I ran away from Baltimore when I was a teenager. I had to get out. The violence, vulnerability, and being “out there” was killing me.
My childhood was littered with makeshift homes; condemned buildings with plywood covered windows to keep the cold out or the heat from the gas lit stove in.
I was used to eating food out of trash cans.
Sleeping at a girlfriend’s house only to have her father slip into my bed.
Through it all I had one person who was there for me: my Uncle Jay.
Uncle Jay is a handyman and has had his own business since I can remember. He, by his example, instilled in me the value—and freedom—of being an entrepreneur. He is a master electrician, plumber, and carpenter.
When I fled Baltimore under the auspices of education, I left my family. All the pain of my childhood was in the marble steps of Heinemann Street; the steamed crabs smothered in Old Bay seasoning, and the three story high row houses of Baltimore.
I ran and did not look back.
This past weekend, I went back to Baltimore and took the opportunity to visit Uncle Jesse.
He looked like the picture in my mind of him when I was a teen.
Then I saw it.
I saw it in his hands first.
Then his eyes.
Then his jaw.
Uncle Jesse was old.
I don’t mean in years as much as life.
Life had aged him.
His joy was gone.
I heard his heart weeping for his deceased daughter. He weeps on the inside when we talk about her. I weep visibly for them both.
I saw the sadness in his drooping cheeks from feeling like people, family, didn’t see all he had done for us.
I felt the labor of his breath as he talked about the loss of his sight, and the loss of his car.
His lack of a vehicle is where his voice breaks.
The breaking of his voice breaks my heart.
I tend to him.
I speak life over him.
I let him know he is not just my uncle.
He is my father. He is ALL of our fathers; the lost kids in the neighborhood who didn’t have a daddy.
He saved my life when a gun was put to my head.
He helped Nanna get me off the streets.
He sent me money when I needed it most—without me having to ask.
I realize being with Uncle Jesse, and other members of my birth family, something profound and raw.
When I “got out” of Baltimore, I threw away my family.
The fear and damage was so strong, I left it all behind, in order to survive. Looking back now, I can see I threw out the baby with the bath water. I also can see that the choice to stay away was attached to fears of retaliatory attack. I couldn’t chance it. My mental and emotional stability was too fragile to gamble with.
I helped out when I could with essentials like a washer and dryer, or a new bed, or funeral arrangements. I watched from afar and received updates from my baby sister.
I have beautiful nieces and handsome nephews (WHO KNOW ME!!!) my sister, cousins, and friends! I had conflated them all with the violence acted out on my body in Baltimore. I left it. No. I left them all behind.
Not any more.
I am not certain what God wants me to do. I just know that it truly IS good to go back home.
I had a gift made for Uncle Jesse: a bracelet with his three children’s names on it, including his deceased daughter. It was for Father’s Day but arrived weeks late. I put it in the mail today.
I’m reaching out to one of my nieces to help Uncle Jesse to schedule his appointments, (the elderly get ignored without someone advocating for them in person) and get him to and from the eye doctor for his cataract eye surgery.
I’m getting him a truck. He didn’t ask for it. But when I took him to look at trucks, he started to act like a little kid! He doesn’t want anything fancy. He wants a used old truck. Something to put his tools in, “just get around” and he can fix if it breaks down.
He and Happy bonded!
I dressed Happy up—tie and groomed—to meet his Uncle! It was love at first sniff! They took to each other. It was beautiful seeing them play and laugh. My heart was full with joy by witnessing their joy.
Walking Happy and driving through Baltimore, I wasn’t afraid anymore. If anything, I felt a fondness for certain places. Nostalgia washed over me when I saw the graveyard me and my brother, Tory, run through when chased home by bullies. The various streets, locations, and smells in East Baltimore, held no emotional or physiological charge.
I could not have done this before now. It has taken over 30 years to go back home, I’m afraid. I don’t begrudge the time. It takes time to break generational curses and heal historical trauma passed down.
The time away has equipped me to love without fear and to live without regret. So I thank God for my walk, my life. I embrace it all.
God sent me home to realize three things:
—how much I have grown
—how much I can contribute
—how much I have healed.
I have nieces and nephews who welcome my wisdom and knowledge. Some of them are entrepreneurial!
This excites me!
I can now see a clear path of no longer being the only millionaire in my birth family.
It’s not about the money.
It’s about transforming the emotional and economic trajectory of my birth bloodline.
I thank God for removing me from my childhood environment so I could come back whole.
It’s miraculous what healing can do.
Because I’m healed, I can help.
Because I’m healed, I can hear and feel love.
Because I’m healed, I can go back home.
It’s good to go home.