[What began as a trip home for a younger cousin’s wedding, July 2011, turned out to be a much needed and long overdue therapeutic stroll down memory lane. And while this experience in no way makes up for everything I had to endure growing up, it certainly invoked the type of deep reflection which leaves one with a sense of accomplishment, ultimately solidifying the man I’ve become despite the hand I was dealt. Most importantly it taught me first hand the true meaning and purpose of closure. I hope that by sharing this experience you are inspired to seek true closure.]
Columbus Ohio; my beloved birthplace, home to The Ohio State University Buckeyes, and a city where “Michigan” is a four-letter word. And although I’ve been away for more than 20 years I still bleed Scarlet and Gray! The blue-collar mentality of this capital city has always been just what a “boy scout” like me needed, even when the city no longer needed me. (I am referring to the recession in the early 1990’s which subsequently led to my enlistment in the U.S. Marines). I admire the attitude of the people; the almost southern gal ways of the women and the “F#@k it, I’m down” mind-set of the men (sorry to put it that way, but it’s the truth). I always tell anyone who asks; the overall attitude of the people is what I like least about Minneapolis and love most about Columbus. In fact if it were not for the African (Immigrant) community in the Twin Cities I would not be in Minnesota. I would have moved back home a decade ago.
The first week of July 2011 would be the second year out of the previous 6 years that I had an opportunity to visit. This time was for my cousin Tamekia’s wedding and I would be in town for an entire week. So I had planned a few mini-reunions as well would attend the annual Eastside Reunion for the first time. Initially I had no intention of seeing the old neighborhood, Bolivar Arms (a tough neighborhood by any standard), which I already knew from previous trips had been completely remodeled. I had driven passed it on previous visits so it wasn’t something I felt compelled to do this trip. But after picking up my rental car a strong urge to see my old projects took over the steering wheel and headed in that direction. Once I arrived I knew I had to get out and walk the grounds, to take it all in…
The Present, as in “the here and now,” is life’s great pacifier; obliging those of us fortunate to exist in it to forgive and then consequently forget the most authentic lessons of our past, as to limit our worries and concerns to today’s sunset; because tomorrow’s sunrise, people say, is not guaranteed. “Wish not, worry not; be happy you are alive and not dead,” they go on to elaborate. And I agree with the part about tomorrow not being promised. Thus our motivation for pressing on should be as independent of the actions of others as possible. So I never once considered how achieving closure could be so necessary to widening the pathway to one’s future. Previously believed impossible to ensnare, the prospect of closure seemingly grew more elusive as the years dissolved. Time, then, being the only true way we got over negative experiences, making closure, therefore, a condition forced upon us when the appropriate time had elapsed. Or so I thought.
When a person’s thirst for revenge masquerades as justice they seek it, this brand of justice, in the name of closure; as if it were their constitutional right, criminal for any to deny. When jilted lovers want one more chance to tell their ex just how much the sudden breakup devastated him or her they say the confrontation would bring them closure. So, until now, I’ve always felt closure was nothing more than mitigation for people to impose upon their offenders consequences they knew deep down wouldn’t atone, but the mere act of requesting it relieves them of any and all residual accountibility for starting the healing or forgiveness process. Or perhaps it was pretext to have one more chance to extend a moment they where forced to let go. In other words seeking closure was just a way to manufactured drama, or suspense; like cliffhangers do for novels. But as I would learn during my trip, this was not always the case.
As I walked the rehabilitated site of my birth and later gazed upon other dilapidated locations of my childhood, I found myself also staring into the past in search for a little boy, hoping he was able to see the me he had become. I so desperately needed him to know that everything worked out for the better and that he was right about me; the adult he’d hoped to become. Then for one brief moment I did see him; translucent and discolored by time. But I saw him nonetheless. It was after I left my birth site and went on to I visit another childhood resistance on N. Monroe, a now lifeless duplex, gutted by fire, that I eventually saw him. He was a beautiful boy; much more handsome than I remember ever being. He was modestly dressed and overly serious for a child his age, just as I remembered. He used his wisdom as a shield and shyness as a cloak of invisibility, as if to hide from the rest of the world in plain sight. But I could see him nonetheless.
Before I had time to fully appreciate what was taking place, little me acknowledged my presence with a quiet smile and gentle wave. He saw me! He affixed to me the warmest gaze. Then just as gradually as he materialized to wave a final goodbye, his smiling face and waving hand faded into forever. And as I stood there for a moment, in the moment, baptized by my own tears, I realized right then and there closure had occurred. And it was wonderful, and deserving, and so necessary.
Several nights throughout my adult life I’d dream variations of the same dream; I’d either go to the old neighborhood to visit relatives or I still lived there in some capacity (either full time or part time). However when it was time to leave I could never find my car. I’d pace the parking lot trapped in the projects, but feeling as if the car was still there somewhere. So having seen with my own eyes that the project housing apartments I called home for most of my childhood had been completely made over, as if to remove every trace of it from both my past and future was emancipating, to say the least. It was as if I were a spectator, watching my present atoned for my past and paid forward to a hopeful future.
I was transformed. Into who or what, I am not exactly sure. But I knew that I had been released from whatever held me captive all these years. This liberation, a confirmation that I had finally made it out of the projects, seemed to possess my entire being-as if to validate the notion that I should have never taken residency there in the first place! And as I gathered myself and parted ways, I thought that maybe, just maybe, knowing the buildings were no more, I will never have nightmares of returning to the projects again.
The good book says that if a man finds a wife, he finds a good thing. For me, finding closure was a pretty good thing too. And I found it, not at the expense of another, the demise of a foe, or to the shame of someone else. I found it-as many lost things or rediscovered-when I wasn’t looking for it.