Tuesday, September 18, 2012
On September 19th my grandmother will be dead for ten years. I owe my grandmother my life because she saved it. I also owe her my writing life (yes, there is a difference). It was my grandmother who taught me the greatest writing truth ever. When I was a child I had anger issues -- my mother was gone and so was my father. I didn't like my life and I really didn't like myself either. One afternoon, after another fight at school, my grandmother picked me up from the principal's office and drove me home. The two of us went to the kitchen and she opened a drawer next to the sink. My grandmother then retrieved a pencil and a pad, slammed them on the table, and told me something that will remain with me for the rest of my life. My grandmother told me to place my feelings on paper, not on people. Today, as a writer, I hold my writing to that standard. For me, revisions are not complete until I feel what the characters I create feel. Sometimes I meet my goal and sometimes it don't, but I continue to write anyways. We live in a mean, ruthless world; a world where hurt people hurt people. There is rarely a day that goes by when someone does something to us that leaves a lasting negative impact. I write because the pain I feel has to go somewhere and I cannot think of a better place for my pain than a blank page. I write because I want to be free and I think that's the way my grandmother would have wanted it.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
A few years ago, when my mother and I were still on speaking terms, we drove by the home we use to live in. The house of my childhood looked like a mansion when I was little but as a grown man the house was smaller than I remembered it being. Through bad choices and tough breaks my grandmother lost our home my junior year of high school. Everyday, for the rest of her life, I told my grandmother that losing our house was not her fault but since we were removed from the land that had been in our family for generations and we were removed from their on her watch she never forgave herself. My mother had not been to our home in close to twenty years. I had seen my mother cry before but how she cried that day was different. The tears of regret are more bitter, more obscene, and more painful than the tears that are shed when one is sad. My mother had regrets. I am sure she still does. As a man I have no clear concept of what she faced when she tried to raise me, a son. I do not know how many times she thought of my absent father when she combed my hair or read me a bedtime story. As a person who plays a very active role in the lives of his children it would be easy for me to judge my mother for all the missed opportunities she had, the missed birthdays, and missed holidays that passed by her after she left me. If I were to judge her today I would not be any more different than the people who judged her when I was a child. The people in my community who always asked, "Where was my father?" "Why does your son look like a hot mess?" "Honey, when are you going to feed that boy?" It seems to me that my mother, as a single mother, had to answer more questions than mothers who had a husband or a boyfriend. God bless single mothers because they do the work of both mother and father at the same time. Single mothers, who often arrive late to a function because a pair of pants that her son or daughter wears rips as they head out the door still show up to that function. Single mothers are remarkable individuals because they see fully what their children can become even when the experts and scholars tell them otherwise. When I was eight years old and my mother could no longer raise me she did the best thing she could have ever done: she left me in the hands of my grandmother, another single mother.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Back in 1997 I was a super Christian. I was the guy he wore short sleeves dress shirts, clip on ties, and told people about the love of God, even when they did not want to hear about the love of God. One day I asked an elderly woman if she had ever read the Bible. She said she had and that she had also read William Faulkner but did not get a lot from him either. Lesson learned. On May 8 over one million North Carolina state citizens voted to ban gay marriage. Over course we will probably never know all the people who voted in favor of Amendment 1. We do not have to because their vote speaks volumes. A small minority decided the fate of a group of people and that is a very dangerous activity. When a small percentage of citizen control the lives of others what takes place is called an injustice. When black kids were forced to attend schools separately from white kids that was an injustice. When women could not preach in churches because of their gender that was an injustice. Amendment 1 is also an injustice. A ban on gay marriage in 2012 (or at any time) is particularly disturbing because it does more than forbid two people of the same sex to enter into a state recognized marriage. The approval of Amendment 1 in North Carolina attacks the identity of a person. Amendment 1 sadly places an asterisk in our nation's laws. Amendment 1 says you, as a gay individual are good enough to service in our military, pay taxes, and vote but as a nation we will not accept your life style. Those who support Amendment 1 will quickly claim they do because of their religious teachings i.e. The Bible says this and the Bible says that. For those people it produces very little fruit to remind them that we do not live under a Bible but rather a constitution. Faith, for those of us who subscribe to one, is a beautiful experience. Many express having a freedom that only comes from their faith and yet many believe it is okay to use faith to discriminate against others. When faith is used to promote hate and restrict basic civil liberties it is no longer faith. In my faith I am taught that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Telling two adult women that they are not allowed to marry is not a very loving thing to do.