By Joseph Heru Cook
Little Cory, when I first started writing you, I didn’t know where to start and when to end. There’s not a lot to be written to a six-year-old, so I decided to write you a few sentences in big bold words that covered half of the whole page. I kept it simple beginning with how I hope you were remaining a good son, brother, and student, then ending it with how much I missed and loved you. Simple! Our talks have been simple. The only thing you ask of me is to send you bead work and cards, which is the least that I can do. I find joy in providing you with gifts; you find happiness in receiving the gifts. We bring each other joy and happiness; allowing us to be gifts to each other.
Cory something you don’t know about me is that I meditate in the early mornings. Sometimes I meditate on Proverbs by King Solomon, a passage by Confucius, or words of warmth and wisdom by Susan Taylor. It helps. For that moment I’m focusing all of my energy into understanding life and me more so that I can become a better person. Some days I don’t heed the advice that I started the day off with and make mistakes that could have been avoided, that’s a part of life though. Certain things we read may be good for us but we have to grow into it. Other times, we are there mentally but don’t have the emotional discipline and the will power to follow through. Be that as it may, I either heard or read somewhere that it’s good to meditate on people that bring us joy. You, your big brother, and sister, came to my mind. So I tried it!
Usually I begin my morning with stretching, reading, then meditating on what I read. Now instead of reading words from a wise grown up, my angel Shanyah, my prince Trevon, and you Cory my soldier become my focus point. I use this energy as my early morning center with the hope that it will become my compass for the continuation of the day. During my meditation I never think about the questions you’ve asked me: “Joe why are you in prison and when are you coming home?” I replied, “in 14 more years.” Then you asked, “how old will you be?” I responded, “42.” “Well how old are you now?” I reply, “I’m 28.” “How come you haven’t asked them to let you come home?” “I have, they won’t let me.” During this phone call you didn’t ask me about my case, or about my past; the ugly side which you don’t attach to my image, a side of me and a side of life that’s too evil and too serious for you to understand. But nothing in the dark is safe so on another phone call you pry open a closed door a little more.
“Joe where you at?” and I reply, “at the same place I was before.” “You at home Joe?” “No Cory.” “You at home Joe, you at my momma’s house?” I’m wondering what you are talking about and I am becoming angry and embarrassed due to my situation. However, you’re so excited. “Joe, you at my momma’s house? I see my momma’s number on my caller I.D.!” Shamela speaks up. “We called you on three-way.”
“Three Way! Mama you know how to do three-way?,” you asked, then screamed to your father, “Daddy mama know how to do three-way!” Your mother and I giggle. She checks on your safety, and we click you off the line. Later on I tell myself, “Cory may not understand prison, but he understands I should be at home, he understands this isn’t normal and should be questioned. As long as he understands that, for right now he understands enough.”
But your curiosity isn’t satisfied. You have to make sense out of my strange predicament, and on a different occasion your mother hands you the phone and out of no where you ask: “Joe why are you in prison?” “Damn he won’t let it go,” I think to myself. I’m instantly hurt, not because you asked, but because of what I did. When you asked me this question, feelings of not being a wholesome part of your life and in our family sweeps through me. “Cory you are too young to understand. How old are you?” “Six” “I’ll tell you when you are older. Is that cool?” “That’s cool.”
I’m glad your mother left me with the responsibility of telling you. Cory, this was the hardest question anybody asked me in a while. I don’t know why, but that side of me I expected to keep silent on. I didn’t want your image of me to change. I wasn’t ready to tell you then, and I won’t tell you now, but listening to your Mother’s Day response gave me assurance that when the time comes you will be ready. Our Mother’s Day moment brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. It started off that morning after I asked your mother what did the kids give you for Mother’s Day and she said, “It’s a regular day. They gave me hugs and kisses.” Knowing everything your mother’s been through; how hard she is working and her vision for a better future for you all, I was angry that more wasn’t given to her on this day; that she wasn’t honored on this day, and from her response, I don’t think she felt like she even deserved anything.
She’s just doing what she has to do; nothing special is how she thinks. But motherhood is special. It’s beautiful. So after talking to her I called Trevon and asked him, how come he didn’t give his mother anything for Mother’s Day? He tells me he spent up all his birthday money. I let him know that everything isn’t about money. What Shamela wants is respect, to feel appreciated and acknowledged for her hard work. I tell him he could have written her a poem.
My mother suggested he could have cleaned up around the house. I told him we are doing something for you alls mother. I explained to Trevon, “We are going to do a spoken word exercise for Shamela. We will begin with, “Mama I love you because… and fill in the rest.” I gave him an example, told him to explain it to you all and he did. You guys put on speaker phone and we began: “Shamela, since we didn’t give you anything for Mother’s Day we offer you words from our hearts.”
I started; “Shamela, I love you for never giving up on yourself or us; for being strong, beautiful, and independent.” Trevon goes and paraphrases my words, Shanyah goes and I can’t fully hear her low soft girlish voice. You and your spunk shine through, “I love you mama because sometimes your hair is beautiful and sometimes your hair is ugly.” Everybody erupts with laughter. Later on in my solitude, I think to myself: “Cory knows something about life. He knows how to love because of the ugly and the beautiful parts in us which makes us human.” I said to myself, “when the time comes you will understand Cory.” You will understand and love me because of my beautiful and ugly sides.”