Men Of My Tribe: Uncle A.J.: Saturday was the celebration of my Uncle A.J. and my Aunt Lucille’s, (not Lucy!), 59th anniversary. It was beautiful. I think that’s how I want this story to end, in a celebration of a fulfilled life, not in a funeral.
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I was supposed to have a Scrabble party, but I couldn’t get any firm commitments from anybody. Scrabble is just not a big priority for black people. I had completely forgotten about the celebration dinner, and it’s a shame too, because it was beautiful! I found out so much about some of the more elder statesmen of my family. Sometimes it seems as though everyone else is a low-life, and only turned their life around when they were facing death, but that’s the thing about Uncle A.J. and Aunt Lucille. During the service we found out that they were members of Trinity A.M.E.
I was a little late getting to the ceremony. They were having it at Trinity A.M.E., which is only fitting since they had been members there since they were married. Fortunately, things were running on what we call C.P.T. (Colored People Time – which means everything was running behind schedule). There were two gentlemen talking in the hallway that lead to the celebration. The younger was telling the elder that he had lost his job at the beginning of ‘The Great Recession’ and was moving his family south to look for work. The irony of moving south to look for work isn’t wasted on me. My folks came north from Mississippi looking for work in the factories following the ‘blues’ road – Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago to Detroit, during the great migration of the industrial age during WWII through the Korean War. I saw a lot of my cousins that I hadn’t seen in a while. Especially my cousins from Albion, I hadn’t seen them since Uneeda’s wedding back in August. I said hello to everyone and kissed my Aunt Luella, I didn’t ask about Uncle Jerry or my cousin Marky or Jerome – it was a celebration after all. Her daughter, Pat, was there looking mean as ever, with her husband – I forget his name. So was her daughter, Tina, husbandless of course. Uneeda and her husband were there and still looked to be very much in love. I found out I was related to a lot of people I didn’t know – I knew them, but not that we were related. My mother said it was like having a family reunion. Usually families only get together for funerals. I go to way more funerals than weddings (10 funerals to only 2 weddings).
All of Uncle A.J.’s children are older than I am, most of them are older than my brother and sisters, so I don’t know them very well. There grandchildren were mostly born while I was away in the Army, or working nights at the Post Office, and are older than my children, so I don’t know them either. Except for one young man who came in with his black hat pulled down low and his black leather jacket halfway open he looked thuggish. Our eyes made contact and I wondered did he see my disdain for his wearing his hat inside the house of the Lord? Then he broke out in this big smile and embraced me: “Mr. Rodgers, it’s me, Greg!” It was Greg Demyers. He’s such a nice boy, I surprised that I had to tell him to take his hat off! He’s no stranger to church, he knows better. He was the first of my children’s friends to get married. I was at his wedding. I didn’t even know we were related! Distant relatives but related non-the-less. He’s one of those kids you always wanted to add to your family.
I sat with my Cousin Ernest Scott, Deacon Scott, (he told me four times) and his wife Barbara. Barbara was holding a newborn baby. I asked her whose baby and she said it was a foster child. Ernest isn’t really a blood relative. He was adopted, I don’t remember anything more, other than that he’s probably one of my favorite/best cousins. I remember spending the day over his and Barbara’s house listening to Chaka Khan sing “Tell Me Something Good”. My mother and my three sisters Desma (the oldest: She so old she was going to marry Moses, but Mariam objected), Joyce (her husband Jerome didn’t feel up to coming, which was good for us), and Phyllis and her husband Tony. Tony’s been in our family for over 30yrs now and my mother is finally starting to warm up to him. He’s changed a lot over the years. His oldest son being gay, his adulteress oldest daughter and the death of his mother have humbled him and the years have mellowed him, we’re even talking about spending some time together, hah! After the fourth time I figured I’d better acknowledge his deaconship before he mentioned it again. (Personally, I usually tell anyone I’m a deacon, that way they won’t expect a whole lot from me. Seriously, I don’t usually tell anyone I’m a deacon, if they don’t know than they either don’t ‘need’ to know, or I’ve done a piss poor job of representing my religion, then I don’t want them to know). I don’t have a good/strong memory so I sat between Mom and Desma and their job is to fill me in on who these people/relatives are.
Mildred and her husband Charles where there. Mildred is the sister I wish I had. I waved to her, and when I had her attention I pushed Desma and motion for Mildred to take her seat. Mildred is Desma’s oldest friend, at least the oldest friend that still talks to her. Desma always says such good things about Charles that you can’t help but like him. For instance, she tells me that Charles is good with money and has helped Mildred save money, and they’ve paid off their house and he’s also very protective of her, whenever her family, and they’re not the best people in the world, want to barrow something he allows her to blame it on him: she says “I have to ask Charles”, and they know what that means, and she does the same for him. He sounds like a great guy, I’ve always liked him.
The ceremony started with a small procession. Their children were supposed to come in first. I saw Judy and Stephanie, and I saw Delbert behind them pushing Uncle A.J, (he’s a diabetic double amputee and is confined to a wheel chair), Mike was running around somewhere in his fake combat/homeland security shirt (evidently, you can buy these fake security/combat shirts at Wal-Mart or something), Charles (the one I’m most familiar with), and Jeffrey, (or was it Andrew?) was suppose to be home sick, yeah sure.
Stephanie gave the welcome. She’s so skinny, she looks anorexic. I know that we as black people have to change the way we view weight, especially in our later years, but she didn’t look healthy. She had her stomach stapled and had slimmed down. Maybe I’m just not used to seeing skinny black women, but her face was all sucked in, it was scary, but she still managed to where those hooker shoes. She had on these black-platform shoes with stiletto heels with this ‘baby-doll’ lace around the ankles, (I don’t want to tell you where I think I’ve seen them before). She calls her self an evangelist of the Pentecostal faith. She lost two of her sons to drug-related homicides; I figure she needs something to hold on to.
This bald guy who thought he new me was introduced as a surprise guest and was suppose to be some singer who’d been around the world and who had sang for some of the greats was introduced. He began to sing, but his CD was scratched. He said he’d go buy another and be right back. He did come back at the end with the new CD, except that it was scratched too, or the CD player was broke, one or the other. He sang anyway without the accompaniment which just goes to show you how far no talent can take you – it took him half way around the world and should’ve left him there, and to think – we had to wait for that.
Cousin Mike in the fake security shirt got on the microphone and wanted to give a sermon. He started out with Genesis, specifically the part about Lot’s wife. He said: “Lot’s wife turned around and was turned into a pillow of salt”! His Sodom and Gomorra that God saved him from was of a spiritual nature, and like Lot’s wife he had looked back. “I didn’t get turned into a pillow of salt,” he said, but he had “lost his saltiness.” That was really good, I don't know what he was on, but I hope he pulls himself together. I hope he never preaches again, because he’ll always have that weakness.
Judy read a poem that include the creation theory “He mad them man and woman”. She did well, I got to see if I could get a copy of that.
I didn’t stay till the end, I had to be at work at 3:30am, and I had rehearsal for the Men’s choir so I had to take a long lunch and ended up working till after 2:30pm, it was now closing in on 7pm and my eyes where turning red, my wife says I scare the children when my eyes turn red. They were getting ready to serve dinner and I thought that would be as good a time as any to make the break, but before I left my Uncle Luscious said “This is beautiful, all the family getting together like this and no one’s dead.”
You’ve got to know my Uncle Luscious: he’s a nogoodnik from way back. He used to own a car wash until he shot his partner over $5.00! I’ve never heard anyone, especially my Mom, say anything too good about Uncle Luscious, but he was right about that: it was beautiful.