Michael Jackson has died. Michael Jackson, originally from Gary, Indiana…part of”The Region” where many of the Scribe clan still resides. Where me and my family and extended kin will be traveling in a couple days to attend a funeral. My heart is broken at the loss of an aunt who was more like a big sister. She was also a Jackson, and her first born was even a Michael. To my knowledge, no relation to the famous Jacksons also of Gary.
This is not something I can talk about right now. It is easier to talk about how bizarre it is for the King of Pop to have died this same week. It is easier to talk about how hard it is for me to go back to Gary. The Gary of today is not how I remembered it as a child. As the suburban kid with the long braids, who “talked like a White girl.” Gary and East Chicago meant freedom. Freedom to roam the streets to buy “Now’r Laters” and purple pop from the corner store and to build forts in the parking lot. To learn cheers and jump rope rhymes and new dances from the cousins and the neighborhood kids.
Gary was alive.
Now to see Gary is to see a case study of a politician’s or academic’s lament about what happens when work and brain power and youth and stability leaves a community. It is hard to go back to Gary after long stretches away because of the image of the old Gary still in my mind. It is better to hold onto the fantasy than to get on with the work of grieving and moving forward.
Cities, unlike the physical bodies of people, can come back to life after death or near death. Right now, even as I write these words of Gary’s lifelessness, there are people and organizations working to improve The Region. Hopefully I will see proof of this Monday as I ride through the streets on my way to the church or the cemetery.
I can still hear my aunt’s laugh, and the last stories that she told echo in my head. I had thought about taking pictures the last time she was here at my house, just days before her death. But I was having too much fun just relaxing and laughing and listening to the tall tales and relating my own. I figured, now that we all lived in the same city, there would be other opportunities to take pictures.
I was wrong.
Yet, I am glad that I spent the time just being together. I took pictures and videos with my mind, and they will never be lost.
Michael Jackson has died. An important part of my childhood. My aunt has gone, and we will take her home to Gary. She will never truly be gone.