Fridays, Saturdays, and a Month of Sundays

 

Arthur and Mia
Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

That Friday

“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.

That Saturday

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.

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That Back Road

CVOC. I don’t know the exact length of that road, but I know that from Mama’s house to his trailer in Cotton Valley, it is exactly 6.7 miles. It’s ½ a mile from Mama’s to CVOC, but in total, it’s 6.7 miles. That’s the shortest route. It takes about 13 minutes to get there on that back road. It never really takes anybody that long on that road because most everyone travels well above the speed limit back there so in reality, it’s about 10 minutes from Cotton Valley to Sarepta. To be honest, I don’t even know if there is a posted speed limit back there. I’ve traveled that road my whole life, but for the world of me, I don’t know if there is a posted speed limit back there.
I used to take that road 3-4 days a week as an alternate route on my way in from work. The other way, straight up 371 North, is a true 10-minute drive. There was never any special reason for choosing one over the other. Most times, I would decide shortly after I passed the trailer which route I’d take. I haven’t been on that road since December 17, 2017. That was the day of the funeral.
I don’t know the exact distance of the entirety of CVOC from tip-to-tip, but I can tell you that if you travel the entire road, just short of the turn-off to go to Dorcheat Bayou, you’ll find St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church’s cemetery. It’s nothing fancy, just the burial place for many in the black community in our little area. My mama, daddy, grandparents, some of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends are resting out there. My love, Arthur James Wade, Jr. is resting out there.
As I typed his name just now, my heart skipped a beat. I stopped breathing. I do that nearly every time he crosses my mind. I still do that. Here lately, I’ve started to get headaches when I think of him. For a while, I giggled a lot when I thought about him, but lately, I’ve gotten headaches. I’ve actually gotten physically sick a few times in the recent past when he’s come to mind, but these headaches…
Back to that back road.
I used to take that road on my way home from work. I made a point of traveling it when I needed to run to Springhill for something, too. When I would go to Springhill using the back road, I’d get to glance over and see Mama and Daddy’s grave marker, and I’d say, “Hey, Mama! Hey, Daddy!” Sometimes, I’d just wave. I haven’t been back there since December 17, 2017. I don’t plan to go back there any time soon because Arthur is back there.
The cemetery is nearly on the other end of CVOC from the point where I would get on it near his trailer, and to get home, I wouldn’t have to pass his resting place, but for some reason, I can’t get on that road. I just can’t. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like if I get on that road, this little scab that’s formed over my heart is going to be ripped off. It’s not even close to being healed. It’s still kind of bloody and raw, and Lord knows it’s tender to the touch, but if I go back there, that scab is going to get ripped off.
I feel like if I go back there, I’m going to lose it. I’m not afraid of encountering his spirit or anything like that; I just can’t accept the fact that there’s nothing back there except his body in a cold, dark grave. I can’t accept the fact that when it’s raining and cold, he’s lying back there in a box. None of us have been to the grave and back so no one can tell me what’s going on with him. I don’t know what happened after he was buried. I know his body is still there, but that’s all I know.
At some point, I’m going to start the grieving process. I haven’t reached those stages yet and I’m okay with that. People grieve differently so I just taking this thing one day at a time, but I’m still at a complete and total loss. He just isn’t gone in my mind. I know he’s not here, but again, he’s not gone in my mind.

Depression and All Its Might

Everybody feels depression at some time or another. We all get a little down in our spirit now and then. A little depression is normal, right? No one is 100% happy, 100% of the time. Some people call it the blues. Some folks just refer to it as being down. True enough, we all feel down in the dumps from time to time; the problem is some people fall into the pit of depression and can’t find a way out. Sometimes, we cannot find our way to the surface of that deep blue. Some people are pulled under by a current that won’t let go.

 

A photo by Clem Onojeghuo. unsplash.com/photos/-YMhg0KYgVc
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That Sinking Feeling

I’m not going by things I’ve heard. I’ve been severely depressed before. I’ve never been suicidal, but let me tell you, there have been days when it really didn’t matter if I woke up or not. I just didn’t care. Did I want to die? Nah. I would never want to leave my friends and family. My son and my granddaughter need me. If there’s one thing I know, I know my folks love me. That man loves me. He needs me.

During the time I was married, though, when the days of hell melded together, I just didn’t care. I knew that on any given day, I would likely be blamed for something. I knew that it was likely I would be belittled or made to feel inadequate in some way or another. I knew that regardless of how clean the house was, he’d find a speck of lint (because he made a point of looking for things like that). I knew that he’d head upstairs to check if the underside of the toilet lid was clean. I knew if there was a single cup in the sink, he’d stand there with his coat on and wash it because he “couldn’t stand mess”. Overall, I knew nothing I ever did would be good enough.

When It Finally Sets In

For me, deep, deep depression set in on three different occasions in my 50 years. As I said before, the first time was while I was married. The depression I experienced back then was the result of being battered mentally and emotionally. Eventually, I got professional help. I had to. To be honest, initially, I sought help for my son because I could see him spiraling out of control. I was kinda blind to what was going on in my own mind, but I knew my child needed help.

Almost from the beginning, the sessions that I had meant for my son turned into joint ones because the counselor recognized the mental and emotional beating I was taking. He actually told me that in the beginning, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to help me because I was so damaged. He thought he would have to refer me to a more experienced counselor. I was a complete mess. Like I’ve said a million times before, I didn’t realize that I was in shambles because I thought the hell I was in was normal.

Anyway, the next time I found myself down under was after the divorce. Sure enough, I had been freed from that hell, but the dissolution of my marriage also meant that for the first time in nearly 20 years, I was on my own. I found myself floating in the middle of the ocean with nothing but a life raft. Yes, my family and friends were all around me and refused to let me fall or fail, but depression can put a stranglehold on you that can’t be readily pried loose. It had me and it was suffocating me. All I wanted to do was sleep. Honestly, that’s all I did. I slept. I ate. I gained weight. I cried uncontrollably. I repeated those things day after day. The difference with that bout of depression, though, was that I was able to pull myself out. I know I would have benefited from the help of my counselor, but he was 250 miles away in Dallas, but thankfully, I was able to pull myself out.

My latest battle with depression is going on right now. It still pains me to say my nephew died. My entire world shifted on December 9, 2017. Many people who knew us have said that on that day, Margarett’s son died, but that he was my baby. He was. I was nowhere near being okay when one of my closest cousins died on January 14, 2018.

This time around, though, the depression is different. I know I won’t need professional help (although I wouldn’t hesitate to get it if I felt I needed it) this time around because I’m shrouded more in grief than anything. I’m still so stunned, I haven’t reached the point that I’ve entered the grieving stages. I’m not even at the first stage of the process which is denial because the truth is, it’s still not real to me. In my mind, neither of them are dead in the sense that I will never see them again. They’re just gone. I know that makes no sense, but neither of them is dead to me.

I know the reality will set in at some point, but as of this writing, it hasn’t. Nope, there’s nothing wrong with me — folks grieve differently and this is just my reality. I’m okay. I just need to process this stuff in my own way.

Help

 

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Photo credit: Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

If you’re depressed, get help. If that means reaching out to your folks, CALL THEM! I know what it is to be too embarrassed to tell your story, but trust me when I tell you, your folks are there for you.

 

IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF CRISIS COUNSELING, CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE AT 1.800.273.8255. Call those folks TODAY!

 

 

The Color of My Pain

Bereavement. Grief. Pain. Loss.

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Photo by Kat Smith from Pexels

At 50, I’ve felt all of these things more than once. I have felt them all in varying degrees. I have experienced them all on a variety of levels. I’ve felt them all in a variety of situations.

For the most part, bereavement, grief, and pain are the things you feel after the loss of a loved one. I’ll talk about that level of loss in a few. Let me tell you how those things come into play in the mental and emotional sense.

Blood Red

 

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Nineteen years of mental and emotional domestic abuse taught me to shut down, take cover, and to fight fiercely to survive. My very soul was shrouded in the bloodiest red color. Red is an extremely emotionally intense color. While it signifies passionate love, it also points to danger, anger, and violence. Those last three adjectives sum up the19 years I was married.

While the physical abuse was limited to two incidents of spousal rape, the mental and emotional trauma is what put my life in danger. I almost died of an aneurysm that was brought on by stress.

The level of perpetual anger I felt nearly drove me insane. I was mad all the time and I was mad at everybody. I was extremely angry with myself, too. I waived between being angry with my ex for abusing me and being angry with myself for allowing it to happen and for staying.

What I felt internally took the term “seeing red” to a whole new level. Red covered everything in my life.

I’m happy to say that wherever red shows up in my life today, it’s all about its representation of determination, power, strength, and energy.

Black

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Photo by Mustafa ezz from Pexels

On December 9, 2017, my entire world went black. With the death of my nephew, Arthur, such deep darkness fell over my world that the light is just now starting to seep through. It comes through in spurts. Sometimes it stays around for days; sometimes it’s only a momentary flicker. For now, light is fleeting. Bereavement, grief, pain, and loss have enveloped me.

Most days I just go through the motions. I have to. I have a son who means the world to me. I mean the world to him. He needs me. I have a granddaughter who depends on me for all things in her tiny world. My siblings need me. So do my other nephews, nieces, friends, and family. I know they all need and love me, but things are still covered in black for me.

The murkiness left after Arthur’s death can’t be penetrated with well-wishes. It gnashes my soul. I hurt. I cry. I scream. Then there are the days I laugh, giggle, and chuckle when I think of something he did or said. The emotional roller coaster that I’m riding through the blackness is far from thrilling. I’m not in an amusement park. I feel like I’m in the valley of the shadow of death sometimes because I know that’s where he was. I always knew where he was. He always knew where I was. Now, I feel like he’s wandering around in that blackness that I can’t see through.

Is That Light I See?

I don’t know if what I see occasionally is real light or just a figment of my imagination. I want so badly for things to be normal, but in order for things to be normal, my nephew would have to be here. He can’t come back. He’ll never come back.

It was 68 days ago that he passed away. It’s only been 68 days. Some days, it feels like it’s been 20 years; some days, it feels like it just happened this morning. Some days, I see the light; some days, that darkness refuses to let any light shine through.

I will continue to grieve. I will struggle for some time to come. I will keep pushing forward because I have no choice. It’s what I have to do, but for now, I move in darkness.

Just a Girl from the Country

I was born and raised in the tiny, northwest Louisiana town of Sarepta. The population is under 1000 and my mother loved that fact.

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We didn’t have running water in our home until I was 12. We got our bath water, our water for cooking, our water for drinking from the well at the end of the road. We shared that well with several families and there was never any discord because even if we weren’t related by blood, we were family. That old well is still standing though it’s not in service.

The road leading to the house that I grew up in — the house that my mom built with her own two hands and only the help of my grandfather — was dirt. That meant that I was an expert mud cake maker and I loved playing in the rain. I spent far more time running around in my bare feet than I ever did in shoes. I almost always caught more light bugs than the rest of the kids as we ran around outside after dark.

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At the end of that dirt road, across from the well, was Thomasville School. It was the only school available for black children for a long, long time so it is where my mother attended. She had to leave school before she finished the 9th grade, but the education she gained from life afforded her far more knowledge than the books she longed to read from.

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Daddy loved fishing so that meant we spent a ridiculous amount of time on the bayou reeling them in. I can pull them in with the best of them. I still can. I know how to cast a reel and I know how to handle a pole. I’m not scared of worms and I have no fear of crickets. I’m just a girl from the country.

I’m simple. I don’t have to have the biggest house. I don’t have to have the grandest car. I do like really nice purses, but hey, everybody has their “thing”. Purses are mine. Anyway, I’m quite happy with a nice, little home. I’m good with a nice car that will get me from point A to point B. I intend to upgrade my wheels next year, but it will be something I can afford because material things don’t mean much in the end.

I fought coming back to Louisiana like a guerilla warrior. I didn’t want to come back here. I thought I needed the sights, sounds, and convenience of the city, but I’ve found that the quiet, the peace, and the solitude of good old Thomasville Road is good enough for me. 

My idea of the picture-perfect setting will be complete when I build my new home next year. I know Will is going to be off enjoying life on his own and living freely, but I’m okay with being in Sarepta. It took me a long time to reach this point because, in my mind, I was forced to return here. Little did I know it was a blessing in disguise. I love being a country girl.

I Miss Her

Not one day goes by that I don’t think about Cleal Shine. Whether it’s just a little snicker about something she did or said, the near-physical pain I feel sometimes when I think of the pain she, herself, was in during her final days on this side life, she crosses my mind.

It’s impossible for me to even look in the mirror without seeing her staring back at me. That worry crease between my eyes is ever-present. This hair…Lord, this hair. There’s…so…much…of…it!! In all honesty, though, I’m proud to have this head of hair because it’s so much like hers, right down to the gray she tried so hard to hide. I refuse to hide mine.ToMjGpPDRe3cSYKO8Du

I remember how dementia ravaged her mind and caused her to be so frustrated. Mama was super funny. All her life, she made fun of any- and everybody and most situations. That’s why we didn’t recognize the onset of her dementia immediately. As far back as I could remember, she played around about everything, including remembering stuff so it took us a while to absorb the fact that she really was losing her memory.

It comes to me like it was yesterday that I talked to her shortly after I relocated to the Dallas area, and she couldn’t remember whether or not she’d eaten that morning. She kept saying, “I don’t know if I ate or not.” I didn’t give it a lot of thought. It only got worse.

The first time she didn’t recognize me, I thought my heart would stop beating. I had come in one weekend to handle her household bills and when I unlocked the door, she just stared at me. I asked, “Mama, why are you looking at me like that?” She said, “I’m trying to figure out who you are. Why do you have a key to my house?” It took every fiber of my being not to cry in front of her. I didn’t do it in front of her, but when I got back in my car, I let loose. By the time I made it back to her house, she knew who I was, but I was still shaken.

In the end, I had become numb to the fact that she didn’t recognize me all the time. I was so broken to pieces by her condition overall that I had become numb. I was dealing with the breakup with the man I thought was my soulmate so the summer before I lost her was much harder than any I’ve ever lived though including the summer after my divorce was final.

The funeral remains a blur in my mind. I can’t really say it was a blur because I remember everything about it, but it was surreal. I remember seeing her for the last time in that casket. I had made all the arrangements, including choosing a dress for her and making certain that her hair was styled the way she would have wanted it. The thing that I’ve never told anyone about was my own internal fight at the cemetery.

The Burial

It had been raining the whole day and my cousin, who officiated the service, asked if we wanted to do the commitment portion of the service that would have been performed at the gravesite inside the church. Since the weather was so bad and her sisters were older, we decided that we’d do that, but several of us went to the cemetery anyway. My ex-husband, Will, Mama’s baby sister and a few others went so that we could see her lowered into the ground.

Since there was no formal commitment, the handlers went about the business of lowering her down so that water wouldn’t get in her grave. That has always bothered me. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis so she was always cold. It was cold and wet that day. I didn’t want to leave my mama at that graveyard. I know she was dead. I know she felt nothing, but in my mind, I was concerned that she was going to be cold. That still bothers me. I know it’s unrealistic, but it bothers me.

I miss her, but I know she’s with me. I can’t wait to see her again.

She Ain’t Gon’ Let It Touch Her

My mama used to say that about me a lot. What she meant was that regardless of how mad or hurt I was, you wouldn’t know because initially, I just refused to let people know when they’d gotten under my skin. Later in life, no one would see it because any pain I felt was buried underneath so many layers of dead spirit that I didn’t even know it was there.

A very close friend of mine died the morning of September 10, 2009, after having been broadsided by a drunk driver the evening before. I had received an email from her shortly before she left work that evening and I’d never hear from her again. The day that I found out that she’d passed, I screamed and screamed and screamed. That wasn’t a good thing because I was recovering from the aneurysm I’d had in July. The sad thing though, is that I didn’t cry again for any reason until December 2011 when I was told that the man who had killed her was only sentenced to 12 years in prison. My heart was broken because she was out of our lives forever; he would get to go home at some point. He should have gotten life.

The next time I shed a tear was in November 2012 when that man came in and said he wanted a divorce. Y’all know the story — the tears did not flow because I was getting divorced; they fell because he had been an incredible jerk in his timing. He absolutely ruined Will’s Senior Day and couldn’t have possibly cared less. I was so glad he left that Sunday.

The time following that that I cried was when my favorite uncle died. Even then, I didn’t even need a tissue to wipe the tears away — that’s how few there were. He was my mom’s oldest brother and I loved him so much, but I was still so deeply buried in hell I couldn’t cry. To be honest, I couldn’t feel the pain. I actually could not feel it.

No one should go through life not feeling anything. I dare say, no one wants to go through life not feeling anything. I came back to life in August 2013 after I moved back to Louisiana. I had been on auto-pilot from that previous November and the truth is, I was actually a zombie from April 2013 until I returned the Uhaul after that ridiculous move in August.

I’ve cried quite a bit since that time especially with the loss of my heartbeat, my mama. Crying is cleansing. There have been other reasons to cry and I’ve let it happen. I won’t ever allow myself to fall back into the hell of no emotion.

Life is about feeling. Life is about expressing those feeling.