Ch 1: War Of The Sons

High School graduation is supposed to be exciting and full of love from your family. As thrilled as I am to be gradating, I am very concerned about what could happen in one weekend while my all of my Uncles are under the same roof. THAT, never goes well.

As much as I love my uncles, sometimes it's hard to tell if they love each other. It's like watching a Jerry Springer show. The way they argue, debate, fight, compete, and crack jokes on each other should be a reality show. Only Paw Paw can keep them from shooting each other in head. I already know this weekend is about to be one long movie.

Paw Paw was The Man 

Johnny Holmes is my hero. That's my Paw Paw. Everybody calls him "Johnny Ray". At 74 years old he is a charismatic black man in his 70s - a true embodiment of vitality and charm. His infectious laughter filled the room, and his lively personality drew people towards him like moths to a flame. Despite his age, Johnny Ray possessed an undeniable youthful spirit, both in appearance and demeanor.

In his younger years, Johnny Ray had been a ladies' man, known for his captivating presence and dashing looks. He had experienced the joys of love and the sorrows of loss. His first wife, Prescilla, had tragically passed away in a car accident many years ago, leaving behind two sons, JJ and Bernard. Even enduring the loss of the love of his life, he raised his sons alone until he found solace in the arms of Georgia, whom he married later, and together they had another son, Eric, who is my dad. That's why my name is "EJ", for Eric Jr. 

Even in his later age, my Paw Paw's physique remained impressive, as he took pride in taking care of himself. He maintained a strong and sturdy build, a testament to his active lifestyle and the respect he had for his own well-being. His appearance belied his actual age, and he was still regarded as a handsome man among the women in his age group.

I remember one day, we came home from church and we heard a woman in Paw Paw's bedroom yelling for God. She was just screaming for God, making all kinds of weird sounds and moans. About an hour later, Mrs. Jenkins, from down the street, came out of Paw Paw's bedroom with her hair all over her head and her clothes visibly wrinkled. I asked Paw Paw what was going on in there and he told me, "Boy, stay out of grown folks' business. Umm, I was praying for Mrs. Jenkins. And she felt it in her soul!" 

I guess he thought I was stupid. I knew what they were doing. I mean, I heard those same sounds when Shirleen came over. I heard similar noises when Yvette came over. Irene, Katrina, Donna, and Vickie must've all need prayer too because the way they all screamed for God was evident my Paw Paw was good at whatever he was doing in there.

In their close-knit neighborhood, he was revered as the local fix-it man. His incredible skill set knew no bounds, whether it was tinkering with cars, tackling plumbing issues, or repairing roofs. He was a master of all trades, and his expertise in fixing things had become legendary. Whenever someone faced a problem, Johnny Ray was the go-to person, the one who could be relied upon to provide a solution.

That Old BMW

His sharp mind also extended to financial matters. he had made wise stock investments throughout his life, which had paid off handsomely. These investments allowed him to enjoy a comfortable life in his later years, ensuring financial security and freedom. While he was not one to flaunt his success, Johnny Ray's old two-seat BMW, a prized possession he had owned for years, spoke volumes about his taste and appreciation for finer things. The car, meticulously maintained and always gleaming, looked as though it had just rolled off the showroom floor.

I will never forget. I must've been around 6 years old. My dad always sent me to stay with Paw Paw in the Summer. Those were some fun times. We went to K Mart to get a pair of "flip flops". Paw Paw was taking me to the pool and I didn't have any pool-side shoes. He would always park at the back of the parking lot no matter how many vacant spots were closer to the front door.

When we came out of the store somebody was parked next to Paw Paw's BMW. "Dammit!" He yelled with utter anger. "I can't believe this bastard parked right next to my Beemer!" Rather than just leave, Paw Paw waited for the person to come out of the store. After thirty minutes he told me to wait in the car while he went back into the store. 

You could hear the store's loud speaker outside. "If you are driving a dark blue Nissan parked in the back of the parking lot, your car is being towed." Paw Paw rushed back outside to be there when the person came out. Not even two minutes later a man came running out of the store toward the dark blue Nissan that was parked next to us. Paw Paw yelled, "you gotta park right next to my Beemer, you son of a bitch?" The man yelled back, "You don't own this parking lot. I can park wherever the hell I want to park."

Both men were up in each other's faces when the man accidentally leaned on Paw Paw's BMW. I knew right then. It was about to go down. Paw Paw yanked the man off his car and man tried to punch Paw Paw but he missed and lost his balance, falling to the ground. He tried to get up but Paw Paw put his foot on the man's back and wouldn't let him rise from the concrete paved parking lot.

The man was kicking, trying to scooch his body from underneath the weight of Paw Paw's foot when he yelled, "Johnny Ray Holmes, if you don't stay away from my wife I will light a match to that car and set it on fire!" At that point, Paw Paw realized who he was. He was Irene's husband. Paw Paw told him, "If you EVER park this close to my car again I'ma whip your ass in front of yo wife and then take her out for dinner after I finish whipping your ass!" 

Paw Paw explained, Irene and Clarence had been separated for three years but Clarence refuses to sign the divorce papers. He said Clarence knows his car and purposely parked right beside him to make him mad. "I park in the back of the parking lot so nobody can accidentally scrape his paint when they opened their doors to put their bags in their car. He said it happened before when he had a cheaper car and he told himself when he got his BMW, it would never happen again.

In Terrell, Texas, Johnny Ray Holmes was a beloved figure, admired for his vivacity, his skillful hands, and his timeless appeal. He was a man who had seen life's highs and lows, a true survivor, and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

The Arrivals

My dad and I arrived at Paw Paw's house first. My dad owns his own recording studio. Some of the biggest artists in the industry have recorded music in his studio. There were times he had to pull all-nighters and I would just stay at Paw Paw's. Paw Paw's house was my second home because my dad was devoted to his work that he would spend days there and I'd have to just stay with Paw Paw. 

My dad's name is Eric. He doesn't like his older brothers very much. According to him, they bullied him growing up. He was the baby boy and he said my uncles always made him feel like he didn't belong in the family. 

When we walked in the door, Paw Paw ran out to hug me. "EJ! How is my favorite grandson?" My dad hugged him and said, "Umm, Pops, he is your only grandson!" But, Paw Paw is always quick to respond, "And that's why he is the favorite!" They laughed as we all entered the hosue.

Paw Paw's kitchen was filled with pans of barbecue. He had already started preparing food for my big graduation party. He asked, "EJ, my future millionaire, have you decided what college you are going to?" I told him I hadn't decided if I were going to college or not. I don't know why I said that because I knew it would just create a long debate that I couldn't win. "Oh I know you're lying. Yo' ass is going to college son. We are gonna have to talk about this before you leave."

Uncle Bernard's FamilyThat's when we heard the horn blow in the front yard. I jumped with excitement, "Uncle Bernard is here!" I ran to the front door to welcome him in. Uncle Bernard was married to a White lady named, "Tessa". They had three kids, all girls - Angel who was 10 and the twins, Heaven and Neveah. Of course Neveah is just heaven spelled backwards. The twins were the same age but they were actaully born in different years. I know it's strange. Tess went into labor on New Year's Eve. Heaven was born at 11:57pm and Neveah was actually born at 12:03AM the next day, which was actually a new year. Neveah believes it makes her the older sibling and she bosses her twin sister around.

Uncle Bernard and my dad do not get along. They never have. When they see each other, it's always an instant war of the sons.

As soon as Uncle Bernard saw my dad, before he even said hello, he told my dad, "Damn boy! Is your hair falling out?" My dad replied, "Why is something wrong with my hair?" Uncle Bernard replied, "Yes! It's running away from your face." Uncle Bernard started laughing and my dad gave a sarcastic chuckle. "Yea yea yea, whatever," said my dad. "Just stay out of my way Bernard. We are here for E and then we can all go back to ignoring each other's lives." That's when Uncle Bernard joked again, "Nope the only thing we ingore is the music you produce." Then he and Tess laughed.

I can tell by my dad's face, he was tired of the jokes but he was trying to not to lose his cool.

Dirty Money

We heard a motorcycle pull up in front of the house. We all knew who it was so everybody, including Tess, ran to the front yard. It was Uncle Lavar!

Uncle Lavar was everybody's favorite person. He was always full of life and laughter even though he stayed in trouble. As he walked up, he brought candy for the kids and a pack of ribs for Paw Paw to cook. My dad asked him, "Did you steal them ribs or did you actually buy them?" Uncle Lavar looked at him and said, "Well hello to you too baby brother." 

He gave me a hundred-dollar bill and told me congratulations. My dad snatched the money out of my hand and gave it back to him. "Don't be giving my son your dirty money. Ain't no telling where that money came from!" Lavar argued back, "Man, give dat boy that damn money. You're probably mad cause your broke ass don't have no $100." Then Bernard chimed in, "Yea, like the time he borrowed $100 from me for a tire for his car. I still haven't gotten my money back." Then, my dad bounced back with... "I didn't ask you to pay for nothing. You love paying for stuff so you can keep reminding everybody about how much you do for people." Then Bernard came back with, "That's right because I'm always the one who pays for everything around here!" Then Uncle Lavar tapped in, "Bitch, shut the hell up before I pop you in front of yo kids!" Then, Bernard comes back with, "And I will have to come bail you out of jail just like I did the last time your dumb ass got arrested!"

"Shut the hell up!" Paw Paw yelled so loudly, the twins jumped on the couch and covered their ears. "All of you shut up! We are not doing this all weekend. We are here for E and y'all are not gonna ruin my grandson's weekend with this foolery. Y'all are too old for this shit!" Tess grabbed the keys and told Bernard she was checking into a hotel with the kids because she didn't want to be in the middle of the constant arguing all weekend. He ran after her, "Baby, don't leave. This will all blow over like it always does."

Tess told him she didn't want her daughters being exposed to such dysfunction. She packed their stuff back into the car. Then, she and the kids drove off leaving Bernard standing in the driveway alone. When he turned around only the men were standing on the porch. Me, Paw Paw, Uncle Lavar, and my dad. When Uncle Bernard saw all of us standing there, he knew he had gone too far. Paw Paw opened the door and told everyone to come in and help with the barbecue.

Lavar put his arm around Bernard and told him, "Dude, she'll be back. Don't sweat it." Then my dad told him, "Bro, I'll go to talk to her. I'll get Tess and the kids to come back." I'm looking at all them thinking to myself, "these people are crazy!" Just a minute ago they were about to fight each other. That's the reason Tess left. Now, suddenly they are trying to comfort each other? This is nuts!

I observed the dynamics between my uncles and my father. They would joke and laugh, but beneath the surface, there lingered a bitter undercurrent of unresolved conflicts. They loved to throw each other's past mistakes into each other's faces, a reminder of the pain and misunderstandings that had kept them apart. You could just feel the tension in the air. As a kid I never knew why they were so mean and hurtful to each other. I lacked knowledge of my own family's complicated history. I guess I was shielded from their past mistakes to preserve my innocence.

While the brothers all tried to work out differences, I knew all hell would break lose when the doorbell rang. As Paw Paw answered the door, we all looked to see who was there. It was the police. We heard the officer ask, "Is there a Lavar Holmes here?" Paw Paw looked at us, pushed the guy out, and closed the door behind himself. We were all confused. But when I looked around the living room, Uncle Lavar had disappeared.

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