Crime, family

Holding Onto My Boy

By Bob Meadows

I won’t let him fall

His name was Delric Miller. He was killed in February. He was 9 months old.

Amid the hoopla that surrounded the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Delric’s death was lost. But let’s face it, even had Trayvon not been gunned down by a white man, George Zimmerman, Delric still wouldn’t have merited too many headlines. He was black and he died in a spray of Detroit gunfire. The local papers ran some nice stories and surely the TV stations were there to capture the grief.

But Delric did not make the cover of People magazine. Marches weren’t held on the grounds where he died. Spike Lee didn’t tweet the wrong address for his killer.

In fact, no one even knows who killed Delric. Or, more likely, no one is coming forward. The baby was shot during a drive-by while sleeping on the couch in his home. I imagine his killer is not a strong reader, but I’m sure he watches TV. So he knows he killed a baby. Is that knowledge enough to endlessly haunt his waking and sleeping hours? I hope so. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the man who shot up the house—you can be certain it was a man—is already dead. He lives a life of violence, the kind that says it’s OK to fire bullets into someone’s home. He’s destined for a mean death.

Not as mean as Delric’s though. What was Delric dreaming as he lay on that couch? What did he think when the bullet hit him? Did he have time to feel pain, to gasp one last breath? Did he know what was happening to him, that he was dying?

I think of Delric often. Nine months old. He was probably just learning to crawl, just eating solid foods, maybe passing Cheerios from hand to hand, dropping them before he could get them to his mouth. Then he’d look around, wondering where his edible toy had gone. Maybe he was just starting to experience separation anxiety, but had a laugh, a giggle, that people would pay to hear. I like to think Delric was thinking about all the people he loved and how, when he awoke the next morning, he would take in his surroundings then share a smile that stopped time.

His abrupt end reminds me of a Neil Gaiman comic book where Death, personified as a young, happy-go-lucky woman, collects a baby. When the baby sees Death, it says “But…is that all there was? Is that all I get?” Death smiles and says, “Yes, I’m afraid so.” I would think Delric asked the same question. He was born, he lived, he died. A lifetime. But way too short.

My son is 9 months old now. He is just learning to crawl, just eating solid foods, passing Cheerios from hand to hand before dropping them. He is my heart. I wasn’t unmoved by Trayvon’s death, it was simply that Delric’s short life, which ended when my only child was still a newborn, hurt my soul.

I recognize that no wisdom I share can save my son from a wannabe cop who has his finger on the trigger or a spray of bullets fired in the middle of the night. But I’ll give it my best shot. Don’t lie, son, don’t steal, and if you accidentally bump into anyone or step on someone’s shoes, say excuse me and keep it moving. If someone does it to you, keep your head.

Once, I prayed for 10 fingers and 10 toes. My prayers for my son are more complex now. But they always—always—include this: safety.

© 2012 The Peoples News

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