Grandparents House

It is the  practice I have developed over the last several months to work until about an hour before fajr and then commit the time until prayer to reading and studying. I got four notebooks for four main areas of study and books that I associate with each notebook.

I say this because when people call me at 8 or 10 or even noon I tend to be knocked out and I am a very heavy sleeper ( I once slept through a shooting if that gives you any idea). Last night I asked my facebook friends to wake me up for fajr because presently I am in the home alone and normally have to be tortured to get up; but little did I know my longtime friend Shaheed from Kansas would be in town and wake me up even earlier than my requested noon wake-up call.

Since I had extra time after Shaheed woke me up before the one PM start to Jumma at Masjid Umar I decided to head out to my grandparents house.

Like a lot of Americans who grew-up in dysfunctional and broken-homes I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up. For millions of American children the grandparents are who holds things down when the parents are either out of the picture or too busy actin a damn fool to raise their kids.  I heard a youth worker recently talk about how with the younger generation a lot of the social problems are even worse because many of them do not have those strong grandparents to rely on because those grandparents who are boomers and younger a lot of times are in chaos themselves so cannot give the stability that the kids need.

When I was a kid my grandparents house was like an amusement park to me. I would often come their hungry and underfed and it was full of food and I could eat to my heart’s content. There was stuff to play with and I could watch whatever I wanted on TV; but the biggest prize for me was being able to hang-out with my grandpa.

As a kid I remember my grandpa as a strong sturdily built, ruggedly handsome, hard-working, blue-collar, tough guy who melted around his grandchildren. He would take me and my sisters to the horse races with him or out to get a milkshake at Steak n’Shake and would tell us stories of his time in the marines in World War II.

It was my grandfather, a former boxer, who got me into boxing. Indeed one of my earliest memories in life is waiting with my grandmother for grandpa and Uncle Jimmy to come home from watching the Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks fight ( which was huge in St. Louis because Spinks was a native of Da Lou). We have been watching the fights together ever since when I have been in town and sat together for some great fights like Haggler-Hearns, Pryor-Arguello,  Haggler-Leonard, the rise of Mike Tyson, Tyson-Dougglas, the rise of Roy Jones Jr. ,  Julio Cesar Chavez, Floyd Mayweather and more.

Neither of my grandparents attended high school. They grew up in the Great Depression and came from families who were in deep poverty even before that.  After returning home from  WWII my grandfather got a job at the old St. Louis Dairy downtown where he met my grandmother.

After only a few short months of courtship they got married in 1946. That was how it was then- marriage was the ideal and if you liked someone you got married. Today, it is the norm in America to “shack-up” and live in sin with someone for years and then maybe get married after you feel you have sewn every possible oat you may have. The courtships todays are long and the marriages tend to be short;  but if you look at my grandparents generation the countships tended to be short and the marriages long.

In the case of my grandparents they have been married since 1946 and have been there for better and worse. There have been times they have been flat-broke and times they have had money. Birthday parties for grandkids and deaths of children; but through all of this they have stuck together. Because they stuck together they were able to be a rock-solid foundation for the family. So, even when kids and grandkids were getting divorced, locked-up and you don’t even wanna know what else, we always knew we had a place to go and recover. As a kid no matter how bad things got in my home I knew that one day my grandparents would come by and maybe I could go and spend a few days with them and alhamdulilah one day I moved in with them.

One of the tragedies in our community today is that even in the Muslim community we marry and divorce like changing a shirt or buying a new pair of shoes. Brothers and sisters marry and divorce multiple times and little is thought of the consequences this has on children, grand-children, and the health of the Muslim community and Islamic Nation as a whole because it is a “me first” mentality.  Children become strangers to their fathers more often than not and that strong grandpa never gets a chance to be there for grandchildren of a child he barely knows and the consequence of a rash divorce lives on for decades and generations and that is why every divorce, and every separation of parents from a child, is a tragedy and should only be done in extreme circumstances. The fact that divorce has become the norm in our community, and even fashionable in some circles,  should disgust all of us.

Until very recently both my grandparents had both been very healthy; but today in their 80′s both are not doing well and Allah knows best how much longer we will have either one of them. It started when my grandmother fell and broke her pelvis and was bed-ridden for months and this through my grandpa for a loop. For 64 years my God-fearing Baptist grandmother had fussed over him and taken care of him and now in his late 80′s he had to learn to do stuff he had never done and as a result his health began to fail.

For the first time in my life I am dealing with drama without the aid of my grandparents who are dealing with their own issues. The bedrock of the family have become those that need to be taken care of. That means no more homemade pies from grandma on visits but us bringing her food. Such is the cycle of life Allah ‘SWT has created.   

When I look at my own children though I do feel a sense of sadness. My oldest daughter never got to know these great-grandparents of hers that meant so much to her father and my little baby girl may not even remember them when the time comes. Neither of my daughters have met either of my biological parents more than once or twice and will never get to know them. On their mother’s side my oldest bint is tight with the grands; but my little baby girl will never know her maternal grandpa because he died before she was born and only has one real grandparent to speak of that she will know and that is her grandma on her mother side.

I am sure my baby will be tight with her grandma and I pray that she benefits from the wisdom that grandma has to offer as an OG in the Muslim community; but not having a “Grandma and grandpa’s house” on either side and not being able to experience what I did from those visits makes me kind of sad.

All of the problems that we have as adults; divorce, violence, abuse, etc. live on for generations and have consequences for those not even born. Something for us all to think about.