Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sometimes the gifts we receive are the result of groundwork laid days, months, or years earlier. Other times it's the result of Divine Intervention, or for the non-religious, just plain luck, or fate.
I was given two gifts on December 23rd. The first was an insurance beneficiary check from my mother who passed away several years ago. I was so grieved I never went through her financial papers, but in an amazing moment I described in a late November essay, A Moral Compass & Help From The Spirit World, I discovered she'd left this to me. I applied for it just before Thanksgiving.
The timing of it's arrival was perfect, bordering on the supernatural.
Gift #2 is intimately connected to gift #1, and I'm choking up now to hold back the tears. To give you a very quick overview if you're unfamiliar with previous writings, I have two children, Xavier, age 20, and Cassie, who will be 13 any day now. The older has always been a challenge to raise; the younger has been a breeze.
On Sunday, Xavier brought home an old gangbanging friend of his, a guy who used to run weed and cocaine. Probably still does although he denies it. His buddy's car was snatched by the repo man, so he didn't have his wheels and caught the bus here. This made me suspicious.
This young brotha is smooth. On the surface, he seems to be a decent person with great manners and not your stereotypical thug. I know his father, who has struggled with him just I have with my son.
Never the less, I read Xavier the riot act for the next three days straight.
"You stopped hanging with him," I fussed. "You don't need him back in your life!"
"Ma, you gonna ruin our Christmas! Let it go! He's working and not doing any of that shit no more."
"Bullshit," I said. "He didn't ride all the way down here on a damn bus for no reason. That nigga's trying to recruit you to get you back into the game. Nuh-uh. Leave him alone. He needs you more that you need him. Keep him and all the rest of those trouble niggas out of your life. You're still walking the fence and could go either way, and one of side of that fence will land your azz in jail."
In one ear and out the other. So it goes with denial.
On Tuesday, I overheard a phone call. Our other phone doesn't work because a little over two years ago Xavier broke it in a rage when I confronted him about his need to go to rehab. I never replaced it. Then early this year, the handset of our remaining phone broke because dumb-dumb used it while talking in the shower.
All that was left was the speaker phone part of the equipment. It was then I figured out the value of not buying a new phone. Ain't shit my either of my kids can talk about that I don't hear about if I'm in the living or dining room.
"Yo, Xavier," another familiar old voice said after my son picked up the phone. "Meet me up at the station."
When he hung up a few seconds later, I said, "I know that voice. Who was that?"
Another lost boy from Xavier's adolescence, I thought. Not a Blood, maybe because he's Latino, and I think he has an older brother locked up, but he's got issues too.
My shining memory of Jose is from the day I was out to work on my part-time gig, and when I got home, my daughter told me Xavier and Jose had two girls over. This was three years ago and she was only 10 at the time. She told me she came out of her bedroom, and lo and behold, Jose was fucking some girl on our sofa while Xavier was in his room doing his girlfriend. I was pissed, and that was the end of Jose being welcome in our home.
So I said, "Why the fuck is he calling you? You don't chill with him no more."
"Stop stressing me," Xavier snapped. "He's just bored like me and wants to hang out at the mall."
"I don't believe it. Sounds like a drug call to me. Jose is a pothead. Did your other homie bring you something up here to sell?"
"No! No! NO! Why you so paranoid?"
"You lying. Let me search your pockets."
"Go ahead, I ain't got nothing..."
If he did, I didn't find it. If you don't have a family member with these issues, I imagine this scene is over the top for you, but when your kid's future is at stake and has a history of this kind of shit, you stay ever vigilant.
I said, "Your azz better not be getting into some new shit. Comprende?"
He shrugged and left.
I then told Cassie to check our mailbox. She came back, and surprise, surprise! The insurance check for nearly four grand.
"Run to the bank with me," I said to her excitedly. "I'll deposit most of it and we can eat out."
"Oooh!", she said, "let's go somewhere really good!"
I shook my head. "Nothing elaborate," I said, "We need the money."
I felt a twinge of guilt over this. I'm trying not to rationalize, but having a little extra cash makes me want to spend it. Old habits that die hard. It's sooo easy to waste your cash at restaurants. Food in, poop out. You're just shitting away your wealth. I know that hard times are coming ahead for the country and whatever I have, I better hold onto tight.
"We need to stop at the grocery store afterwards," I said, "I'll get you a bag of cookies or something."
We took our time getting ready. Cassie looked beautiful in her white jacket, fuzzy white gloves and Santa hat.
As we were leaving, Xavier returned.
I said, "Thought you were going to hang out with your friend."
"He's broke," Xavier replied, frowning. " I remembered that the last time I went to the mall with him, he got busted for shoplifting, and I think he wants to do it again. I'm too old for that shit."
A big ole smile crossed my face. My son used to shoplift that as a teen, and I can't tell you how embarrassing it was when Target called me when he was 15. Had him in their custody for stealing a baseball mitt that I would've bought him if he'd only asked.
"Ride with us," I said. "I have an errand to run and we'll stop and get a large pizza."
"Nah," he replied. "Maybe I'll go back up to the mall. I'll probably run into some friends."
"Oh come on with us," I said, "it'll be fun."
"Okay..." he agreed reluctantly.
So off we went.
A little over a hour later we were heading to the grocery store, since we'll be dining at my brother's on late Christmas afternoon and I'm bringing a dish.
Traffic was brutally thick. Police cars with silent sirens sped by. A police helicopter with lights on flew overhead.
I said, "I have a feeling something really bad happened to someone. The cops don't go all out like this unless a murder or carjacking took place."
"It's probably nothing," little Miss Know-It-All Cassie said.
I drove toward the mall where Giant Food is located. As we approached, the place was packed. We saw more helicopters, a squad car, undercover car, and a K9 (canine) cop car leaving the mall with their lights, but not sirens, on.
We joked that maybe customers had a brawl over a sale item. Yeah, the humor is dark, but it's also to relieve stress from feeling vulnerable since we go to that mall.
Then we drove past the Macy's which was cordoned off and had three cop cars parked by that entrance.
"Whatever happened, probably happened there," I said, stating the obvious.
On the other side was the grocery store. The parking lot was too crowded to even think about shopping. I'd go later before it closed.
As we drove through the mall area, at a stop sign I heard someone say on their cell phone, "Someone got shot."
"I wonder if it's anyone I know," Xavier said.
Yeah, I thought negatively, he knows everybody, thugs included.
Minutes later, we were home. I turned on the local news and there was the story.
Xavier jumped on the phone and called Jose - who was stuck in Macy's.
Cassie and I listened.
Jose's voice was sad and serious. He said, "I heard some Blood niggas got into it with some other niggas and someone got shot. Police got everyone in here asking them questions, but I didn't see it."
I sat with my arms crossed, staring at him. When he hung up, I asked him, "What's the real reason you weren't with Jose?"
"I told you. He's got sticky fingers and didn't act like he'd be fun to chill with. That's why I came back home."
"Did Jose ever join the Bloods?"
"So why was he at Macy's when shit went down?"
That's funny, I thought, of how shoplifters go shopping. We fell silent as we watched the news.
"Once a Blood, always a Blood," I said softly, "at least in their eyes. What would you have done if you'd been there and run into them?"
My son, who has worked so hard to avoid his former life of gangbanging and substance abuse, shook his head.
"Damn I'm glad I wasn't there," he finally said.
The news later said the person shot was a member of one of the gangs involved.
There will be arrests, and anyone associated with this will likely do a long stretch since it took place at a mall. I think of how easy it would have been to get sucked into this if he had chosen to chill with Jose. He'd have run into his old crew.
I can picture how that late afternoon could have gone:
"Yo, Xavier, this bitch dissed us. We gonna teach him a lesson. Come on with us."
"Nah, that's okay, I'll pass."
"What? You a pussy now? We need you for backup. We just gonna beat him."
This scenario, followed by a possible arrest if caught or identified, or being shot himself, and either followed by a new family trauma of an emotionally draining trial and years lost in jail.
A mother without a son and a sister without a brother. One more young black male lost to the privatized prison system.
Instead, he used the gifts he received in the past: better judgment by telling Jose no thanks.
Still, this might not have been enough to save him, since he'd planned to go back up there alone, to walk around and see if he'd run into other friends - and he would have: the ones who would have led him into a hell on earth.
Instead, our family received a gift from the spirit world over a month ago when I struggled with minor but significant temptation, and won a moral battle. This was followed by my dead mother's voice whispering like an angel in my ear to check through her papers - papers that I had avoided for four years because I'm still grieving her death. Had I not received that check in the mail on the afternoon of the 23rd, I'd have had no reason to go out - or take Xavier with me. He would have gone back to the mall where trouble awaited.
Thus, on that late November day, I thought my unexpected gift was insurance money which I needed it so much.
It was something far, far larger.
It was Divine Intervention.
Posted by Kit (Keep It Trill) at 1:01 PM