cago. They went on to give me contacts at both and advised me that the costs for the trip were already covered. I just needed to get there. I called the airlines. Chicago had a flight leaving at 1:30 a.m. A non-stop drive from Springfield to Chicago was at least three hours. Maybe I could make it. But the flight was not direct and at best it would be 8 a.m. before I landed in Lexington. I told them no thank you. I would drive. I hung up and ran towards the door. Then I realized that I had left my wallet. I ran back into the kitchen to grab my wallet and I started to run again when I stopped and knelt down at the phone stand and started to pray. When I got up, I called Mary and told her that we could drive. Thirty minutes later, Mary, our son Kwame and daughter Aisha were making the six hour drive to Lexington. On arrival, we walked through the packed emergency waiting room. More than 60 students from Joi’s school, Kentucky State University, the school’s chaplain, the school’s chief of police and the dean of students were in the waiting room. There was no time to talk. I went straight back to the exam room and saw my Joi, laying there like the angel she is. RUNT 82 It’s hard to believe that a decade has come and gone since that April Monday when Joi’s one-car traffic accident ended her life on earth. She was not drinking. No drugs. Seat belt buckled and cell phone off. In fact, she was filled with joy. Joi and seven other student representatives from KSU were returning from a weekend retreat for Historically Black Colleges and Universities at Alabama State University. The accident occurred less than a half mile from the school’s main gate. Joi’s friend, Alicia, said Joi was on fire from a side trip they had taken to a church in Birmingham. They had gone to dinner off campus to share and fellowship and were returning when the accident happened. Alicia said Joi was moving to the left lane to turn. She told her to slow down and noticed Joi was looking straight and not responding. We think she may have had a seizure. Joi was driving her 2001 burgundy Chevy Nova with the vanity plates “RUNT 82.” Runt was the nickname her mother gave her and she cherished being called “runt” but only by her mother. 1982 was the year she was born. Joy was the baby. The last of our four children—two girls (Aisha and Joi) and two boys (Malcolm and Kwame).
I knew that I was angry but I had to deal with the fact that I was angry with God.
The car could have been named Joy for the fool I had acted in the bursar’s line that past August. During Joi’s freshman year, half of her education was paid by scholarships and grants. The other half was Dad paid. KSU allowed monthly payments. At the beginning of Joi’s sophomore year, she and I stood in line for 45 minutes with parents and students waiting to pay our bill. When we finally made it to the window, I had my check boo k out, waiting for a final amount so that the monthly payments could be set up. The honey brown-skinned sister with fly hair and nails that quickly click clacked over the computer key board said, “Where would like the remaining $400 dollars to go?” I was baffled and said “I’m here to make arrangements. I don’t want to leave and get a bill later.” My remarks were met by one of the strongest neck circular motions that I believe any woman has ever attempted and executed. Tapping her pen, she asked me who was on the money side of the counter. She went on to tell me that Joi’s every expense, including books, had been paid and there was $400 left. “Now, where do you want it to go?” I began yelling multiple “thank you Jesus” for this blessing and folks in line laughed and shared my joy. But Joi said, “Hold on, buddy. Your blessing is having a daughter that that can make you so happy. Now you can bring me a car and not your 10-year old Pontiac.” Behind that rebuke every parent in the room roared. I bought her a 2001 burgundy Chevy Nova. Tears and Anger When Joi died, I didn’t sleep for eight months. It was frightening because I wondered how long I could live without sleep. I would come in at night after work, sit down on the couch and literally stare at the television, but the television would be off. I hated when people brought food. I was a guy who would not waste a bread crumb. After serving in the military in Vietnam and seeing incredible poverty and being the son of a father who grew up during the Depression, I valued food and didn’t want to just throw it away. What do I do with all this food? I froze some of it and I ate most of it. I ended up gaining about 50 pounds. My blood pressure went crazy. I would cry on the way to work every day. When I got to work, I would sit in the parking lot and cry before gaining my composure enough to go into work and immerse myself. I was bureau chief of the hotline. I was already a workaholic before Joi died. I just became more of a workaholic after her death. This went on for months. I was the superintendent of Sunday School and a deacon at my church. I knew I was off base when a Sunday school teacher didn’t show up one Sunday and I went to the class to teach the lesson and I didn’t know what the lesson was. It was Easter Sunday. I told the pastor that I needed to be gone for a while. I stopped going to church. All of my bibles and books gathered dust. At work, there was a lady named Troi. One day she approached me and asked if we could talk. We went to the cafeteria. I didn’t know her 15 Winter 2012 / The Well Magazine