By Mark Anthony Neal | NewBlackMan (in Exile)
Monday, December 23, 2013.
Ain’t no nuance about this—I wasn’t supposed to make it to 48, and none of the data would suggest that if I did make it to 48, that I would do o and thrive. The tale of a Black male, born and raised in working poor urban America, where if the random violence of the ‘hood didn’t catch us by age 18, then the heart disease, hypertension and still random violence would surely catch us by 50, is all too real.
I know I’m blessed.
But this ain’t a time for meekness.
If December 2, 2013 marks the end of my 48th year on this earth, I’m stomping into year number 49.
At 48, my father was recovering from a pedestrian accident that put him on his ass, yet not only did he fight back, he would only a few years later claim his greatest success, finally grasping a piece of his American Dream, co-owning a restaurant in Crown Heights—however fleeting it was. When MS claimed his mobility (but not his mind) during those final 15 years of his life, he lived with it on his own terms.
At 48, my mother had transitioned from the school lunch room to the classroom, with a Masters Degree in close view a few years down the road. She had achieved what her 16-year-old self would have never imagined, as she left her mother’s house in Baltimore and headed to New York City.
And at 48 my maternal grandmother, was just dusting off her heels, her life barely half over. The last day she walked the earth, she did so with five generations of her family walking the earth with her.
Damn a mid-life crisis.
In my mind a mid-life crisis is trying to write four or five books in the next decade, like I was a cat just coming into this game at 28.
A mid-life crisis is the reminder that at 48, John Hope Franklin was about to go to the University of Chicago, with a dozen authored and edited volumes ahead of him, including the memoir that he dropped at age 90 in 2005—and he still had the energy and the passion to tour in support of its publication, while still driving his Lexus around Durham. Bawse.
And that don’t mean that the fear of death ain’t real.
Some of the greatest minds that I knew—Aaronette White, Clyde Woods and “the R”—Richard Iton—passed away well before their times. Aging gracefully is about living with the stark reality of your own mortality.
But we stomping today…
“Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first And my thirst is the same as when I came”…
and as long as I can climb up into my mind and build and create, we ain’t nowhere near our peak.