others who’ve experienced the same. Encouragement from those who haven’t. Closure.

On February 25, 2001, I lost my dad. Yesterday, the Universe connected the last dot and I felt at peace. It took almost 30 years of questions and one overheard conversation in a building, for me to finally get an answer. February 25th; a day of loss and ironically, the birth of a new beginning. The ending of this only signifies the start of something bigger. Attempting to find family. Connecting more dots. Discovering more of who I am and who made me.

I’m ready to open that door…tears in my eyes and all.

Fade

He asked me a question and for the life of me, I just couldn’t remember the answer. We literally spoke about whatever it was a half hour ago and I expected to hear him suck his teeth, a norm when he found himself exasperated with my absentmindedness. But instead he sighed and wrapped his arm around my shoulders in a way to suggest he was painfully clinging on to something he didn’t want to slip. “Babe, the memory loss is getting bad.”

There’s a little secret I’ve been carrying in my pocket that I want to share: I’m starting to forget everything.

I knew something was wrong when I would sit down with girlfriends and we’d discuss our children – their milestones and big accomplishments – and I couldn’t recall what I felt was so special about the year Kae turned two or what Kam had done just the week before that caused me to write down some cryptic statement in my journal for a future blog post. I couldn’t remember what I did for a birthday or what happened in one of the personal photos around the house. I could sense the judgement although quiet in nature – how could you forget? And I echoed those same sentiments this weekend, nearly breaking down in front of a group of people when I couldn’t even respond to a simple question. How could I forget these things that’s a part of me, that came from me, that made me?

“This may be what you have your camera and your blog for,” he told me, a hopeful voice holding on to a prayer that maybe things will be okay. “To remember.”

I’ve written a lot about why I write, but it never occurred to me that one day, the root behind Everything EnJ would be because my memory is slowly slipping away and this blog is just a tool in God’s will to help me remember what used to be. Just the other day, I couldn’t remember my age and shamefully turned to my blog to check out my last birthday post. 28. I wouldn’t dare ask Rob or the kids, who would tell me in record speeds before I could confirm, myself. We’ve gone from laughing about the matter a year ago, blaming the busyness of life, to feeling disappointed in dismissing a conversation and opting for silence instead. It’s been a whole lot of “yo, remember when…” and “…forget it, babe” around the house.

“Everything EnJ is for when everything is gone.” It’s one thing to think something, but it’s another to vocalize your thoughts and consider how much truth could lie in the possibility. I scoffed proclaiming it and let out quiet cries; low enough for everyone on that bus to continue on with their conversations without staring at me and yet, loud enough for Rob to rest my head on his shoulder without ever glancing over and saying a word.

Looking out that window, I thought of everything that happened to me that I prayed would go away, that I wished I could forget and it’s as if the Universe granted me my wish, allowing me to publicize it all for records-sake and future reference first. Be mindful of the words you send up to God.

I came across a TED Talk on Saturday titled, “Should you live for your résumé or your eulogy,” and it couldn’t have been more timely with my feelings on my current state and where I am now with my work. If you’ve been following from day one or been down with me for a short time, you know that I’ve worked hard to get this blog to a place where people can come share their stories, but more so, a space where I feel comfortable enough telling my own. Tons of awesome experiences and opportunities were birthed because of Everything EnJ, but in this ordeal with my memory, I’m starting to believe its best if I rest for a while and go back to living. If there’s one thing I know about being a good writer, it’s you have to live some life and if I were to fade away today, I’d be remembered for all the stories I shared, but how would I remember myself? What would I say about me; what will my children; my partner for the last 3,842 days?

I just want to be – outside of the MacBook, occasionally away from social media, and beyond the blog. This space is, as Rob said, a place for me to remember and reflect, but for now, I just want to disappear with the distant memories and live for a little bit. Honor and cherish moments while I have ’em.

I’ve forgotten how to do that…

Every Day Is Thanksgiving, For Now

Written on Thanksgiving Day

Today, we hold Black hands around old dining room tables that are prayed over by the matriarchs of the family. The same women who held hands with strangers of a similar color in the streets of this country, fifty years ago hoping for a change. They’ve seen it all; they still say we have a ways to go. They grip our hands tightly as they further the prayers of the oppressed and ask for strength for families who don’t have the same privilege of holding the hands of their seeds across dinner tables anymore. While Black and Brown mothers and fathers in neighboring states spend mornings at cemeteries, replacing dead roses with new ones, we exchange plates of food with our families over fellowship at Nana’s house. We share stories eerily similar to those we heard at the same table years ago, and there’s a darkness in the depths of the eyes of the people who came before us. We want to protest. They tell us they’ll be praying, in a voice somewhere between optimism and discouragement. Our elders are pleading the blood of Jesus and mothers hold on to the clothes of their boys, soaked in blood. We pray harder and longer, our Grannys squeezing our hand tighter for every time someone squeezed one into our children. Now more than ever, they fear for our safety than they did in the forefront of a Civil Rights revolution. 

“They out here just runnin’ ‘round shooting up everybody, Father.”

On park benches. At Walmarts. In apartment buildings. Outside homes. Inside your house.
My kids run around with paper pilgrim hats from school and tap us excitedly, asking if we know the stories of Indians and the “first people,” and after years of smiling when they get to the part about peace, I stop them. There was no peace. There is no peace. At four and five-years old, they don’t grasp the meaning of the words, but there’s a telling look on my face and a heartbreaking tone in my voice that let’s them know all’s not well.

“Were they fighting?”


There’s a light in their eyes and fire in my belly at the same time, because I want to fight now. I am frustrated and enraged and saddened. We grew up with our parents and grands sitting around the TV watching home videos of our first words, our first steps, and life as a first-grader, and here I am – here we are – the world gathered around computer screens and electronic gadgets watching someone’s firstborn gunned down in a park. We’re watching breaking news stories come across our news feeds on someone’s child shot in the same streets they played on years prior. How’d we go from drawing hopscotch on the sidewalks to staring at the outlines of our babies’ silhouettes on the curb, an image that can never be smeared away? 

Do you know how disturbing it is to see a comic of a teacher asking her class what do they want to be when they grow up and a Brown boy answers, ‘alive’? This is happening. This isn’t just some shit drawn up for your local newspapers to incite some giggles. No, there is a child who really wants to just grow up and just be – just be Black and just live his life. 

We live a few blocks from where Ramarley Graham was murdered and so on our way to school, a place where my children are supposed to be safe, I think about him running to the security of his mother’s house and still fearing for his life. I think the worst and pray that I can still call my child by his name at 2:35PM, Monday through Friday. I shouldn’t have to fear these things, but I do and wonder, where are we safe?

“Yeah, they were,” and there I am, barraged by my children’s confusion. 

They try to make sense of what they heard in school and what I’m telling them in this moment – remembering what I told them about the importance in telling the truth and listening to their teachers who are there to help them in school. Am I confusing two little Brown boys living in America or “training up a child in the way that he should go?” Am I leaving them in the hands of America who will teach them the hard way, if they’re even granted an opportunity to see another day, or will I expose them to the injustices and the oppression now?

I’m fighting myself, attempting to figure out if I should let my kids “be kids” in a world where a 18-year old Mike was declared a man and a 17-year old Trayvon was a thug and a 17-year old Jordan was out of control for playing his music too loud amongst his friends and a 12-year old Tamir was wrong for playing with a toy gun. They’ll never be children in a country’s eyes – they’ll always be wrong, always be the one who started it, the one who got flip with his mouth and the one who deserved it, although he may have been unarmed, may have been provoked, and may have exercised his right of freedom of speech.


My boys will hear stories from their father about his experience with police and how he was beaten and tased in central bookings and his experience with the system. They’ll hear it firsthand and not from a textbook, a watered down, white-washed news channel, and draw their own conclusions about how to go about living as a Black man in America. They’ll have to find out what “acting like an animal” means so that they won’t need bullet holes through their back and skull to “calm down.” They have to decide what to do as a Black man in America that deserves basic human rights. We don’t know what that entails right now. 

We don’t know how to keep calm when the cycle of oppression our great-grandparents and grandparents went through, spills over into our generation. We’re fed the fuck up. We’re tired.

Tired of crying. Knowing the outcome of a possible indictment or verdict and still shattering at the news when it’s confirmed. Feeling hopeless after reading passages from the Bible and it’s the same result. Being ignored. Unheard. Being called demons and being dehumanized. Kneeling at the foots of our babies’ beds one night to pray and before their caskets the next. We are tired, of being the thugs, the threats, the targets.

Don’t tell me not to be fired up and angered about what’s happening in Ferguson because it isn’t my community, it isn’t my son. Ferguson is NYC, is “Chi-raq,” is L.A., is Miami, is Cleveland. I am overwhelmed with nausea thinking about our Black men. I am afraid. I don’t want my children to see it but Lord knows, I am. For now, every day they live to see is Thanksgiving to me.


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