Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jimmy's Dad.

I really wasn't going to post tonight, but I just got home from the viewing of a very dear friend's father, who was suddenly taken away from him compliments of a massive heart attack.

So for this post, I guess I am going to be blogging in a traditional sense.

Anyway, the viewing was in this rough working class Irish neighborhood here in Philly, and I was literally the only black guy in the funeral home. Now before you go thinking; oh oh, here comes the field with another one of his racial rants and observations, you are wrong. Everyone there could not have been nicer and more cordial to the field, and other than the fact that I don't like funerals, I did not feel the slightest bit uncomfortable.

But before I tell you about the funeral, let me give you some background:-There goes the traditional blogging, I knew it couldn't last- When I heard that Ji....f**k it, I am going to use his real name-I don't think he would mind, besides, he doesn't read this blog anyway-Jimmy's dad had passed, at first I didn't know what to think. I knew how close Jimmy and his dad were, and I knew he would be devastated. After all, the man was just in his mid sixties for crying out loud, and had just retired from his government job with the city of Philadelphia. The poor guy was just starting to enjoy his retirement with his wife and grand children, when the grim reaper came knocking.

So I really felt bad for my good friend Jimmy when I heard the news. And yes, half German half Irish Jimmy, is my good friend. Many of my previous posts about having white friends who tell you what white people really think are based on my relationship with Jim. He is probably the most honest friend-black or white-that I have. I say this because he told me how he has struggled with his own racism, how growing up with his dad, an open racist, he would often hear the "N" word dropped in his home, not to mention the disparaging comments about people like Martin Luther King and other black leaders when they would appear on the family television. Jimmy credits going away to college and being able to escape his typical working class neighborhood for his enlightenment on matters of race. That, and meeting black people in both his college and professional life. People, who made him realize that the things he heard from his father growing up weren't true, and certainly didn't apply to all black people. Still, it was, and I suspect, still is, a struggle for him. Yet, when I first came to Philly some fifteen years ago, all alone and knowing no one, he was the first person -black or white- to reach out to me, and invite me into his home. I played outside with his kids and hung out and crashed on his sofa, and never thought anything of it. So I will always have nothing but love for my man Jimmy. And in those reflective moments when he felt like talking, he would open up to me about his struggle to truly trying to become a better person, and looking past the race of an individual. He has no idea how much I respected and appreciated that, because his honesty made me realize that he was sincere. And sincerity is always a good jumping off point to a good friendship. I have always thought that the main problem with race relations in America is the lack of honesty, and sincerity-especially from the majority side- The other stuff due to our similarities made it easy for us to get along. We are both, I guess you could say, your typical testosterone filled alpha males, who played college sports, and love hanging out every now and then. We share a lot of crass jokes and talk about the silly nonsensical things that guys tend to talk about amongst each other. But don't get it twisted, at the end of the day, I do understand who American values more, and I suspect that Jimmy does too. Remember that old Chris Rock joke? No one in the audience would trade places with him "...and I am rich". Unfortunately for Chris, he was still black, and everyone in the audience was kind of just sticking that "white thing" out. But I digress-damn field, can't you post just once without preaching about race? Hey, I almost made it-

Now as I leaned over and looked at Jim's dad in his coffin, I said a little prayer for him. And looking at him all made up, and wearing I suspect his favorite suit, eyes closed in eternal sleep, the irony wasn't lost on me. Here I was, praying over a man who spent all his life hating- for whatever reason -people who looked like me, and hoping that he would find peace in wherever the after life took him. Our only connection was his son, and our inextricable link to a city that I love and I suspect he loved as well. Jimmy, standing in the reception line with his wife and the rest of his family was watching me intently, and I am sure that the irony wasn't lost on him either. So I prayed for the old guy. Prayed that he would somehow make it up to heaven, -even though I suspect that if there is one, he won't. But hey, it's worth a shot- and prayed for his poor wife and his family, and all those who will have to carry on without him.

It was so weired in that packed room with all those people and family members coming to pay their respects. Respects to a man who had stayed with his wife, raised his family, and kept his roots in his community and contributed to the well being of his city. This is one reason I suspect that he disliked my people, because he thought that we were the very antithesis of what he represented. But if the poor guy had taken the time to try, he would have seen that there are many black grandfathers all over the city who are just like him. Who, if he had reached out like his son had, he probably would have been able to change his thinking and his heart. Then, maybe the field's prayers to whoever was listening to spare his soul, wouldn't fall on deaf ears.


Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

12 06 06

Hey FN:
Good post. I value honesty in relationships. It is valuable to have such interactions. One thing I learned is that God sends us our friends:) How strange that you prayed for the racist guys' soul and went to his funeral! But that shows that you are embracing forgiveness and lovingkindness which are paramount imho.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts:)

Tasha said...

Field, this is a great post. It's a beautiful thing that you can be friends with someone who has openly struggled with matters of race. Him struggling is a sign that he wants to break the cycle of pre-judgement and intolerance in his family.

I'm glad you prayed for the man's soul. It's always a wonderful thing to see a person pray for and forgive in these types of situations. It comes down to the elementary understanding that behind all the hate, he was still a man with a beating heart, a soul, and a family that he loved. In many respects, he's not unlike the rest of us...just replace that hatred with the anger that so many of our people live with.

Nice to see you were able to observe and take note of the irony in the situation, but keep it quiet with prayer long enough to allow the man's soul be welcomed by God.

Friðvin said...

This was indeed a great post. And by attending the funeral and showing such forgiveness you clearly proved him wrong, whether or not he'll ever know it.

wst... said...

thanks fn. while we really cant add anything more than your eloquent commentators above have said other than that its important that we all pray for each other regardless of what others think of us because take jimmys dad for instance -- as we look back at the history of the world and we humans that exist on it there is pretty good odds that our individual ancestors somewhere and at some point in history crossed paths with each other. some might have been best friends and partners. some might have even been lovers. while of course there is no way of knowing all this for sure, we do know that one day, all will be revealed and made clear to us and that all of us, will stand together, before god and give an account of ourselves.

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