The Boy From Virginia Turns 25

If memory serves me correctly, I was born at 10:29 at night on April 2, 1985. However, most people credit a birthday to the actual day of it rather than to the exact hour of birth, so I get the 2nd (although I should be celebrating from around 10:30pm on the 2nd until 10:30pm on the 3rd). Twenty-five years later, I make personal history by writing this blog, a piece of work that will help me begin my quarter center year. If I am allowed to sit back and think of ALL the experiences I have had that have gotten me to this point in my life, I wouldn’t be able to summarize them all. There are vivid moments I remember from my childhood right up to last week, even. Most events are positive, some are sad. Lots are humorous…but the majority of my life has been filled with thoughts. So many thoughts that I have to ask have I spent all of my life thinking? My actions would lead others to think contrary…but sometimes, I do wonder…

            At the present moment, I am sitting here thinking about how cerebral I can make this blog. Is it time for me to finally use the skills I once mastered and write a coherent blog, or is it cool that I change the format a bit? Does life ask for coherency? Am I at the point where I’d like to experiment with my personal format? I am blessed to have reached this point and not experienced jail, or being labeled a baby’s daddy. (However, I have been labeled other things that make being a “baby’s daddy” much more desirable). Though I have made it to this point in my life (i.e living in London, England, pursing my dream, and breaking so many stereotypes, it’s not funny), I still have yet to figure myself out. Ok…let me clarify this a little bit. I know WHO I am, but I have yet to figure out HOW and WHY (and sometimes WHAT) I am.

            Twenty-five years old…and no clue as to my purpose in life…or whether or not I will be capable of making someone happy (that is not restricted to the “love” sense). I possess all the characteristics of a stable human being (who has his occasional frustrations with the minor details of the world, in some shape way or form), but I still fear major things.

I am afraid of failing my family. (So many others fit the bill of doing that that I CANNOT be added to the list). I would hate to disappoint my mother in the slightest bit. I’d never forgive myself if I wasn’t a good role model to my brother and sister. On an even more personal note…I’d hate to hurt another person’s feelings unintentionally, though I think I have done so many times before. More importantly, I’d hate to think I’m not working hard enough, therefore thwarting my own chances at success. Where are these thoughts coming from? Let’s back track.

On Tuesday morning, I awoke to ants crawling over my dresser, floor, and one even made a cameo on my pillow. (This was due to me spilling a teeny bit of apple juice the day before.) I immediately woke up and started cleaning as if I don’t do enough of that. Then, after looking into new theatrical opportunities, I was faced with some serious decision making (which involved my method of removing myself from a situation and assessing it before doing something I’d regret) That decision, including the circumstances around it filtered into my work that day and I felt useless and as if I wasn’t doing a good job at managing my life. Even more so (and unfortunately) I was losing my faith in my abilities as a human being. What do I bring to the table? Am I effective? Why can I express myself on paper, but am soooooooo afraid to open up to people who love me and care about me? Why do I self-depreciate all the time? Why do I push people away so damn much? What keeps me secretive about certain things in my life? Why don’t I trust that there are some good people out there in the world who will not harm me or cast their rod of judgment upon me? When did the idea of love start to repulse me?…and so on and so forth…(see where the mind takes you when you spend your life thinking too much?)

There are so many questions I have yet to answer in my life…but for the ones that are up here…I know the answer to them all. For many of the questions I ask myself, I always know the answers. I self depreciate because I don’t think I’m better than anyone else… I think I’m quite average (yet, I do know that I am not typical). I push people away because he moment they get close I am bound to hurt their feelings or vice versa and I don’t like being angry with people or having people angry with me. (Besides, I am very afraid of what might happen if someone effectively pushes my buttons.)  I am so secretive about my life because so many people volunteer their information and get mad when people are in their business. Personally, while everyone is being “generous” with the sordid details of their lives, I feel I need to keep something to myself, and if that includes keeping mum about the things most people ache to know about…so be it (and fuck off…read a gossip column cause you ain’t gonna get no ammunition here)! I don’t trust that there are good people about until they prove it to me. My motto since college has been “you are guilty until proven innocent.” Basically, if your first impression was actually unsuccessful and you have managed to sway my vote, then you might be allowed on board the Tommy train. (And trust me; this is a good train to be on!)

When it comes to…love…well…that’s a whole ‘nother blog entirely and if I feel so compelled, I will explain. But in a nutshell…too many people relish in the idea of love and I’ve not see what genuine love looks like. It is not in a look or a glance (as books and cliché’s say), or even in the touch of a hand. Those are the things that repulse me about love…the mere announcement of it and all the superfluous fanfare. Love doesn’t have to make itself clear or manifest in traditional ways…that’s about all I will say about that for now.

 I guess one would say that I am simply self-aware…but I think there is a more accurate word for what I am;  “ME,” maybe? (My friends are always saying…“you’re just so…YOU! You’re soooo Tommy!”) My page of the day calendar has the following word listed for today: virtuoso. It means “a person skilled in the fine arts.  Or it can mean “one who excels in the technique of an art or other endeavor, especially: a highly skilled musical performer. (This may seem made up, but this is ACTUALLY what is listed for today. By the way, thank you David Fearns for my calendar; you actively listen to me). Maybe there are no words to describe me and that I will have to accept. Just like I will have to accept that I will disappoint people, but I can’t take it out on myself. People are and will be attracted to me and that’s ok. I shouldn’t run away from people who want to know me, unless I sense deception/shiftiness in their spirit (Yes, I can do that). Essentially, I must continue to do what I have been doing since it’s not been going too badly thus far. If I ain’t broke…I shouldn’t fix me. To be honest, maybe God already has me fixed and whatever else is broken I’ll leave to Him.

I will now end this blog with the text of the Mahogany card my mother sent me for my birthday (which put me in tears because she is the most important woman in my life, hands down, point blank, PERIOD!):

“Son-When I call you my “baby,” you’re probably thinking “Aw come on, Mama! Because you’re a strong man now. But I was blessed to carry you close to my heartbeat for nine months and loved you before I even knew you…

From the moment I set you on your feet, you’ve stood solidly on the ground, growing in power and confidence with the strength to let others lean on you when they’ve needed to. Even me. I’m so proud of the man you are and who you have become.

You’re  the son of my spirit and of my heart. You will always be “my baby” and a fine man. Happy Birthday!”

Yes, Momma…Happy Birthday indeed!

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The Boy from Virginia Follows Through (Part 1)

Without the appropriate words. That is the state I’ve been in for the past couple weeks. But an author friend of mine told me that all I had to do was start writing and the right words would just come. I trust that as I type this tonight, that the words I’ve been unable to think of will manifest themselves…so here goes:

Today is my birthday and the only thing on my mind is my grandmother’s death. A month ago (today), she decided to leave this earth and leave her family in emotional turmoil. I can’t believe that I have survived this month without her being in my life, but I have no choice. I have the rest of my life to live without her as well. Why did her death hit me so damn hard? This is the question I’ve asked myself multiple times until I realized the answer. The reason I no longer feel the same is because I lost someone I truly loved.  I get it now. It also makes sense to me why my soul feels like it’s been sucked away. It makes sense to me that I feel alone sometimes with no one to talk to. But it also makes sense why at times I feel like I don’t want to do anything. A lot of what I did in my life was to make my mother and my grandmother proud of me. If I were to become successful, I wanted both of them to be present to say “Tom, you made the family name something special.” Now, Nellie May Jones will never be able to say those words to me…and I will grieve forever.

 

The News

 

I was rushing to catch the 75 (the bus I normally take to and from school) and trying to dial my mother’s number at the same time. There was some important news I needed to relay to her about my best friend from high school, Whitney. You see, after having been so busy with school this term, I’ve not had much time to talk to any of my friends and I discovered (through the lovely medium of Facebook) that Whitney’s mother had suffered a stroke. Aghast, I hurriedly called my mother to tell her to put her mom in prayer. But as soon as my mother picked up the phone, I never got a chance to tell her the news.

“Ma,” I greeted as I stepped onto the bus fishing for my bus pass. “I just wanted to know if…”

“Tom, I got some bad news.” My mother’s voice sounded serious. (But then again, why wouldn’t she sound that way if she had bad news to tell me?) I thought that she was going to say Sprint had cut off my phone (which actually would’ve been great news) but what she did say taught me to never have expectations: “You’re grandmother is dead.”

There was a slight pause as I put my bus pass away and climbed the steps to the upper level. Keeping my voice to a minimum, I exhaled, not really knowing what to say. As I opened my mouth to ask ‘What?’ (as if I didn’t hear the news the first time), my mother gave me even more disturbing news.

“She died this morning. They found her in her room on the floor.”

“The floor?” I was baffled (and strangely pissed off). “Was anybody there with her?” Deep in my heart, I already knew that the answer would be no, because had someone been home, she would’ve died in a hospital or in her bed, not the fucking floor.

“No,” my mother confirmed. I was fuming. My grandfather (the 2nd husband), who had a history of leaving my grandmother alone, knowing how ill she was, was not there when she died. How could he not be there to help out his wife? The woman who he was married to all these years? I didn’t understand. “For better or worse,” right? That’s what you pledge when you get married. For better or worse….not for better or when-you’re-not-too-much-of-a-burden-to-me.

“Why wasn’t he there?” I asked, still flummoxed that my grandmama was gone, and yet trying to stay as calm as possible.

“I DON’T KNOW, TOM,” my mother screamed. She breathed and then told me that she was on her way to view the body, which was still on the floor. Alone. That’s not how my grandmother deserved to die. Especially not on the floor of her home. I would’ve been more at peace if she’d slipped away in her sleep, but to have died crumpled and in ruins was unfair.

I thought this as I hung up with my mother and called my homegirl, Kia. I informed her of what had happened and told her how surprised I was that I wasn’t crying. The bus stopped, but my mind kept running. I got off the bus, and proceeded to walk home. If memory serves me correctly, I called my mother a second time. She didn’t answer the phone. So I did something crazy: I dialed my grandmother’s number. I guess I figured I call the house one last time. Maybe I half expected to hear her voice. The last time I spoke to her was two days before that and she was so out of breath that I hurried her off the phone just so she wouldn’t expell too much energy.

My grandfather answered the phone. I listened for sadness in his voice, some sort of sorrowful tone. Nothing. He answered the phone as if nothing had happened…as if my grandmother wasn’t lying dead on the floor of her bedroom. Suspicious? Hell yes, I was. (and I’m still waiting on the tears, to be honest.)

 He eventually passed the phone to my mother (who, I discovered later, had fainted upon seeing her mother’s body). She informed me that the undertakers (who were close with our family) would be there to pick up her body soon.

“She’s at peace, baby. It’s all over her face.” My mom sounded eerily calm. It almost sounded as if she was smiling through the phone. Either she was smiling or convicing herself that everything would be alright. Whatever it was, it wasn’t working for me.  I felt like someone had sucked something away from me and I couldn’t breathe. (It was at this time I thanked God for giving me the skills to act and perform because I was doing a damn good job pretending I had my shit together).

“Alright, Ma.” I could feel my lower lip start quivering, which meant that blurry vision would soon follow.  “Give me a call when everything is worked out over there. Or I’ll call you.”

“Alright, baby.” I listened to the noise going on behind her. It seemed like a lot of people were at my grandmother’s house. No one sounded like they were crying. But I knew if I didn’t hang up soon…

“It’s gonna be alright, baby. She’s fine.”

“Ok.” I hung up. I still had another block to go and I didn’t think my tears would wait until I got in the door. So I tried to hurry along the street, but they came and I sniffled and I fought the tears as much as I could. Once I got in the door, and began untying my shoes, I cried every tear I hadn’t cried before. I was crumpled on the floor with one shoe off, my head in my hands and my heart in ruins. I couldn’t believe it…the floor is what my grandmother and I had in common.

The rest of the night, I sat in front of the TV. I didn’t move…I couldn’t. But my stomach began to growl and so I peeled my weary body off the leather couch (it was my first day of choreography project at my school which meant I’d just danced for 4 straight hours), and sulked into the kitchen to make something to eat then it was off to bed.

There was one final call to my mother, but I’m not sure what the conversation was about. I think I asked her if I needed to do anything, to which she told me I’d done enough already. Apparently, I‘d forgotten that when I was 16, I typed my grandmother’s obituary, as well as what she wanted for her funeral (casket color, songs sung, etc.). Once my mother reminded me, I remembered, as plain as day, everything she wanted. My mother hung up and began the process of preparing for her mother’s funeral.

That night, as I said a tear-filled prayer, I began to wonder if my grandmother was sitting next to God. I wondered if she could see her family in their various emotional states. But of most of all I wondered (now that she was with the All-Knowing) if she knew everything that was about to unfold. Would she know my future? Would she be an angel? Would she know how much she affected the lives of others around her?

 

As I turn 24 today, I still wonder these things. But I wonder if she’s mad at me for not finishing her chronicles. Many would say “no”, but I feel I didn’t follow through. So I have a lot of catching up to do. Stay tuned…a lot of people wanted to know what I’ve been up to this past month…trust me, you’re going to find out!