Live. (Repost: 8/10/08)
by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh
I intended to write about Bernie Mac. Intended to document the two separate times I met him. Once about 8 years ago in the UBO offices and again, about 4 years ago, backstage at the NAACP Image Awards. Both times, he left a lasting impression. Both times he was as gracious and warm as he was brilliant and hilarious. I remember marveling at how down to earth he was and how his wife and daughter grounded him. After seeing Diddy and J-Lo in the office a few days before, I was struck by how normal and brown his family was. I intended to speak about that second time in LA, how when he noticed our nerves and pacing backstage, he smiled and wished me luck. I intended to write about how I watched his show in syndication while pregnant with E. How some days it would be the only time I could muster a laugh out of this pain speckled body. I intended to write about how his passing meant something more than I could justify, having only met him twice but never knowing him. Sharing a few words but nothing that could be Fox Newsed into a conversation. This was supposed to be about how artists who create from their bellies and hearts and souls change the lives around them. And touch people and move these mountains of our lives into appreciation and love and gratitude.
This was supposed to be about Bernie Mac and laughter and celebrating our lives delicate and beautiful like the crystals that create snowflakes. And it will still be about that.
But I sat down to write and as I’ve done for weeks now, procrastinate. I tried Facebook first and busied myself chatting and changing my status updates a few times. Then found myself on Twitter, a website I don’t fully understand, but much like my first day at Greenbelt Middle, still trying desperately to fit in. I moved on to G-chat and busied myself with a conversation that, if allowed any honest moments, shouldn’t have lasted beyond the initial and defining, “hey”. But that’s where I was all the windows opened, the word document blank, cursor pulsating and blinking a mocking rhythm. I decided to refresh Twitter a few times and that’s where I saw, “Rest In Peace Isaac Hayes”. And the bottom fell out. I have no real connection to Isaac Hayes. I always appreciated his smooth, deep, bald blackness. Found him hysterical as Chef on South Park. Found him confusing and mysterious when his Scientology connections were revealed. He was one of those celebrities that I just liked. I didn’t need to know if he was a swinger or Republican or a doll collector. I just liked knowing that he existed and was responsible for the coolest song I ever heard age 8. He was the man for sure.
But as the hours went on and I read all the status and tweet updates sending a RIP to Bernie and then Isaac, I started to settle into a thing. Started thinking about these black men, fathers, grandfathers, husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins. I started to wonder about my boy and my boys and the men that I hold to my heart on a daily. Wondering how pneumonia turns deadly and why the treadmill was running at Isaac’s house when he was found unconscious. I started to think about my own father. The man who only goes to the doctor when it hurts so bad that he can’t go to work. But never listens when the doctor says, “rest a few days.”. I think about my brothers and my brothas, who roll ankles and take blows to the head in the name of a pick up game of this or that but won’t visit the doctor when there’s a lump here or if the breathing is laboured.
I’m sure all men have their issues with doctors and the medical field. I’m sure all men have the “walk it off” attitude and keep it moving. But all men don’t look like my sweet-faced brown boy. All men, don’t hold my father’s weathered hands. All men, don’t swag and sway like my boys do. So this is a message for them and for you to give to the men in your life. We are dying. There is so much attacking bodies and spirits and brains, two seconds to get that tightness in your chest checked out. An hour to make sure that way your ankle pops is really okay. I know you don’t want to know but think about your mama, your sister, you daughter, your son, your girl and how suddenly “It doesn’t matter” turns into “If only we would have known sooner.”
What’s the point of spending all the time in the gym to look good in your extra medium t-shirt, if your heart can’t take the walk out of the gym? Or if there’s a thing that is growing and attacking your blood stream? Or if you love her so much that that thing affects her too?
And let’s get real, some of you need to get some of the heavy life stuff off your chest. There’s nothing weak about straightening out the way your brain functions. Nothing weak about making every aspect of your life stronger so you can be stronger for your children, for your wife, for your girl… So this isn’t just about physicals. It’s about being holistic.
This is a delicate time. This is a special time for us. There is a man that looks like you poised to become President. We can quibble about the logistics of that all day long. We can argue about what that means to the black community, let’s talk about that in November. Right now, I need you around to see this. I need you around to grow with it. To talk about it. To feel the shift. I need you around so that my sweet-faced brown baby boy and all my little nephews and nieces can look up and see what healthy and functional looks like. I want him to know that swagger ain’t just about attitude, it’s about health. It’s about taking care of the people who love you by taking care of yourself. All of yourself.
And I know I’m riffing and this has nothing to do with Bernie or Isaac. But it has everything to do with them as well. It’s about love. It’s about loving your life so much you’ll do whatever it takes to keep living it. And living it well and whole and healthy and here.
RIP Bernie Mac
RIP Isaac Hayes
Thank you for the laughter and the music and the lessons.
Love someone and mean it,