Friday, January 27, 2017
This Tuesday morning, I received a text message at 5 am, but instead of reading it, I decided to cling to my pillow a little longer. 30-45 minutes later I awoke to the news, one of my beloved uncles had transitioned. Immediately, my cousin and I texted back and forth. Shamefully, I didn’t have his number saved. From there I spoke with my cousin in Chicago, Memphis and then my mother who had gone to the hospital to be with my uncle, his wife and children.
School that day was unusually good. I found myself crying in my morning class as my students consoled me, ignorant of what happened. My second class seemed to have been sensitive and supportive again, without knowledge of the circumstances. And my third class, they joyfully pushed me to work, hard.
I thought about my uncle. How goofy and funny he was. How he and his family had been on my mind constantly the past few weeks. How I’d felt ashamed that I hadn’t really talked to them recently. How I had gone home to visit without spending much time at all with him and his family.
As I checked online for airfare, I quickly realized the short notice trip would be more expensive than I could afford. Megabus is almost worthless from Nola being there are only 3 destinations, Memphis not being one of them. I was reluctant to drive, knowing I’d be extremely tired upon my return and teaching; you have to reserve the much needed energy to expel in the classroom.
Greyhound was the choice. I figured I could read, write and think without having to be too too concerned with the road. Did I mention when I’m not driving I often get motion sickness? Unless, someone I trust is driving.
This week, school had been extremely chaotic, and the children haven’t been the cause. The adults have. Standing between women, who can’t squash a disagreement from three years ago and continuously go back and forth, was the cause of many headaches. Including the fact I had my own ideas to meditate on, a part of me embraced taking Friday off for my travel home to Mississippi.
Friday morning, I clung hard to my pillow again. Unlike me. I didn’t have a friend to take me to the bus station, so I reserved an Uber. Running late, I missed my 8:50AM bus.
My Uber driver and I talked for a few minutes about his football career at a school in Mississippi, a beautiful, sweet woman he’d met and foolishly let get away, and how once his divorce was finalized, he would find her.
Talk about disharmony, I was feeling it. Though I was ready to accept the consequences of my being late, the employees of greyhound went out of their way to accommodate me.
After some consultation, a driver agreed to allow me to ride with him to Baton Rouge.
The bus driver and I talked about his home, Nigeria, some customs and how they differ from America, and how he hopes to soon one day settle and have his own family. He, too, said he wasn’t ready to settle when he had the opportunity.
As I made my way home to see my family, I thought about the poem I was writing and would share at my uncle’s funeral, how I’d missed opportunities to love on my Uncle and other family members, and how often we exist in the same space without actually connecting with one another.
I love him very much. He was the first loved one (that I really knew) I’ve had to transition. My first real encounter with death.
I anxiously traveled down the long country road to my grandparents rural and modest estate. There were cars everywhere, family and friends everywhere. Sad occasion but grand gathering.
Going into the house, I was initially afraid to look anyone in their eyes, scared of what I’d find. People were strong. I knew I had to be. My uncle was one who loved laughter and fun.
We must take time to connect, to love, and to appreciate the ones we love. Let’s not be so consumed with our own lives that we neglect to revel in the now.