“If this world were mine,
I would place at your feet
All that I own
You been so good to me…” Luther Vandross
I wanted to write you a letter of appreciation for your companionship on this journey we call life.
I apologize for not being here when Jef died. That was tragic. He was a terrible husband, and a lost father, but a wonderful friend. The conflict you must have felt as you fought the incongruent emotions of grief from the loss of your best friend, and the comforting feeling of not having one more argument about the destructive nature of alcoholism must have straddled you with burden. I knew what you felt without your formal acknowledgement because I was your big sister. My responsibility was to instinctively know what you felt and to speak light into your empty spaces.
I wanted to tell you that I had always been blessed by your willingness to drop all of your commitments and be the VP of Operations at Claudia Shivers Central, where the job description said only that you be able to cover my children with unconditional love for an undefined period of time and with no monetary gain. Neither of us knew what love without conditions looked like, but I was determined to figure it out, and you were determined to follow my lead and, as a result, be a brilliant aunt. You mostly strived to be different than the examples we had seen from ours who sat idly by as we were homeless at the ages of fifteen and sixteen. You loved my babies so much that you bought a chair just so they could write on it. Ultimately teaching them that no matter what they did they were always welcomed wherever you resided. You loved them with an energy that proved to be its own antidote to the harm you endured from years of abuse from your own parents. You loved them with a passion that has passed through them and into their children so that a four year old’s remedy to anxiety is not to yell, or strike someone, but to take a minute to take deep breaths until she finds her center. Thank you for that.
I wanted to thank you for not calling the refs for each time I pulled you off the bench and put you into my game. This time it is coffee. Last time it was prison. One time it was breast cancer. Hey, do you remember when you had plans on coming down to go with me to my oncology appointment, but then we had to plan an impromptu wedding in 48 hours? What was my child thinking? We had a wedding on Sunday or Monday and went to see the doctor on Tuesday. You the realest.
I always felt guilty about that time you got raped. I tried so hard to protect you from all the predators that visited our house to see our mom, but that one got by me. Maybe because we were on our own then and I thought we had escaped any immediate threats. That memory still haunts my subconscious though. I know I was only seventeen and you were a year younger, but I should have seen it coming. Whenever I have seen you in tears that memory returns to me. I should have done better.
I missed you, Net, when I was in prison. I missed calling you throughout the day and forgetting what I called for and staying on the phone anyway. I missed hearing Jef in the background trying to interrupt us just because he wanted attention. I missed that you didn’t really care about many social issues because you just wanted to hug trees and write poetry. There were so many social issues in prison chile, it was exhausting. I missed telling jokes about everyone we knew and everyone we wanted to know. I missed friending people on Facebook with you just because their page was funny. I just missed you when I was in prison. A lot.
Thank you for coming to visit though. You took a couple of buses and caught a ride with the kids and slept in a house with strangers so that we could sit together and laugh at people we knew and people we wanted to know. You did not care that you had to ride for twenty-one hours just to visit for 8. Thank you for that.
My dearest little sister, thank you for riding and always being down like fo’ flat tires. Thank you for not bringing up old shit. Thank you for having faith in faith and not in fact. Fact told you that two little Black girls from a small town in North Carolina with an alcoholic mom and a philandering dad were only ever going to be two little Black girls. Faith told you that the Creator of all that is divine would not send us here without a purpose. Thank you for believing in my coffee dreams. I have seen where this is headed. Thank you for being a social entrepreneur and opening a Black owned bank, the North Carolina Bank of Gratitude and Trust, Inc. You gave me my first credit card and it could not be paid off in cash, but only in service to others. I still have that account in good standing.
Thank you for rocking with me for 40 plus. I look forward to 40 more.
With all love and gratefulness,