Rest and relaxation away from the city, and myself.
Tomorrow Monday, July 27th would have been my mother’s 71st birthday. The passing of two years since her death has not made it much easier for me to face July 27th without feeling a sense of loss and guilt.
I will call the week the trifecta. Mom’s birthday on the 27th, my dad’s on the 28th and mine on August 2nd. If you want to throw more irony in the pot, my maternal grandmother’s 98th birthday would have been on August 6th.
As I packed my bags, I felt that leaving home would enable me to face the weekend with a more positive attitude. Birthdays commemorate life not death. She would have wanted me to be happy on July 27th but who can blame me for feeling lonely?
Normally the last week in July was like the twelve days of Christmas. Mom and I would scrape together enough money to treat ourselves to ice cream, movies on State Street, a trip to Lincoln Park Beach.
Summer birthdays have their advantages when you are a child. They meant no school and onery Chicago weather couldn’t ruin a picnic if it tried. I can remember our birthdays as having 98.9% perfect sundress, sandal and banana Popsicle weather. Nothing on earth could ever spoil our week.
My suitcase was packed. I sat on the bed starring at the reflection in the mirror. This was not the same girl who used to experiment with womanhood by sneaking into her mother’s underwear drawer to try on the 38 C bra she would never grow into. In that moment it was difficult for me to easily reconcile my age with my misadventures and sorrows. I have been homeless, hungry, beaten, left, and motherless all before reaching the age of 40. The face in the mirror was a ghost of the girl I was was. While it showed few wrinkles, it was my heart that had aged and cracked with time.
Away from the city, I woke up for the first time in two weeks without having a panic attack. I have suffered from them for years. The place I am in now offers no chance for childhood analogies. A quiet college town with trees, hummingbirds and best of all no police sirens.
Too bad I brought along my cell phone, my father vibrated against my outer right thigh three times before I answered.
“Afrocity, where have you been?”
“I decided to leave town, my panic attacks became worse. Perhaps it’s because of mom-.”
“Well you couldn’t tell your father?” he asked sarcastically.
I should have felt good about his concern. After 39 years, I finally know this man and he was attempting to be parental. So tell me, why did his concern annoy me?
“I needed a break,” I continued. “you know from the noise and news-“
“Uhhhh- Obama and the whole Gates situation, Iran, the economy.” God please let this call be short. I am loving you dad but I need to be alone.
“Ain’t that a damn shame about that black professor being arrested? He had a PhD. I could not help thinking that it could have been you.”
Oh no not you dad. Not with this phony racial profiling crap.
“I recently saw an exhibit of lynching postcards,” I said in an irritated manner. “I could not help thinking that it could have been you. You were born in the 40’s right?”
“Yes, I knew someone who was lynched,” he answered.
“You’re lucky it wasn’t you Dad. We’ve come a long way from those days don’t you think?”
My father paused. He knew what I was trying to do. Despite our short five year relationship, he does somehow seem to “get” me.
As he went on about how bad things are in America for the black man, I looked up at a cardinal bird in an acorn tree. My father and I were never slaves. Neither was Henry Louis Gates Jr. or President Barack Hussein Obama. Just then I remembered a story that my mother had told me about my great great grandmother who was a slave. I wondered if she too was a Leo like us, and did she have birthday parties.
Hmm, this was a rather great and gratuitous assumption. Actually, I had forgotten all about his birthday being July 28th. How dumb of me, especially with it being the day after my mother’s. Crazy like a fox, I covered up my selective memory.
“Oh, that is to bad. I was planning to make you dinner…(bites lip) I tell you what how about next Sunday you come over to my place and we celebrate our birthdays…together.”
My father was surprised. So was I. I could not believe that just came out of my mouth. I was planning on spending the day alone with a nice Xanax and strawberry cheesecake ice cream cocktail, wrapped up with my cats and a Firefly: The Complete Series DVD set.
I just broke a 40 year tradition of spending my birthday with my mother and only my mother. Even in death she was still there but now what have I done? I am allowing a man that gave a bit of his sperm in order to give me life, then never saw me again for 35 years to spend our birthday together.
“Afrocity, I would love that!” he exclaimed. The old man was really happy.
“Yep between your being 63 and my being 40, we can burn the place down with our candles.” I was committed to it at this point. Might as well make the best of it.
“It’s a date,” he said.
Autographed Letter Signed,