my people, my people (ancestral musings)

iba ara t'orun
we praise those who dwell in heaven/the spirit world

i dreamt of my pop-pop last night.

my general history with grandparents is a bittersweet one.

in previous entries, i've mentioned that i've never been close to my father's extended family and, in fact, only know a fraction of them. my father's mother has lived in virginia since i was an infant, and i saw her maybe once every couple of years growing up. i was a flower girl in her last wedding.

my father's father was murdered several years ago in a random robbery attempt. he was a conflicted man, at best. i never felt the comfort and familiarity in his house that i did in the houses of my mother's relatives. i never became close to him (somehow my younger brother did...), although i was fond of his wife, who passed maybe two or three years ago.

she had six children when she married my grandfather, and they had two together. in her youth, she resembled a cross between salli richardson and dorothy dandridge. she was a pescetarian, black belt in karate, and the neighborhood babysitter. sweet lady--although i'm told she chased one of my grandfather's, um, "friends" with a knife or some such decades ago...

but i digress.

for all intents and purposes, my mother's parents were my grandparents.

i've mentioned my grandma, who passed when i was three years old. another beauty. in the picture i keep on my egun altar--maybe from her prom? i don't think it's from her first wedding, although it could be--she's seated, legs crossed at the knee. her gown is light-colored and floor length; there is a corsage pinned to her left lapel and flowers in her hair. she's smiling in a way that reminds me of my mother. her dark eyes shimmer over high cheekbones and an attractive, but understated mouth.

in later pictures, the ones i grew up looking at, she's an older, streamlined woman with creamy skin, sporting cat eye glasses and the same pretty smile.

i can vaguely remember the clean scent of oil of olay hovering over her. my mother said she used it religiously, so i did the same for a brief period in my late teens or early 20s. i was trying to find some way to feel closer to this woman who so diligently protected me and her family, but that i'd never see, hear, or touch again.

i'm told i have her hands, which is interesting considering that the one concrete memory i have--which is always threatening to slip away--is of her hands reaching out to give me something or give me a hug.

her husband, my mother's stepfather, was my pop-pop. he was a large, gruff-voiced man, often prickly and ornery as hell. he wasn't mean spirited, but he could be nasty when he wanted to be. stubborn. but he was also sweet, loving towards children, and a hoot to be around. my mother is quick to mention that he never treated her or her sister as anything but his daughters. he never had any biological children and was an only child. the women in his family were known for living well into their 90s (sometimes 100s), but not physically aging much past 60-70.

he had debilitating arthritis later in life, so either my cousin or i would go over and help him clean up from time to time. that was the dream--my cousin and i sitting around his apartment talking to him.

i loved those days, despite the work. it's how i learned to clean a house. we also got to talk for hours at a time. he'd teach me about football (or whatever sport, military documentary, or show he happened to be watching at the time), and identify the birds and squirrels who'd come to eat the nuts and seeds he left on the patio. to this day, i don't know how he got the most brilliant cardinals and blue jays in baltimore city (city, not county, y'all. and the back of the apartment faced the subway and freight railroad tracks...) to come and eat on his back step.

in the first dream i had about him after he passed, we were in a supermarket together--he was a cook in the service, loved good food, and cooked wonderful meals until the arthritis slowed him down. he looked like his younger pictures: caramel skin, stern expression, dark hair and eyebrows. he had big circles for eyes, and something about the way his brow settled made him look perpetually surprised or deep in thought, depending on the way the rest of his face was situated.

in that dream, he had come to tell me he was happy and safe and not to worry--i've had similar dreams about just about all my mother's folks when they've transitioned. despite his reassurance, i still woke up with tears streaming down my face. i didn't this time.

i don't think that my pop-pop and grandma are together in the spirit realm; i think that their true loves/soulmates are elsewhere. yet another story. however, they come together to stand by and work for me, which i appreciate more than words can say.

about two years ago during a period where i had some profound spiritual experiences, there were several times when i strongly sensed my grandmother on my right and my grandfather on my left. they let me know in no uncertain terms that if i needed them, all i had to do was call.

so, to both of you:

may you always be well-fed and well rested in orun--you have done your work & then some.
i will teach my children your names.
thank you for all you taught me, for everything you do for me and the rest of us.
we remember you and speak of you with joy and praise.
we love you.

for mary elizabeth jackson, a.k.a. jackie a.k.a. bear
for earl major bolden

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