Time to breathe. Life is a circle. Time to celebrate Chisulu (Cornell Geddie, Jr.) - the man from whose seed I came.
He's the man who most showed me how to be a man. And while he wouldn't have known to call it this - the man who most showed me how to "be Afrikan" - hold Afrikan values, hold Afrikan visions and make a circle of community.
I say "most" because I was raised in a community of men - my second Dad - Garrie Wright, my grandfathers, and even great grand fathers, uncles, great uncles, cousins and male family friends so close that they were called "uncles." To all of these men, I'm deeply indebted.
Shout out to my mom for keeping me in this community of men, even during our time in Brooklyn, NY - 500 miles removed from my father who was in Fayetteville, NC.
April 20, 1931 is the day he came into this world. His father and mother merged to become him. He and my mother merged to become me. I extend myself into my children - let the circle be unbroken.
He told me once: "Son, don't let nobody beat you giving." When I was a teenager, I wondered why he gave so much away in his business. He ignored my protest with a "Son, just keep on livin'" kind a look. He abhorred injustice. While he was less vocal about it than my mother, he felt it just as deeply - maybe more.
There is a hospital scene that comes to mind as I seek to breathe in Chisulu's spirit. It's really an implanted memory - from a story my mother told me over and over about how he helped pull me from the spirit world to this one.
You see... I was born premature. So much so that my mother says she could hold me from head to toe in the palm of her hand. I weighed less than a pound. It didn't look good. My mother had lost all her children before me. The hospital, on the FT Bragg army base, was more a glorified barracks than a neo-natal center. I was placed in an incubator.
Depressed at the thought of losing yet another baby, she left the hospital refusing to name me.
"I'm tired of naming babies and they just die."
My mother told me that two nurses blurted out names that became my first and middle names. Geddie, like my father, would be my last name. She left the hospital to nurse herself and to hold on to her sanity by fighting off that "something" was wrong with her.
Meanwhile I clung to life by a thread thinner than a spider's web. She tells me that my Dad Cornell, that I call "Chisulu" came by every day.
Chisulu means man of steel. In our salvage work, he handled the torch, he was the man who handled cutting the steel.
Every day from Nov. 19th to Dec. 25th. Everyday, he'd talk to me, she said. Everyday he say:
"C'mon son. I know that you can make it. I just know that you will make it, C'mon..."
I must have heard him, or more accurately 'felt' him. His was the only family touch I knew for the first month of my life. Everyday I got a little stronger.
Trying not to get her hopes up only to be dashed for a 4th time, my mother refused to come.
Chisulu / Cornell refused not to come. Refused to give up hope or to turn loose that slender bio-genetic rope that held me from returning to the spirit world from which I came.
He didn't know, nor did my mother at the time that in some Afrikan cultures, like Mali, the "men of steel," the blacksmiths were also the mediators between the living and the dead. Chisulu / Cornell was the man of steel, and his prayers, his heart and his love pulled me through.
On Dec. 25th, my mother and father came and took me home. That was 61 years ago.
So, now here I sit with tears of joy welling up in my eyes for the man of steel. Though he was a man's man, a big man, a junk man with rough hands, it's not his "hardness" that fills me so. It's his love and the deep river of his emotional/spiritual giving that threatens to wet my keyboard.
As I say medase (thank you) to my Dad - The Man, please join me by sending a "thank you" deed, a "thank you" touch, thought or pray to the men who have given to you, then pass this on.
Let's make sure the circle is unbroken.
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