“Hello? Whatchu want, Big Sexy?” I answered my phone at exactly 2:16 P.M. with that playfulness we’d shared all our lives.
“Trease, tell my mama I need some antifreeze for my car” my nephew, Arthur, said.
He said a few more things before we ended a very short conversation that day, including the fact that he was running late for work and needed to get off the phone. It was the last one I had with him. The last thing I said to him during that 2-minute call was that I was leaving for Dallas as soon I got off work that day; he simply said, “Okay.”
It has been 122 days since that little chat. It has been 122 days since I last heard his voice. The date was Friday, December 8, 2017.
Just as I told him I would, I left for Dallas right after work that day. My spirit was restless. Even though I had had a lot of coffee and soda that day, what I was feeling wasn’t caffeine jitters. My soul was vexed. Friday evening exit traffic didn’t make matters any better. I just could not settle down. At one point, I turned my radio off and prayed to God to still me. That prayer lasted two hours. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just knew that something was off.
My nephew died the next morning.
He went to bed somewhere between 3:30 and 4:00 AM the morning of December 9, 2017. That would be the last Saturday morning he would sit outside on the porch of his home in Cotton Valley.
As usual, he had sat on his porch smoking those Black & Mild cigarillos and drinking his homemade peach vodka (he was cheap – he’d mix peach soda and vodka). The last thing he told the guy who was staying with him was to leave the sliding door unlocked because a friend was coming by to make sure he was up for work later that morning. She would find him shortly before noon, still warm.
They tried to call me four times before I finally answered. I did not recognize the number so I didn’t answer. It was an Arkansas number and since I had received three calls from it, I figured I should answer.
Before the young woman said anything, I could hear my sister wailing in the background, saying, “I’m never going to see my son again! Arthur’s dead! Trease, Arthur’s dead!” I had slowed to a crawl and finally pulled over to the side of I-20 East. I kept screaming, “What are you talking about?? Who is this?? Who’s dead?? Who are you talking about??” That’s when the young lady said, “Ms. Trease, Arthur is dead!”
It has been 121 days since he died. It has been 121 days since he drew his last breath. The date was Saturday, December 9, 2017.
That Next Sunday
We knew there would be many people there. We had no idea the church would be packed for both the wake and the funeral. As is pretty much standard in the black community, funerals are held on Saturdays. I don’t know why, that’s just the way it is. Arthur’s was held on Sunday, December 17, 2017, at 2 P.M. We did that for two reasons: my cousin, who delivers the eulogy at the funerals of all family members couldn’t be there until that Sunday; and the employees at International Paper wanted to be there. The entire plant wanted to be there but wouldn’t have been able to had the service not been held that Sunday.
I remember the service. I remember the fact that my son, who was immediately in front of me with my granddaughter, stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Arthur lying in state. There was a kind of domino effect because I had my head down and bumped into him. My son started screaming, “No!!” Although I had taken a prescription Valium, I remember every single thing that happened during the service.
I remember my sister’s dedication to him. I remember all the people who got up and paid tribute to him. I remember that I didn’t cry a lot. I don’t think I did. Maybe I did.
It’s been 113 days since we said goodbye to Arthur James Wade, Jr. The date was Sunday, December 17, 2017.
A Melding of Days
For the longest time following his death, the days all blended into each other. There were no weekdays; there were no weekends. Holidays were just…days. Easter was not hard this year, it was just another day. In years past, just like Christmas and New Year, Easter was a huge deal for the family. There would be a lot of food and pictures. This time around, it was just another day.
I’m better now. I’m still so deep in the trenches of grief that I’m breathless, but I’m better.
He wouldn’t want us suffering. He wouldn’t. I’m trying so hard to push forward, but there are so many days when I just spin my wheels.
I miss him. There are no words in anyone’s dictionary to describe the void in my life his death left. I miss him.
The days are finally separating themselves. I’m glad they are because as of yet, I haven’t been able to. They’re all one big jumble in my mind.