What is he like?
Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
26Trip End Oct 05, 2010
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Where I stayed
Cousin Robyn's House
I embark now to visit a cousin who knows my father well. Robyn is my first cousin as is my sister. My father and mother visited Betty Gibson during the early 1950's in DeWitt, Arkansas. Betty Gibson, my father’s sister had several children. My parents were childless at the time and wanted to relieve my father’s sister of the burden of so many children.
They took two kids home to Atlanta, Georgia. The oldest was named Thomas and the youngest was named Jean. The youngest was withdrawn and shy, while the older boy was full of energy. They named the girl Jean Marie Day. Her middle name was the same as my mother’s.
I was born about a year later. I grew up with my first cousin, Jean as my only and beloved sister
The boy, nicknamed by my father, Bunk, grew up as the eldest of 11 children. Robyn was one of his younger sisters. My parents divorced shortly after and my father moved to San Francisco, California. Unlike me, Robyn, as all of my California cousins grew up knowing my father. A conversation with Robyn will help prepare me for my talk with Dad.
Elk Next 65 Miles
I strike out for Phoenix, Arizona. Robyn now lives in Arizona. I traverse the remains of New Mexico seeking insight into my father. I see signs warning of elk in the area. I stop at a Honda dealer, to adjust the straps on the luggage rack. I bid good morning to an older gentleman. He is there to get his All-Terrain vehicle ready to hunt elk, north of Flagstaff, NM. The first signs announce "Elk for the next ten miles." Soon it was upgraded to “Elk for the next 65 miles”. I am fully alert to the idea of one of these creatures bounding out in front of Bonnie and me
I get to Flagstaff, NM and have not seen any elk. I am simultaneously disappointed and relived. I swing south onto I-17 from Flagstaff onward to Robyn. Everyone has advised me to be prepared for the desert heat of Arizona. I am dressed for the heat. It’s cold as hell this morning. When will I get toasted? I can’t bear the cold; it’s chilling me to the bone. I wisely defer the thoughts of desert heat and pull off the interstate to add layers of clothing. Navi rants about recalculating and I don’t care what she says, I’m getting dressed.
The brief stop was good to reduce my vigilance for elk. I put on more layers and Navi says to take Route 66. OK, ole girl, let’s do Route 66 a bit. I ride parallel to the interstate. The road is truly local. I see cattle, trailers, and it’s all from a two-lane highway. Now, if I were to get surprised by any elk, this is surely the road
I stop for lunch in Holbrook, NM. Robyn tells me later that a character from the TV Show about young black women sharing an apartment and relationships. One of the characters is from Holbrook. I don’t see any people that look like me. They had a Burger King though.
Feeling good from the lunch stop and properly dressed, I continue to move south. That morning the temperature was 54 degrees. As I approached Phoenix it was in the 90’s. When I was about 40 miles away from Robyn the temperature jumped to 108. I was burning up! With about 30 miles to go, I could feel the burning of the desert sun. This was not like any hot sun I ever felt before. The direct sun hurt. Why would anyone live in such a hostile place?
Uncle Jimmy Grew Up Without Love
Robyn’s welcoming was genuine and true. We had known each other during her college days in AtlantaSpelman College, like all of the women of my family. My maternal grandmother, great aunt, mother, sister, wife, and Robyn attended this prestigious school.
Robyn took me on a day trip to Sedona, NM. She drove and I rode shotgun. This day was filled with truths about my dad. He seldom gave Robyn or her siblings love. Why? His father, James Louis Day lost his wife birthing Robyn’s mother, Aunt Betty. This created all sorts of hurt. My father’s father went into a depression that lasted his entire life. The feeling of loss helped make my paternal grandfather a bitter man. The bitterness constantly slapped my father during his entire childhood. How can a child learn how to live in a happy household in a house that was motherless and emotionally crippled?
That ride to Sedona was beautiful and informative. The conversation with my first cousin revealed other events that shaped the manhood of my father. His need to be self-sufficient impacted his supporting or lack there-of for others. He held his sister’s children at a distance. He held me at an even greater distance.
The sights of the red colored mountains were spectacular. Robyn had chosen sights to humble me. Our return ride to Phoenix took me along the same route I had traveled to reach her, I-17. This time I was a passenger in her SUV. She knew these mountain roads. There were signs warning us of “Mountainous Curves.” I had taken heed and rode through with caution. Robyn zipped through those mountains like Speed Racer. I began to press an imaginary brake on the passenger side. I had not felt this helpless since I was a Fire Captain and someone else was doing the fast driving.
My eyes widened and I began to say aloud, “Wall! Wall!” Robyn did not hear my exclamations. She plunged ahead. I looked to the side and down for some sort of distraction. This was a bad idea. I had come through these same mountains the day before. I had concentrated on the road and the exit of each curve. I had not looked down. As they say, “Don’t look down!” I saw sheer drop-offs that made me dizzy. I am glad I had not looked down when I was on the bike.
I muffled my exclamations from my mouth to my sphincter. I did not want it said I screamed liked a white girl. I just gripped the passenger armrest and leaned with the curves.
We arrived back at her house and felt clearer about my father. We talked more and she was genuine in her support. I had Bonnie serviced. Her 8,000 mile service was one thousand miles over due. I also gave Bonnie new shoes. I had about one thousand more miles of good tread left, but where was I going to be a thousand miles from now?