The title of this piece isn’t being used rhetorically. I’ve chosen it because I invite you to ask yourself that same question. I’ve had many from what I might call minor in scope to music-in-the-background, Hollywood dramatic. This question recalls getting my driver’s license at age 16, graduating high school, going to college, and graduating, being diagnosed with cancer, and surviving these past 22 years, accepting Jesus as my savior, and last but certainly not least, taking a journey to Ghana West Africa.
I’ve been a strange child all my life. That assessment isn’t mine alone. I’ve attended more than one family reunion, where we sit around and talk about days of old, and my cousins would talk about how I was strange coming up as a kid. I wouldn’t participate in many of the childhood shenanigans many of them did. I would correct them whenever they exhibited behavior that didn’t seem appropriate. One thing I felt as a child was the need to assist my mom as much as I could. Being the oldest child, left with a mother and siblings, after my father died, what else was I supposed to do?
One thing I do remember experiencing at a very young age was the emotional and mental rumbling from the big question the haunts a lot of us: Whom am I? Of course, there was a second part to that question that came much later in life, after I graduated high school. That second part was why am I here? Now at seventy-two years of age, I’m still asking myself these questions, even though there has been a plethora of answers presented to me throughout the years. I think there’s been a certain fluidity to my existence that forces me to reexamine answers and solutions that may have been sufficient from time gone by. Sometimes these questions cause me to pause for what seems like inordinate amounts of time. For example, I’ve been quite for a while. It’s not that there hasn’t been plenty to write about; it’s been me overthinking, starting, and stopping in my mind until I convince myself that I have nothing to write about.
It’s been two years since I made the trip to Ghana with Chris, my cousin Hansel, his wife Martha, and my oldest child Felicia. I’ve written before about that trip. It was sole stirring at a level like nothing that has come across my life’s path. Hansel died early December 2022, two years after we made our trip. Martha told me recently that he was glad he made that trip. It meant a lot to him. It meant a lot to me, too. Our little delegation from our extended family made a “trip of return” to our Motherland. A trip that was thought never to be made at the time our ancestors were kidnapped and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. I recall looking out of the “Door of no Return” in Cape Coast Castle/Dungeon in Elmina, Ghana and thinking, “Oh yeah, here I am I’m back.” It’s always good to be back home, especially if the journey took four hundred years to make. It’s also good to have a since of being reconnected to a place you never thought you would be able to see.
Certainly, the experience of connecting with my God, was life-changing with hope and promises of a peaceful eternity. I also think my God wants me to experience all that I can during this leg of my journey to feel connected. Returning to Africa was a Godly blessing that affirmed that for me; a life-changing event that has changed my way of thinking about the world and my place in it.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.
I have no physical evidence for this conviction, but I firmly believe that we humans have a homing instinct. There are places we feel “right” or “whole” in and very often it turns out that we have ancestors from that place. I have written about this in my blog, with regard to a friend whose family tree I investigated, and I also discovered that although none of us knew it, my father returned to the area his ancestors came from, and spent the greater part of his life there. Not only that, but many of my ex-husband’s ancestors were Swiss, so it seems very fitting that my daughter and all my descendants are Swiss and living in Switzerland, not so very far from where the original 14th and 15th century families lived. I am so pleased for Hansel that he was able to visit Ghana and make the connection with the land of his fathers before he died. And for you, too, of course. Be abundantly blessed!
LikeLiked by 2 people
Incidentally, that is a lovely photo!
I read this post last night, and I have read it three or four more times today. I usually read a post only once and then move on to reading other posts. But in this case, I can’t seem to move past the deeply touching and relatable things that you have written here.
Although my percentage of Nigerian DNA is small, according to my genetic tests, I feel my African roots very strongly. I look like an Irish woman: pale skin dotted with freckles, green eyes, and white hair that used to be reddish blonde. But in my soul, I can feel the pull of my Black African ancestors. Oh how I would love to go to Africa!
I love to read autobiographies and memoirs. I recently finished reading Booker T. Washington’s ‘Up From Slavery,’ which was published in 1901. Now I am reading ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,’ which was published in 1845. These true stories written by former slaves make me feel ashamed of the Caucasian DNA that I carry. How could anyone be so hateful and horrible, to an entire race of people?
This quote, from Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, is a new favorite of mine:
I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.
As a woman who has overcome many huge obstacles in my life, this really hit home for me. Congratulations, sir, on all the obstacles that you have overcome. God bless.
Boy can I relate to your explanation of recent quietness: it’s been me overthinking, starting, and stopping in my mind until I convince myself that I have nothing to write about.
Reading your post made me reflect on what life changing events I’ve experienced. I’m not really sure I identify with many of those, although my mother’s flight from NYC to the “wild west” of Wyoming when I was barely 5 years old has to have been a life-altering event. I cannot imagine what my life would look like today, had I grown up in NYC.
I think next was perhaps my trip to Germany with my mother to finally meet family I knew only from Christmas gifts and aerograms. That was the first time I had felt connected to anyone else, as I didn’t feel connected in any way to my mother or sister. I had often wondered if I was adopted.
But that experience pales in comparison to your return to Ghana and especially the Cape Coast Dungeon. The thought brings chills to my skin. I honestly have nothing from which to draw a comparison or full imagination of the emotional impact this must have had upon you and your family. Thanks for sharing this experience with us as you have a few times in different ways in your blog.