We walked hand in hand down Wright Avenue headed toward her home after a visit to the Five & Dime. I treasured my visits with Grandmom. Her hand was gnarly and warm, securing me somehow in decades of wisdom and life lived that I would not understand for many decades of my own. I guess on some level I knew her street of row homes was unsafe now, that her longtime homestead where she raised her family had become a place that sold dark—filled with poverty, broken families, addictions, violence, racial tensions, and a lack of hope.
But when Grandmom walked down that street, heads of all colors looked up and spoke reverently: “Hi, Mrs. H!”
And her response? She’d know them by name and say: “Hey, Willis, how is your mother doing?” She showed them respect.
From what I remember, she absolutely felt confused and disheartened by the changes on her street—maybe at times even a little scared (she’d been mugged twice in her elder years). But she absolutely chose to stay, to not tremble or cower, and…
As we started approaching a scene of a young teen couple arguing, and the boyfriend was punching his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach, I remember my grandmother not shying away from it. She didn’t move to the other side of the street. She walked us right past them. I honestly can’t recall if she had words in those moments or not. She may have. But as she approached, the Light of Christ she carried with her was enough to settle down the violence going on. He looked as though he had been caught in something and wore a look of shame. I had never seen anything like it. I was not more than a 10 year old child at the time, but
that scene has never left me.
I have no idea what happened after we passed. He could have gone after my grandmother for witnessing that, but he didn’t. He could have justified his own behavior by continuing to beat his girlfriend. I really don’t know. What I do know is that he could not keep offending when my grandmother was on the street.