Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not a Mumbling Word by Leona Leone Beasley

During those days, Daddy picked Buddy up for church most Sundays the three boys would accompany him, they comprised a brotherhood of sorts. No women figured in their outing, as Mama was a member Woodward Baptist Church. Three generations of men folks went off to Antioch Baptist Church. Not many words got spoken on their journeys. Daddy believed that children should be seen and not heard, so silence settled in the car from Dixie Hills to Fifth Ward, aside from the usual childhood giggles. Upon their arrival at Buddy’s house the boys leaped from the car with freedom feet moving on familial terrain, able to use voices that sought the same freedom. Racing Daddy to the door, they would be greeted by a looming hollow faced man that they knew as Grandaddy. And being as children often are, they did not notice the despair behind Buddy’s eyes. They never knew how life had been all but unbearable for him without his wife Mildred. And how he could not pass on love to Daddy, Daddy’s brothers or the three boys because he buried it with Mildred. He vowed never again to act in such a misguided fashion. So when the boys jumped in anticipatory delight, Grandaddy could not receive their gifts. Buddy could not be party to such blatant displays of affection. He couldn’t see their love for its purity. So Buddy moved through the crowd of three boys and showed neither disdain nor delight. They walked the short distance to church. There the Lord would relieve him from having to talk to folks and revive his soul to make the next week’s journey. Parting from Antioch with the communal song in his heart, This may be the last time, it may be the last time I don’t know. Few of us know when it is the last time, the last Sunday, the last song. Buddy died on a Sunday evening after he’d had his time with the Lord and away from folks talking.

In the style of Southern black Baptists, only wonderful things were said about Grandaddy Buddy. He was called the salt of the earth, a pillar of the community and so on. Such biblical clich├ęs never seemed like real compliments. He loved his community, his church, his junk, and his Lord. Most importantly, what was not said that day was that he could not love his begotten sons. Daddy sat in a tearless silence at the funeral. Uncle Tup came down from New York City and Uncle Robert came fresh off a train run from St. Louis, both arrived late. They sat in the back of the church with blank, emotionless stares though by all estimation they received the most love from Buddy back in LaGrange, Georgia while their Mama Mildred was still alive.

Buddy was not as beloved as Mama’s mother, Cora Mae, and as such, he received fewer flowers and fewer sympathy cards and the number of attendees did not fill one side of Antioch’s church pews. The parade of cars from Antioch Missionary Baptist Church to Lincoln Cemetery was short. Buddy was deposited on the other side of the cemetery from Cora Mae. Mama and Daddy only thought this was fitting after all they had no love for each other when they were living.

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