Okay, Boy-Boy, this post is not for you. This post is mostly for a certain cousin of yours. My Uncle Kenny was his grandfather. There are things about Kenny that I want to talk about.
When you first met us, you must have been a little tired of us staring into your face so hard. Your grandfather has been dead for 30 years. We didn’t know he had a daughter. We didn’t know she had you. You and those eyebrows. Those eyes. That grin. You remind me SO MUCH of him.
Kenny was a mechanical genius. He used to take things apart to put them back together again. Radios. Televisions. Cars. And that sounds all cute and Montessori but po’ black folk Birmingham, Alabama DON’T CARE NOTHING ABOUT NO MONTESSORI! YOU BEST TO PUT THAT BUICK BACK TOGETHER OR SO HELP ME CHILLLLLLLLE …
But everyone knew that Kenny could fix whatever ailed your whatever.
Delle was his mother. Sometimes when we look at your mother, we get that crazy stare. Your mother has Delle’s delicate nature. Kenny was Delle’s oldest. Like you. Kenny was her only boy. Like you. And she loved him silly. Like your mother loves you.
Hey look! That’s my mom and your grandfather.
Somewhere during Kenny’s school years, he started to go astray. Misbehaving. Not doing well in school. And though he loved Delle, he thought nothing of breaking her heart with the things he did.
Let me tell you something. I loves Amsden, God know I do, but I’ll kill him dead ‘fo I let him become some Rush Limbaugh punch line. I am not of delicate constitution. I am of motherfucking bulldozer constitution.
I can only hope that this is the kinds of parenting he needs because it is what I have to give.
Partially because I saw what happens if you give a boy who is trying to be a man too much rope.
Delle was sweet. She was wonderful. She was forgiving. Her loving glow was amazing for a child to bask in. It gave us confidence. It made us happy.
But that is what a child needs. A boy growing into a man needs something else. Especially a boy that is straying into darkness. Heck, maybe everybody needs a little strong arming. I wouldn’t be me if my mom hadn’t steamrollered me a few times.
Now understand, that this isn’t Delle’s fault. Kenny made bad choices.
Those bad choices left your grandfather bleeding to death in the middle of the street. Alone.
My uncle. The man who used to tell his mother he would return me in a few hours and would keep me for days so I could have a few precious hours of freedom.
My wonderful, wonderful uncle who used to fix my little TV whenever his sister would mess it up.
My uncle who used to flip his eyelids up and chase me from the back of the house to make me laugh and squeal.
This is Kenny Raye and our cousin Oscar. Can you believe this picture was taken in the kitchen where we have celebrated four Christmas dinners as a family? You have literally stood exactly where your grandfather stood so long ago.
And in your life, you stand where he stood. You are turning into a man. Your mother is delicate and wonderful and forgiving.
Initally my post was going to be about how we lost Kenny and I’ll be damned if we lose you too. Even if I have to come to Alabama and intercept every action that jeopardizes the future I have envisioned for you.
I see you in Northwestern purple. On the campus with the trees and the ivy and the snow. Perhaps you’ll join a fraternity. I have selected Kappa Alpha Psi for you because you strike me as one of them pretty boys. You’ll be tall and handsome and on the Dean’s list. I will send you care packages of Jiffy Pop popcorn and floppy discs because I am old and out of touch. Your sister will be proud of her brother who is away in college.
When I am feeling selfish, I imagine you at University of Texas so you can be close to me. You’ll pick up Amsden and let him hang out with you for an hour or two. Long enough for chicks to know you are a caring family-oriented young man. Amsden will think the world of you. You will stay in my guest room and help assemble the festive bags of dog shit I leave on the neighbors’ doors when I disapprove of their Christmas light colors.
But that won’t work.
I can’t want it. YOU have to want it. You have to want something amazing for yourself. For your life. I love you. I love K. We all do. And we are ready to do right by Kenny’s little eyes.
You are dangling off the cliff, young man. I know you can’t tell. But you are. I am going to visit. I am going to hold out my hand.
I hope that you take it.
He hopes that you take it.