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still kicking, just not that high

one of the greatest men i ever knew was my granddaddy, connie wesley manley. i love him more years after he’s gone. i wrote a poem for him in my book and i said there that daily i rise deeper into the man he was. and at 41, i’m finally understanding him. his life has taught me both growth and grit. growing up, i thought he was the most stubborn man alive. if you wanted a soda and asked him for a quarter, he’d want his money back the next time you saw him. what he was doing however, was holding people accountable – you give your word, you keep your word.

the september before he passed, i thought he’d died in my arms. he was battling his second bout of prostate cancer and had fallen gaunt and weak. to see him go from a constant man who woke up early every morning, put on his slacks, shirt and suspenders and tend to his garden to a man in need was hard. he drank his drink, cooked his soup, seduced his lady friends and dropped wisdom. he was himself without apology. on this early eve, my brother, cousin tenard and i were moving him from one room to the other. we collected this now shell of a man and immediately he slumped. if you’ve ever picked up ‘dead weight’ you know how that feels. we all rose and immediately he fell. i thought he was gone. scared and scattered we picked him up and eventually got him to the room. minutes later the rescue squad was there. i was relieved but knew what was ahead.

my freshman year of college my dad i got in a huge argument. i had moved away for college, gotten an earring, read a few more books and thought i was the shit. i’ve always been independent, but i was a grown man now. really, the night of that argument i was shouting things to my dad i’d wanted to tell him for years. i held so much in after my parents divorced. it was an ugly, necessary disrespect. we didn’t talk for over a year. we’d pass each other on those country roads in my little hometown like ships at sea. my dad told my grandfather about us not talking. when i was home from school one weekend, granddaddy said, “i don’t care what he does, he’ll always be your father.” he was right. he didn’t tell me what to do, he told me the truth. and the truth always provides direction. that father’s day i went to daddy’s house with a gift…maybe some sandals. he thanked me and walked away. my brother came over and said, “i don’t know what you gave daddy, but he’s over there crying.” it was forgiveness.

on another weekend i was home, i pulled in gradaddy’s yard and when i stepped out the car he said, “i see you still kicking, just not that high.” i’m sure i had no idea what the hell he meant then. or maybe i was overthinking and that’s really all he meant. but knowing him, there was a deeper meaning.  maybe he saw the weight gain now that i was in the big town and could eat out at perkins at 1am if i wanted. he could have been talking about my 1989 chevy cavalier that was my mom’s but my brother had run into the ground (still a little salty bout that car)! or maybe somewhere he saw some sort of potential that wasn’t fully being used. that’s the beauty in wisdom; there’s no one meaning. whatever you do, throw a few high kicks in there to show em you still got it!

a boy who loves – j. darius greene

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