Southern Legitimacy Statement: I am right now eating chitlins for breakfast, and I once hooked a tractor to a dead mule and drug it away from the barn and into the woods so the buzzards could eat it.
I have been afraid all my life. Sometimes in the night, or even in the light, I just want to run; to and from what is never clear. One of my better therapists told me that a very young child who wasn’t made to feel secure struggled to find comfort for the rest of his life. This recent world-wide sickness suggests that I am not alone. It seems that most of us were always a little scared, even if we didn’t know it.
My maternal grandmother wasn’t afraid. When she was young, she may have been like the rest of us. I didn’t know her then, but at some point it just went away, a peace that surpases all understanding the apostle said. I don’t know when the fear passed. It could have been when she didn’t have enough to eat, cause sometimes she didn’t. I could have been when her father was murdered by his own brother. It could have been when the man she loved beat her. It could have been when she lost the child to sickness, and another to an accident, and another to a bullet. It could have been when the cold wind blew through her meager and ramshackled home, or when she had to go to the bathroom out of doors. This meager account is a mere sample. A true list of her tragedies would be a ponderous one. I read that Job suffered, but compared to my soft-spoken little granny he was a bit of a bitch. I don’t know when it was, but by the time I knew her, she wasn’t afraid.
My father manufactured fear as surely as she shunned it. He bullied everyone he encountered. He collected women only to hurt them and fathered children only to break them. He’s been dead these 15 years and I’m still afraid he might come back. Maybe he’s what I’m running from. Sometimes I drive by the graveyard to make sure he’s still cemented in the goddamn ground, but Granny wasn’t afraid of him and he didn’t know what to do with that. When we would visit her, and it wasn’t often enough, he would often stay in the car. She knew a devil when she saw one and he knew it. She was diminutive, and he could have extinguished her light with one hand but that light frightened him. He was afraid of her.
She lived for many years alone in that rotting house on the hill, hand-stitching quilts in the dark loneliness, waiting for her remnant family to roll up that muddy/dusty red road.
After almost a century her body wore out. She comforted those who came to say goodbye. As she faded into darkness, the spirits of her lost children sat in the corners of the room waiting. That’s what she told us. I’m supposed to believe they were just the wishes and apparitions of a dying brain, but I’m not sure. All I know for sure is she wasn’t afraid, and I want just a bit of that.