Show versus Show and Tell


As a kid, I ran away twice because of words not spoken.

After my mother died, my maternal grandmother took me back to Detroit to live with her and her daughter, my maternal aunt. My aunt had five children and supported us all by cleaning rich white folks houses as well as receiving ADC/Welfare. [Later, after I left home, she eventually got a full-time job at Chrysler]. My aunt was almost always shouting mainly because her two oldest sons, [especially the second oldest] were always doing something they should not. Though she never shouted at me, I found the shouting to be disturbing; I never got used to it. I never understood it.

Nonetheless, living with her was far more wonderful than living with my mother’s husband. I lived in utter fear of him. My mother and siblings and I were terrified of the man who eventually murdered her after beating her and us for ten years. Living with my aunt was like a paradise by comparison and she treated me as if I were one of her own — her shouting, notwithstanding. I cannot overemphasize how so much better living with her and my grandmother was by comparison.

But, while living with my aunt, I ran away twice. After the second time, she asked my why. I told her I did not think she loved me. She said just because she does not go around saying “I love you” doesn’t mean she did not. She was correct. Yes, living with my mother, I was her confidante. I was special to my mother; we suffered together at her husband’s hand [he would often torment us both at the same time while leaving my siblings alone]. She expected me one day to save her. I knew my mother loved me. True, my mother never told me she loved me; she demonstrated it — ultimately, dying because she did. Yes, if she had not loved me, and her other children, she could have grown old instead of being murdered at age thirty.

Indeed, my aunt loved me, too — the best way she knew how. She did not have to take me in after my mother died. She could have treated me differently than she did her own – but she did not. I was never mistreated, never neglected, never ignored. My aunt’s love was real and genuine — different from my mother’s but just as heartfelt.

Years later I was able to understand and appreciate this fact. It took hindsight for me to have insight. Sometimes time has to pass before we can understand the past. Ruth loved me and unfortunately it took growing up to realize that. Hers was a different generation. Not a generation that hugged and said, “I love you”. It was a generation that showed rather than told.

It is true that actions speak louder than words but the sound of words can be like the spices in a feast of good food. It is better to love both ways: show and tell. But one of them should always be the least one does if one does not do both.

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Published in: on June 30, 2016 at 11:34 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Time, Thou Can Be Heartless


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19,358 Days

Time is a thief.
It steals the little things that are the spices of life.
I do not remember the song of my mama’s voice.

Time never stops marching.
It does not even look back as it rolls on.
It marches on as if she were never here.

Time stands still.
I still see her cry for him not to stab her not knowing he was going to shoot her instead.
Eleven times.
The image of that moment stands still in my heart.

Time never moves backward.
So that I can beg her to stay away …
run farther away than she did and leave us so that she might live –
maybe 19,358 more days.

Time runs out.
She died before her grandchildren entered this world so that they might know the warmth of her hugs.
It ran out before I was able to “get bigger” and save her from him.

Oh, if only I could be its master, time would have been,
if not a friend, at least a kinder and more gentle enemy.

Published in: on June 17, 2016 at 1:10 AM  Comments (1)  
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Different Experiences – Same Person?


I,as many others, have often stated that I wish I could go back in time with all the knowledge I have now. Oh, how I would avoid the mistakes and take full advantage of the positives. I almost never wish that anymore, however, since it is simply a futile exercise. [Life does not come with a rewind button.] More specifically, the reason I no longer indulge in the fantasy of time travel is because I like who I am [for the most part] and I am who I am because I am a product of all my previous experiences – good and bad, the horrific and the delightful.

But, I do wonder, could I be the same person I am but because of a few different experiences? In other words, am I who I am due to very specific experiences or could some of those experiences been different and I still end up being who I am? So, if I could go back in time and change some things, would I risk ending up being someone different [a little different or quite a bit]? For sure, it would depend on which things or events I would change.

For instance, who would I be if I had had seven or six children instead of four? What if they were all girls or all boys? What if I had chosen Harvard University or the University of Michigan instead of Wayne State University? No doubt, some experiences push one onto a different trajectory while others might make a minuscule difference. But is it possible to end up as the same person but with very different experiences? Not every experience alters us or reveals us. But those that do, must they be specific or singular?

For instance, could I be who I am today if I had not witnessed my mother’s murder, or lost her at all at age twelve? Would I still be the Carlespie I am today if I had not become a member of a cult-like religion from age fourteen to thirty-five? Who would I be if my heart had not been snatched from my chest and used a toilet tissue by someone I loved? Could I be all that I am without having experienced those and other tragedies?

By now it should be obvious that I wish I could have avoided the tragedies and pains and experienced only the joys [winning an academic scholarship to a private school and to college, fathering my children, being young and healthy at the same time, etcetera]. But, I suspect that maybe I am who I am specifically and only because of both the specific tragedies and specific joys. If not for those I suppose I would be a different person – maybe better, maybe worse – maybe the same, or not.

Published in: on June 4, 2016 at 11:55 AM  Leave a Comment  
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