- Purchase/rental options available:
Callaloo 24.4 (2001) 1000-1014
[Access article in PDF]
Their not simply disregard, but outright detestation for Christianity had brought ends to their marriages; my grandfather knowing full well that his wife was a member of the AME Church, but hoping that he could live with it and my father, who claimed that my mother had found religion and had so bushwhacked him one day with a prayer at the dinner table. My grandmother died when I was ten and we went to the funeral, Christian service and all, and my aunt shouted at my grandfather, called him a heathen. She then turned to my father and said, "You're just as bad." She then knelt in front of me and tried to be nice, offered me a Lifesaver and I said, "Blow it out your barracks bag." After my parents' divorce, I lived with my mother and the religion stuff weighed heavily on me, my being convinced that one had to be in some way born Christian because there was not a genuflecting bone in my body and so my mother and I lived with our horns locked. The religious stuff became a lot more important than it should have been, it being the case that I did not actively dislike it, but simply did not care. When I was twelve, I went to live with my father and grandfather, whom "I was just like," and for four and a half years until I left for college, I watched the two of whom it would seem I was a pretty faithful copy.
When I was eight my grandfather took me hunting for wild turkey. Once out of the city he was alert to any human movement, saying that if the rednecks found you alone, there was no telling what might happen, or more to the point, it was far too predictable what would happen.
"What would you do if some KKK's grabbed your grandfather right now?" he asked as he knelt to observe some sign, his fingers moving over the ground which had been scratched up, feeling the freshness of a bird's excrement.
"I'd run for help," I said.
"To whom would you run?"
"The police," I said.
He nodded, then sat on the ground and looked at me. "When you're older," he said, "the police will stop you and search you and, if they don't shoot you, they'll take you in and tell you you look like another 'nigger'. They may not use that word, but that's what they'll mean. It's happened to me. It's happened to your father. It will happen to you."
"So, I shouldn't go to the police?"
He smiled at me. "Yes, you should go to the police. Where else can you go?" [End Page 1000]
My grandmother baked pies. All the time. There were always pies. One day, it could have been any day, I was eating pie in her kitchen. I was less than ten, I remember. I must have been. I watched her pull another pie from the oven. Blueberry.
"You don't like Grandfather," I said.
"Your grandfather is a very smart man," she said.
"But you don't like him?"
"He's very smart."
In all but my father and myself, the strength of my grandfather's personality had a delimiting effect on those around him. Most were badly put off by his vocal and immediate repudiation of all things Christian, but oddly, in spite of the proclivity toward Christianity of the black community, he didn't alienate his patients. It was perhaps the case that his anti-religious tendencies seemed so abstract that they were not taken seriously, but rather seen as an idiosyncratic function of the brilliant doctor. My father kept his sentiments more to himself, nodding when the family of patients asked him if prayer would help and saying, "How could it hurt?"
"Don't shoot," I said softly, the barrel of the revolver not quite touching my seventeen year-old head, but my feeling its coldness nonetheless. The second and third cops circled...