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I cried first and talked to God in clarity. The way I see the world was built off of staples pierced within my childhood fabric. Strong examples of proud, hard working, God-fearing people who believed for the brightest future. I think about how my tribal instincts were formulated in a village. I think of this sweet senior couple that helped raise me. By the time I was born, we were short on grandparents and E.C. and Obree Dixon fulfilled godparent duties effortlessly. While my parents were out earning a living to support the family, my Granny and Papa were showing me all of the necessary basics of “old time” living. Granny taught me how to churn my own ice cream, can preserves and inject insulin. Papa taught me how to shoot birds, crack walnuts with my bare hands and all the fundamentals of baseball. They set up savings accounts for me and called twice a month just to check-in as I grew up.
Born in the 1930s, Granny had already undergone a stroke, open heart surgery and severe battle with diabetes before I was born. Papa spent most of his time caring for her and the household. He set the bar in my eyes of what a man CAN and WILL do for his wife. He cared for her day-to-day for more than twenty years before she passed away in 2010. Cooked every meal, tended to every doctors appointment. Remembered everything that she needed in order to stay strong in her fight for life. After she passed, we worried for his well-being given. Harvard conducted a study showing that 60% of elderly men are more likely to die right after their spouse. Papa held on tight. He sold the house and moved to a senior facility but kept it moving and shaking per usual. In 2015, I stopped through Tucson to surprise him while traveling cross-country. Ever since I was a little girl he would freeze grapes for me to survive the scorching Arizona heat. When we got to his place, he told me to look in the freezer because he had a treat for me. Apparently he had a feeling I would stop by so put some grapes in just for me. I cried.
Yesterday, I got the news that Papa is on his way out. My first instinct was to buy a plane ticket and be there to hang with my dude. His son told me that it was too late for all that. Papa had been battling with dementia and Alzheimer’s it all took a turn for the worst. Reminiscent of the Notebook, he had lost his love and eventually lost his mind. Since the last time we ate grapes together he had been in and out of different living facilities and psychiatric wards. My face swole up like a balloon in emotions. Papa deserved better. I was so angry at my god-brother for waiting until the last moment to tell me that my head started hurting. It was barely 10am when I got the phone call and I instantly felt sick. Like I didn’t want to do anything or help anyone. Everything I thought about made me cry. I wasn’t crying because he was dying, I was crying because of the value of his life on my life. Papa was every bit of the man that I hope to find in a soulmate. Someone who rides for me through all the pretty and ugly. Someone who loves spreading love as much as I do. A man who never abused his position in the household, he created a new one. He didn’t treat me like a little girl who went everywhere with him, he treated me like a kid who needed to learn. Just writing that makes me tear up.
Grieving is challenging when you are a single, hardworking woman. I decided to share my emotional state on IG, which almost felt like a mistake after I posted. People started texting me asking if my dad died and apologizing for my emotional state which all seemed a bit dramatic. I shared where I was for that day to be honest about who I am on a platform I use daily. Most people see one side, I just decided to expose another. I decided to show the good with the bad. To say I am comfortable with death makes me seem more morbid than I am, but seemingly accurate. A lot of people have died around me and I know that this is just a part of life. It’s the reason I try to always speak with intention. It’s the reason I treat everyone with the love and compassion that a family member would, simply because it was how I was raised. You never know how long you have someone around so spend all the time that you can with them.
I took the day off yesterday. I handled the urgent items on the list with the slowest pace and then met up with a friend to catch a gallery show. I let people FaceTime me which felt better than days when people don’t die. I went and got a massage, talked on a panel about wellness, lifted weights and started a new book. I took time, better yet, I let it take me. Those were the words that I whaled in the shower as I cried in mourning, “Let time take time, let time take me.” I watched the videos of us interviewing Papa in 2015 and gaze in wonder at his mental strength. How he remembered dates from history so easily. His hazel eyes and dark skin sitting comfortably in a LazyBoy chair. I watched my favorite guy in his best before life took a turn and everything felt alright. Papa had prepared me for a special life and his job here was done. He and Granny showed me how to love and care for people beyond my bloodline. They gave me so many life lessons that have structured my fundamental foundation and how I see and approach this world. My grieving has become more of a celebratory event than a mourning. Dealing with death is therapy, and I’m taking all the time I need for it.
Work can wait.