“Papá, wake up I’m late for school” I said. He didn’t wake up. This isn’t the first time he slept through his alarm but he’s going to be late for work. He usually wakes me up for school and makes breakfast for me in the morning.
“Papá come on wake up” I said a little louder. He still didn’t wake up. I wonder what I have to do to wake him, he’s a very heavy sleeper like a grizzly bear hibernating.
I grabbed the blankets he was covered with and ripped them off of him knowing this should wake him up. “Papá! Papá! You’re going to be late for work!” I said almost yelling. He still didn’t wake up.
My stomach started to turn. I grabbed his hand and it was cold. “Papá?” I said worriedly. “Papá wake up! It’s time to wake up!” I said, shaking him.. and nothing. He didn’t wake up.
“PAPÁ PLEASE, PAPÁ WAKE UP”
I open my eyes to see the familiar room of my grandmother's spare bedroom. I had another bad dream of the worst day of my life. I look over to my left and see my favorite cousin Kiyana sleeping in the twin bed next to mine. I look at my phone and it’s 6:23 am, I decide to go take a shower before anybody else does. Today is going to be a long day.
As I walk out the bathroom I head to my room and set my bathroom caddy on the nightstand next to my bed.
“Goodmorning NiNi” I turned around and it’s my grandmother.
“Goodmorning G” I said as I sat down. All of her grandkids love to call her GG or G.
“Do you want to help me make breakfast?” G said. I shook my head yes and followed her out the door and into the kitchen.
As I got to the kitchen I saw eggs, sausage, shrimp, grits, a can of biscuits and stuff to make French toast sitting on the counter. One thing about G she gon make sure everybody eats.
“Alexa play A long Walk by Jill Scott” G said while getting the skillet out for the bacon. My father loved Jill Scott, he swore if he ever got a chance to meet her she would marry him and I would laugh every time her song came on and he would sing his heart out. I started on the French toast while G Was working on the bacon and sausage.
As I was finishing the French toast I grabbed some aluminum foil and put it over the big plate of French toasts, I promise this plate could feed a small village, as I was wrapping the plate G said “NiNi go get the twins so they can eat before these grown teenagers come and eat all the food” with a chuckle.
“Yes ma’am” I said and walked down the hall to the bedroom next to mine, I opened the door and saw the babies on a twin bed.
I looked to the right and saw auntie Mo on another twin bed and her oldest Mikey on an air mattress on the floor. I make it to the bed without making a sound and grab Jonathan first and the diaper bag, I walk him to the living room and lay him on the couch then I grab Janae and do the same. I tried to change their diaper before they could wake up but as I was changing Jonathan, Janae woke up pouting. The Twins are almost 2 and full of life and so smart. I made a plate of grits and chopped up eggs, bacon and sausage and I fed them. Jonathan loved everything while Janae was very picky and only ate the eggs.
While I was finishing up feeding the babies, a few of my cousins walked in the living room and the kitchen smelling the breakfast from their rooms.
“GOOD MORNING MAMA! THAT FOOD SMELL GOOD GIRL” said uncle Jay.
Uncle Jay is the oldest of the children then it’s auntie Mo, auntie Kelly then my father and uncle Jay damn near raised my father, they were so close. There's like a 10+ year difference and he’s my favorite uncle. He looks just like my father and it hurts to look at him sometimes but it gives me a sense of peace as well. Kiyana is his only daughter and she is about 1 year younger than me. I know that doesn’t make too much sense but my father had me at 17 and my uncle had Kiyana when he was about 34-35. I think it’s crazy because I’m the oldest out of 11 grandchildren, me and my grandmother I believe are the closest since me and my father lived with her for the first 7 years of my life and she has been the most amazing grandmother/mother ever.
“Boy I ain’t no girl I’m a grown ass woman” G said with an attitude.
Everything seemed like it was going in slow motion, everybody was talking to one another and joking. I couldn’t seem to laugh, nothing about today is fun. My family isn’t here for a family reunion.. this gathering isn’t joyful like it usually is. Today is my fathers funeral and everybody stays at G’s house for times like this so our family can be there for one another.
“Ma when is the funeral over I have plans tonight” said auntie Kelly as she rushed into the kitchen. G looked at her like she lost her mind.
“Have you lost your damn mind?” G said. She looked like she was about to slap the black off her.
“Me and my home girls going out tonight, this sad shit in the house is too much for me” auntie Kelly said. I just rolled my eyes because I have no energy for her bullshit today.
“Are you serious right now Kelly? YOUR brother died. MY son died. Your niece is sitting over there on the couch and lost the only parent she has left and YOU can’t handle it? You are selfish and inconsiderate to your family and you need to check yourself before you step foot in that funeral home. Do I make myself clear?” G said sternly. Auntie Kelly is not really favored by the family but it’s her fault. My fathers dad cheated on G and started a whole new family with that woman and when auntie Kelly turned 11 she begged, cried and pleaded everyday to live with her father. It was too much for G to see her child like that so she let her love him and ever since then she’s acted like she’s better than her other siblings because her dad had money and she was the only one living with him. She barely visits and when she does it’s always a shit show, she has 6 kids and I love when they get to visit we always have so much fun and they’re nothing like their mom. Melanie she’s 13, Jamal he’s 12, Tyson is 9, Donte is 8, Ashanti is 6, and Demarcus is 5.
It’s 9:17am and the funeral starts at 2, everybody has started to take showers and get ready. I walk to my room and I pull my dress out of the closet, it’s navy blue that’s our favorite color. I take my bonnet off and my twist out flops against my neck. I grab my grapeseed oil and rub it on my hands evenly then I unravel my twist one by one and pull them apart, the shrinkage is real. I grab a pick to give volume and do something simply to my edges. I then slip in the dress and I zip up the back of the dress. The dress is knee length nicely fitted, not skin tight, it has a navy blue sheer scarf-like cloth draped in the back of the dress. I had silver shoes to match and headed downstairs to the living room.
I get to the living room and the younger kids are running around all dressed up.
“NiNi baby, grab KiKi and warm up the car for me” G said.
I grab my coat and find Kiyana and we step outside and the cold Atlanta weather hits my face. We hurried to the car to start it up, I saw some people rushing to their cars to warm theirs up as well. While we were waiting we played iMessage games.
G and uncle Jay walked to the car, I’m assuming everybody is in their cars and we’re about to leave. My stomach sank when we backed out of the driveway.
As it seems like forever in this car ride the closer we get to the funeral home my heart is beating faster, my breathing becomes heavier and my body is slightly shaking. I don’t know what’s going on.
“Dad! Something’s wrong with Mani” Kiyana said nervously.
Uncle Jay turned to look at me, l “Kheumani! Are you good? What’s wrong?” He said frantically. My breathing got worse.
“Kheumani breathe! In! *inhale* out! *exhale* Come on Mani! In! *inhale* out! *exhale* there you go breathe” uncle Jay said. My breathing slowly started to get better. I don’t know if I can do this, I can’t see him like that again. Touching his cold lifeless body.. we just pulled into the parking lot.
I don't think I can do this.. I can’t..
“Mani, I'll stay with you the whole time,” said Kiyana.
“For real?” I said almost in tears.
We get out of the car and walk into the building and there’s a big open hallway with double doors leading to the room. My heart is beating so fast as we approach the doors. There’s an aisle with benches on each side and at the end there is his.. his c-casket. I can’t breathe, nothing about this is right, my chest hurts, I’m starting to lose feeling in my legs, tears falling on my face. I can’t live without him, I just can't because he's all I got. This isn’t real.. It's just a dream. A horrible and terrifying dream. I sit at the last bench furthest away from him, the room is filled with friends and family that loved him and he was truly loved and will be missed.
After the funeral we headed back to G’s house and everybody was there, old heads started grilling and G and her sisters were in the kitchen making sides and desserts. A lot of the family is outside or in the living room but I decided to change clothes, lay in my bed and listen to Jill Scott till I fall asleep.
“NiNi baby wake up” G said gently nudging me. “You need to eat baby, here’s a plate of food and I brought you a water and your favorite juice”
I sat up all groggy, it’s dark outside I’m assuming it’s kind of late and everybody from the funeral is gone. I take a sip of water and take the food plate from G. There’s ribs, greens, Mac n cheese, and my G’s famous yams that melt in your mouth.
“Thanks G, smells so good” I said with a small smile.
“When you're finished with all that, come to the kitchen I got a special dessert for you” G said with a smirk.
“You made Turrón!” I said excitedly. Turrón is a traditional dessert in Spain that consists of honey, egg whites, sugar and toasted almonds. G usually only makes it for my birthday or Christmas, I'm more than excited that she made it early since Christmas is a few weeks away. I’ve always wanted to visit Spain because that is where my mother is from, she lives in Barcelona with the other side of my family. I don’t know much about her, her name is Catalina Garcia-Benavides. I know she’s tall with tan skin and has long dark brown curly hair. My father says she has a face similar to Mina El Hammani. All the pictures they ever took together she took them with her to Spain. I've never seen her in person or pictures. My mother moved to the states with her aunt so she could get an education here, then she met my father in high school and had me at a young age. My dad told me that she didn’t want to disappoint her parents by having a child before marriage so she gave birth to me then left me with my father and moved back to Spain. She never tried contacting us, I don’t even know what she sounds like and I doubt I ever will.
I walk to the kitchen to see my favorite thing, I take a bite of the white brittle and there’s that familiar crunch when you bite into it. It’s so sweet and rich and my favorite part is the roasted almonds. I take a few pieces and I head back to my room where Kiyana is laying in her bed.
“Kiy you want a piece?” I asked her.
“Is that the Turrón stuff G makes?” She said,
“Yes, she made a few different ones. I think this one has caramel drizzle” I said as I handed it to her.
“Mani guess what” she said waiting for me to guess but I just looked at her. “We get to go to school together. Dad said we’re going to move in with G” she said with a big smile.
“Wait really? G really said y’all could live here?” I said happily. Kiyana is the closest thing I have to a sister and same for her, we’ve always wanted to live together and we promised when we got older we would get our own apartment together. Kiyana is close to the same height as me, roughly 5’7”. Beautiful dark skin and tight coily hair, everybody thinks we look alike but we don’t see it. We typically have the same build but she's thicker than me.
“Yes, when everybody goes home I get the room next to yours” she said with a smile. As we sit there for a few hours and talk about our room designs and all the things we’re going to do when school starts again, we turn the lights off and fall asleep.
“JAYSON! Come here. No this can’t be right, read this what does that even mean!”
I wake up to what it seems like G is yelling at my uncle from the kitchen. I wonder what’s going on.
“Jayson, tell me that’s not her” G said. It sounds like she’s confused and upset.
“Mama calm down” said auntie Mo.
“It looks like this is from the court house.” Said uncle Jay.
Courthouse? What’s going on? Why do they all sound confused? I started to walk down the hall slowly so I could hear better.
“On behalf of the Georgia courthouse, considering the reason for the death of DeAndre Michael Carter, Catalina Garcia-Benavides has the legal right to have custody over the child, Kheumani Amada Carter.” Uncle Jay said.
My mother? M-my m-mother? I don’t understand.
“G?” I said. Everybody turned to look at me in shock. I’m scared because does this mean I get to meet her?