a letter from otis.

james earl jones in  fences.

james earl jones in fences.

Rest in Peace to my cousin Don.

this story is fiction.

dear jeremiah,

my boy, you’re just like me. you’re stubborn as a mule already, just like your old man. that is what i fear. i remember the first time you saw me drunk. before then, i was perfect in your eyes. whenever you looked at me i could see you studying me. you watched my every move but you didn’t know my baggage until then. i expected tears to flow or a face of surprise because you’d never seen me in that state. instead you looked up at me in disappointment. my life has been a continual disappointment for those who have claimed to love me, but the hurt i felt. i wasn’t myself that night. after i put you to bed, i forced myself to sleep hoping that you wouldn’t remember in the morning. you didn’t forget and i could never bring myself to say “sorry.”

i don’t plan for your mother to explain to you my side of the story, nor should she. its not her fault i’m no longer here. only a miracle worker could save me. i was a fool for placing that responsibility on her shoulders instead of my own. when you’re old enough, you’ll have to take care of her. your mother is tough, tougher than i ever was but she needs what we all need. love. if another man is willing to step into the shoes i could never fill, let him. even though she is tough, she is also compassionate and maybe even to her detriment. i took advantage of compassion because receiving love was new to me. when you meet a good woman, recognize it and don’t take her for granted. be a gentleman when called upon and a protector when its necessary. this life wasn’t meant to lived alone. i know because i tried. 

i didn’t grow up to be the man that i wanted to be. my dreams were shattered, my heart was broken, but i never lost my pride. before we were able to have shit in this country, we had pride. i pray that you stand on your pride. when life gets you down, because inevitably it will, keep your head up and your back straight. if you take a beating, you take it like a man. you’re young, you don’t experience the world that way, but you will.

this isn’t a farewell. we will meet again in a different place under different circumstances. i’ve written you this letter because i want to request something of you. i’m not in a position to make demands, so it is a request. i request that you be better than me. i don’t expect you to be perfect because no one on this earth is. its okay to make mistakes but you must atone for them. understand that you’re worthy of forgiveness but only if you ask for it with pure intentions. when the doctor’s placed you in my arms, i cried. it was the first time i’d cried in years. you stared up at me and you smiled. what had i done to deserve such a blessing? God had granted me a second chance.


your father, 

otis.

Kelvin Hicks