31 May 2008

Tribute to Theophilus Griffin

On May 5, 2008 my grandaddy, Theophilus Griffin, passed away at home. We believe it to be a heart attack. My granmom was there with him. By the time the paramedics arrived it was too late. He was two months shy of his 80th birthday and he died in his home with his wife of 59 years whom he had known for 67 years.

By all appearances and American standards my Grandaddy and Granmom for that matter were an amazing couple who achieved the American dream. And through all of our ups and downs I love them both very much and proud of what they represented in our American culture.

They were both college educated people. My Grandaddy graduated from Tennessee State University where he was a Q-dog Omega Psi Phi and a Jazz alto-Saxophone player. He even played jazz saxophone at Carnegie Hall. In high school he was president of his senior class. He was tall, about 6'2, very handsome and everyone loved him. Yes, he had lots of friends.

He married my GranMommy, a model and wonderfully creative woman, in 1949 and they had 4 lovely children. One daughter, my Mother, is the hippie/creative who taught me unconditional love, the middle daughter a debutant and medical student and the youngest daughter a groundbreaking beauty pageant queen, actress and Broadway dancer (42nd Street, Chicago, Cotton Club movie-only to name just a few) and the son became an electrician whose two sons will son be signed to major league baseball teams.

They played bridge often with their club. They belonged to the Epicureans. And I remember while growing up as a young child they would often host cocktail parties. They lived the quintessential upper-middle class lifestyle. For a Black American couple having been born in the late 1920's this was an achievement beyond measure.

My Grandaddy worked for Western Electric and then AT&T as a supervisor where he retired after 39 years. He was known as Mr. T. He wisely invested in land and stocks so that when he and my Grandmommy, a Registered Nurse, retired they moved to a 5 acre rural lot and enjoyed their remaining years together. They indeed lived the "good life".

My fondest memories of my Grandaddy was traveling around in his 1975 brown (his favorite colour) Lincoln Continental (his favorite luxury car which he returned to in later life even after having two Cadillacs) and watching him use his CB radio to communicate with truckers. He handle was Big T and I fancied myself as Little T.

I could go on and on about my Grandfather and Grandparents achievements in this world, they were numerous, but I will not belabor the issue. I'm proud of their accomplishments and what they represent in American society.

Thank you Grandaddy for leading your family the way you thought best. Thank you for not being afraid to be yourself. Thank you for not "selling out". Thank you for representing strength. Thank you for being you the only way you knew how. I love you.

I wish you well on your journey in the next world. I wish you well in the lessons you have learned, the love you have gained and where ever you will go to next. Yes, I too will be there after I live out my lot in this life.

Being with my family as we prepared for my Grandaddy's funeral was a very emotional time for me. I had so many issues and thoughts that needed resolving. After returning home there has been one song that I have been unconsciously singing for the past two weeks. That song is Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All.

As I drank my yerba mate that song came to me even stronger so I looked it up on YouTube. All I could do was cry as I watched Whitney belt out this beautiful and spiritually edifying song. The lyrics of this song are profound, they feed my soul, thank you Whitney.

I dedicate this song to my Grandaddy, Theophilus Griffin, and to myself, his granddaughter.

Learning to let go is one of the greatest lessons. Letting go of pain, of expectations, of worry and letting go of what you think is right or wrong.

Death is the greatest teacher of letting go.

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