Still Loving After All These 80 Years

by on April 17, 2018 · 1 comment

in From the Soul

Still Loving After All These 80 Years
(The Formative Years: More to Come)

Infant sitting on table next to birthday cake with one candle

(Photo courtesy of Ernie McCray)

If I’m breathing April 18th, 2018,
I will be 80 years old.
And to brag a little bit,
I lived those years
with a lot of love in my soul
and that’s quite an ac-com-plish-ment
for someone with
COLORED written on his birth cer-ti-ficate
if the truth be told,
considering I first said “Hello”
to the world
in Tucson, Arizona,

the Old Pueblo,
known mostly, at the time,
one needs to know,
as the home of the
La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Rodeo
which means therefore
that I almost from the get-go
was behooved
to pursue a groove
I could use
to make my way in a scenario
where Jim Crow
was the status quo,
where “Yee Ha”
seemed to be the only words
in the town’s vocabulario.
All that to say
that being a Negro,
I was facing
a tough row to hoe
but that’s not how this is going to go.
I mean I could talk about how
chopping through this society’s weeds
could have lead me to misery and pain,
heroin and cocaine,
overwhelming anger
that could make one insane
because I saw a lot of that
as I trod down the lane
of my life.
But this is about love,
flying with the doves,
rising above
sadness and emptiness
about how,
along the way
I came to see
that running in place
in a foot race
leading to a life
that was no place
to be somebody
was not for me.
All I’ve ever wanted
plainly and simply
was to love
and be loved
and, fortunately, for me
and I didn’t have to look far
to find the love I wanted
and needed to sustain me.
It was in the duplex where I lived,
in spades,
in the lovely form of a mother
who sang me lullabies
at her breast,
loving me unconditionally
from my very first breath
to her very last breath,
opening me to
and ideas overflowing with depth
and travelling
and the arts,
matters of the heart;
I felt it from a father
who was irresponsible
for so many years
with his focus devoted to the piano
and his boogie woogie band,
yet he came through
with love that truly healed
when I was a single dad,
down and nearly out,
in need of a helping hand;
Love was just about
all my grandfather talked about,
saying “Grab as much as you can,
little man;
And I grabbed it
up and down my street
from blocks around,
all over town,
from folks like:
Mrs. Warner,
on the corner,
a dear friend, in spite of her
advancing age,
with whom I’d drink lemonade
and kool aid
on the swing in her front yard
in the shade
on days when
Tucson was ablaze
which was pretty much always –
and I’d go with her to work
where she cleaned white folks’ homes
and I’d mow their lawns
and she’d say
she didn’t know what she
would do without me
and I’d feel so empowered as
a human being;
and there was Geneva,
another woman long in years,
who’d let me sit at her typewriter
and create ditties
while she scooped ice cream
and then say to me:
“Lawd, boy, you’re like Langston Hughes.
Someday you go be in the news!”
And she’d give me a hug
and say “I love you.”
And I loved her too.
And, oh, the sister of my grandmother,
Aunt Lila, Lillie really,
for as a child early on I couldn’t say Lillie
but we’d sit and talk ourselves silly,
her with her snuff jar
and stockings knotted
and rolled below her knees,
and me with my trousers
always with holes at the knees,
bridging generations in our love
for each other;
and Bessie, her daughter,
who cursed like a sailor,
brimming with colorfully fabricated profanities
that would bring tears of sadness to your eyes
or smiles and raucus laughter to your face
depending on whether or not you
were on the receiving end of her
imaginative stream of consciousness desecrations
delivered in rapid succession
like a machine gun
gone insane –
but underneath it all
you could feel the love –
after you picked your self-esteem up off the terrain;
her daughter, Pearlie Mae,
cute as a bug’s ear,
doting over me as though I was her little brother,
fostering a variety of love from me
so unlike I’ve given any other…

Oh, over time, I’ve had so much love
showered upon me,
like water
falling from gentle rains,
hugging me in its grip
like a glove that’s not quite broken in,
carrying me like
a feather riding the currents of the wind:
at school from teachers who helped me shine
and from classmates of mine
who laughed at my antics
in school assemblies
and talent shows
and cheered when I sunk a basket
or snatched a rebound
or lead our team to victory;
when I was a child at Mt. Calvary,
where “the latchstring to our
church hangs on the outside,”
and Ira Lee and Tommy Lee
would get up and sing
and every now and then
I’d give my little interpretations
of biblical things
with Reverend Kendricks going
“Let the church say Amen!”…
Love flowing from the hearts
of descendants of slaves,
overflowing with the holy ghost,
aerating their dripping sweat of worship
with fans sponsored by mortuaries
having worked from Monday through Saturday,
sometimes both night and day,
strongly believing in and praying that
“The Lord will make a way someday.”
I can’t help but love
after basking in that love.

And I have nothing but praise
for the precious love
I’ve enjoyed from
wives and lovers
and from the children I’ve taught
and the children I’ve raised,
partially and fully.

It’s all about love,
the receiving
and the giving of it.
And now as I look back over my
eight decades,
the good days
along with the not so good days,
I’ve come to realize
that to love
or to hate
is a choice
one can make.
And I can’t help but surmise
that choosing being loving
as a way of being in the world
has made my life
ever so pleasant
and touching
and open
and zestful
and interesting
and tolerable
and jovial
and manageable
and honorable
and fulfilling
and great.

I can live with that.
I have for 80 years in fact.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

retired botanist April 18, 2018 at 6:57 am

Just awesome, Mr. Mccray,
Made my day!
And a very Happy Birthday to you! :-)


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