As are a lot of us.
For a variety of reasons.
Some of us have lost our jobs. Some of us have had to take on the roles of teachers. Some of us are battling mental health issues that are heightened because we’re forced to stay at home. Some of us have had to cancel events, graduation parties and vacations. Some of us have loved ones who are battling for their lives because they’ve been infected with COVID-19. Some of us have had to say our earthly goodbyes to those who passed as a result of the disease.
While the ways in which we’ve been affected may differ, each of us being affected is indeed a fact. What may be a big deal as a result of this pandemic may just get a shrug from the next person. That’s one of the beauties of the human race, the differences.
I’ve experienced loss the past few weeks. I’ve had DJ gigs canceled. I’ve had fitness classes canceled. And I’ve had writing opportunities put on hold.
It stung. Still does in some cases because not all of the stoppages and cancellations were expected. However, for me, as an entrepreneur, I’ve encountered situations like this before. I weathered those storms and will weather this one as well.
But there is a facet of my life that has been put on pause. And every day I have to talk myself out of going against what the experts say to do what’s so ingrained in my heart: visit family.
I grew up in a household with three of the best people God ever created: my mother and my grandparents. My mama was an educator, still is at heart and in deed, even though she’s retired. With her working late at school and sometimes at a part-time job, I spent a lot of time with my granddaddy and grandma.
And they spoiled me.
Just ask my mama.
Yes, they would cook special meals for me, buy me things and let me get away with stuff they would’ve punished my mama and aunt for, but that’s not what I enjoyed the most. Spending quality time with them is what made my heart explode. The love they had for me was evident in their actions. I was able to see up close that it extended to their children, their neighbors, their neighbors’ kids, their friends, their co-workers, etc.
My granddaddy would often let me accompany him as he ran errands for others or visited family and friends. If someone needed something, he was there. If someone was sick, he was going to check on them. Even if there wasn’t a need, you could often find him sitting on his porch or someone else’s talking, laughing, enjoying life.
Both of my grandparents were very nurturing, dependable and consistent. Something inside of me was drawn to these attributes. As I’ve continued to grow through life, I’ve realized those characteristics are embedded deep inside of me, which is why I watched how they operated so closely.
At the age of 38, my actions of love closely resemble what I witnessed.
In the black family, the word family isn’t easily defined. In some worlds, it can consist of just the folks who reside inside the home with you plus a few siblings and their children. In some worlds, it can consist of a parent and a few cousins. In some worlds, it can consist of just one person.
In a lot of black families, it consists of a whole heap, yes heap, of people.
And this is where my struggle lies.
Family for me isn’t simply my parents, siblings and their children. It’s those folks, plus my aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, people with whom I attend church, my friends, their kids, my friends’ parents, my friends’ grandparents, my grandparents’ friends, my mentees, people I’ve supervised and the list goes on.
These are the people I talk to regularly. These are the people I call when things happen, good or bad. These are the people I frequently spend quality time with. Right now, unfortunately, I am unable to do the latter. As someone whose love language is quality time, it’s a challenge. It is for a lot of black families.
In our culture, family gathers whenever. We don’t need a special occasion to spend time together. You might find us at our grandparents’ house on Monday. Our neighbor’s house on Tuesday. Our friend’s mama’s house on Wednesday. Our cousin’s house on Thursday. Our friend’s house on Friday. And you shouldn’t be surprised if you find all of us at one location on Saturday or some random weekday evening.
It’s not enough for us to just hear voices, we need to see our people. We need to lay eyes on them and see they’re okay. We need to hug on them.
Right now, we can’t.
And it’s a struggle.
I want to go see my 81-year-old cousin I visit at least once a week. I want to go see my neighbor I visit often. I want to randomly pop up at people’s houses like I’ve been doing for years. The people I want to go see may or may not be related to me by blood but they are connected to my heart.
They’re my family.
I need to see them.
Their presence is comforting.
Their love is refreshing.
Their energy is calming.
For now, I’ll just continue to fight the urge daily.
It’s worth it for the sake of their health, others’ and mine.
But it ain’t easy.
It ain’t ideal.
It ain’t natural … for me.
This is my struggle.