The Inkognegro is a former Political Consultant and staffer from Pittsburgh, who now lives in Fort Worth, TX with his wife of 3 years and his two sons during the summers. He blogs @ Inkognegro 1.75 and is currently racing his mother for a Bachelor's degree. His mother is winning.
Through no accident of the cosmos, I found that in burying my maternal grandmother I had witnessed a seamless evolution in our culture before my very eyes.
I was provided with a front row seat in the world of Single Parenting as it has evolved through the latter half of the 20th century. I have seen it grow from a dirty little secret, to a necessary evil, to a political football, to an acceptable life choice.
In 1918 a little girl was born in Washington DC who would never know the feeling of a close-knit family upbringing from the vantage point of a child. She vowed she would provide better to her children if God Blessed her to do so.
In 1943 that young woman of sketchy family history married a man of small means but large family roots and moved to Pittsburgh in search of a dream and avoidance of the military.
In 1954, my three year old mother was watching as my grandmother fended off her recently deceased husband's family insisting that she pick up her five children and bring them back to Washington, DC from Pittsburgh to be divvied up like Halloween candy to aunts and uncles that none of them knew so they could have a "proper upbringing."
In 1973 I watched my mother bury the musician's wife life that she knew and accompanied her to night classes at the University of Pittsburgh while she worked on a degree she would only get to the precipice of 35 years later because of a lifetime of putting family first.
In 1977 I had a conversation far more mature than seven year old needs to have with my mother as she explained to me why that old man who worked with the project police was hanging around more and more. And why she was suddenly gaining weight.
In 1980 my father brought me back from my yearly week long trip to wherever he was living at the time to tell me he was moving to California and that he was going to let my Step-father be the kind of father I deserved, because he couldn't/Wouldn't
In 1983 I watched as my mother came to grips with the reality of a life as a single parent again, now with a teenager and another little boy who watched cancer ravage and then kill his father.
In 1984 I watched my mother bury my Step-father just as I watched her bury the memory of her life with my father and step into a world totally different than the world she fled for marital bliss and homemaking.
In 1988 I bid my mother adieu as a fled the city/nest for the world of College, leaving her behind with a younger brother rapidly approaching a turbulent bout with Puberty.
In 1990 I returned to the nest with my tail between my legs and found that nest I flew unsteadily away from in NO way resembled the nest my brother was currently occupying a mere 8 years later.
In 1992 I fled my mother and brother again to reconnect with my heretofore invisible father.
In 1993 I left a promising College situation in California to move East to Suburban Washington, DC to help my mother with my brother, who had been pulled into the rabbit hole of a version of Black Manhood that was rapidly feeding upon itself.
In 1996 My mother and brother left me in MD to return home to Pittsburgh to care for HER mother, who had reached a point in life where she no longer should/wanted to live alone.
In 1997 I married a beautiful young woman who deserved so much better than the likes of me even as I deserved a whole lot better than the likes of her.
In 2002 I separated from said young woman leaving behind two young sons in an act that would ultimately make their lives more difficult and more fulfilling at the same time.
In 2004 I moved into a house with a lovely woman with three lovely children in an attempt to fix the mistakes I had made.
In 2004 I soon realized that I was so busy raising her children that I was neglecting my own…and that she was okay with that…and that THAT was NOT okay with me.
In 2005 I fell in love with a woman who had no children in part because she spent her life teaching them.
In 2008 I found myself temporarily raising two small children whose mother claims to need time to get herself together.
In 2008 I found myself approaching parenthood yet again; this time in a whole new circumstance.
In 2008 I returned to Pittsburgh to partake in a pilgrimage of my Maternal Grandmothers final days, as all of her Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and GREAT-GREAT-grandchildren, who were able came to pay their final respects to a woman whose dogged determination had borne the fruit of over 100 productive lives.
I sat in my mother's living room and watched 70 years of one woman's single parenthood writ large and in three dimensions reveal itself in all its subtle grace and honour.
It defied mere cliché.
It defied a single post.
It requires more time and more words than a sound bite culture will ever give it.
It requires the patience of the reader and the diligence of the writer.