It was the day after Halloween. All Saint’s day. But as far as Jermaine could see there were no saints to be seen within a very wide radius. The bite in the air had just snapped the coniferous leaves into their colorful reds, yellow and oranges. Change was in the air.
He was the son of one of Baltimore’s most famous African American Catholicism mavens. As such he had done his stint in the seminary and had almost taken his vows twice. But his love of the opposite sex, made the Chastity one a hard pill to swallow.
His mother had been the closest thing to a saint he had ever seen, but she was gone now, having recently passed on. She was a mentor to the communities youth and a pillar of all the things one could have hoped a church actually stood for. Since she was gone, things just felt a little different. Trips to the inner harbor and Aquarium were a little less fun. Crab cakes with Old Bay had a little less bite. Even the Ravens, on the top of their division, managed to lose their last game. Something just didn’t feel right in the air.
Jermaine had been know as “the piano man” amongst his confreres in the local community, for the skill at which he tickled the ivories, particularly the gargantuan pipe organ down at Saint Wenceslaus. His dexterity and soulful play, even garnered him the attention of many of the lady folk in his parish. Something he appreciated, but ultimately decided to steer clear of. His mother, Lucy, once told him “Don’t crap where you eat!”, which was about as vulgar as she was ever willing to get. But her words of wisdom rang true, and it would be awfully hard having a one night stand with a buxom beauty, only to regret it and see her in church next Sunday, in front of the strictly conservative community. It was best for him to keep his personal life elsewhere. The thing he hated most was how fake people seemed to be.
He had experienced this everywhere. From priests high up the provincial hierarchy genuflecting and kissing rings of Arch-bishops, only to talk smack about them when out of earshot. To gossiping housewives outing fellow parishioners infidelities, only to indulge in their own behind closed doors. It seemed to be a part of life in his community and the thing he disliked the most about his particular circle of society. He much preferred people to be honest, warts and all, and address their flaws, rather than finger pointing. It reminded him of another one of Lucy’s witty quips, ‘Whenever you point a finger at someone, remember there are four pointing back at you.”
If Jermaine was being honest with himself, he would have to admit to feeling a bit lost. Now in his early fifties he had experienced not one mid-life crisis but two, and was finally on the road to accepting his mortality. His mother’s death, excuse the pun, had been the final nail in the coffin to having that settle in for good. In fact all his friend’s parents of similar ages were dying. Was this it? Only thirty more years on this mortal coil? He’d tried to ignore his own personal nihilistic views. After all, Christianity had taught him of pearly gates and the reward of meeting old friends and family again. But just 30 more Halloweens, birthdays, Christmases? That’s it? The thought was sobering.
But just as the leaves on the trees in Patterson Park had once been green and vibrant, with life and chlorophyll teeming and coursing through their verdant veins, so had he. But like them too, it was now time to except change, embrace your true colors, and ultimately release one’s self to the reality of a dry and brittle demise.
If there was one thing that the music Jermaine was so fond of playing had, it was the spiritual connection. He didn’t know if he believed in angels with billowing feathered white wings floating over streets paved with gold, but he did believe in Spirit. It was something intangible, but definitely existed. He felt it every time the organs bellowed out, or Cissy Houston had came to visit and lead the choir into uplifting harmonies. Whatever that was, was real and far beyond the vessel known as the human body.
So today, he too, decided to embrace change. Not his lifestyle, or eating habits, and certainly not the manner in which he flirted with long-legged beauties. What he was going to change was his mentality. One of the last things Lucy had told him before she passed on was that, “The only thing constant, is change.” God that woman was painfully wise. He finally knew now what she meant. If one wanted not to be ill-at-ease for the reminder of one’s life, you would have to be willing to accept that nothing was in your control. The good times and the bad, were both passing. All you could do is try to enjoy the ride, and through final acceptance, true suffering would be alleviated.
And so, like many of his ancestors before him, Jermaine carried on. Luckily there were countless videos, in this day and age, of his mother Lucy, and he made a point of playing one every morning, so that he would not ever forget her voice, her laugh and her smile.
Sure the Orioles would struggle, not like in the Cal Ripken days, and the row houses would be continually gentrified. The inner city parishes would probably soon give way as the Province decided to spend more money on Oceanfront retreats rather than homeless shelters and soup kitchens where it was most needed. Jermaine would continue to get older. Each song was played with a little less vigor than the one before, as his hands slowly lost their battle with arthritis.
But he accepted it now, with love in his heart, out of respect for Lucy.