I barely slept last night. This morning I have to convince my aunt Vera to be interviewed with my mom and me at Doe's Eat Place this Sunday in Greenwood, MS. After last night I can't even think about calling David to tell him that she's a definite "no".
When I spoke with Vera last night I got the sense that she was looking for a way out. Is she nervous about being on camera? As I think through my conversations with her over the last several months, there is one thread that was always present - a concern that her Daddy would be poorly portrayed.
Something changes in Vera when she talks about him. He is still larger than life for her. She remembers him as being almost glorious.
I've never had someone close to me die. I get the impression that people who experience a loss as devastating and as unexpected as Vera did when Booker Wright was murdered, may spend years sifting through old memories until they can find a safe spot from which to perch. They probably sit in that safe place and look over their valley of memories, making sure that the wonderful ones are getting the most sun.
People must move on. They can't relive every memory over and over again. Vera did that work and she probably did it decades ago. She reconciled her memories of her father into a neat file so that she could go on with her life. When she pulls out the file she remembers his smile, his love, his warmth, and his magic. The bad things just never make their way out of the file.
I know, I'm mixing metaphors, but I'm really grasping at anything to help myself understand. I want to know what she needs from me to help her feel comfortable moving forward. Would a film that focuses on the negative side of Booker somehow send her back to the day he died? Would it rob her of the image she's constructed, the one that gives her peace and helps her cope?
How can I help her see what I see in Raymond and David? They want nothing more than to tell the world just how great and bold my grandfather was. I keep thinking about Frank and how meaningful that meeting was for me. I realize that I need to take Vera there. I need to explain Frank's journey to her and help her understand that the people involved in this are all motivated by good will. Booker's story is safe with them.
I call Vera and tell her about Frank De Felitta. I tell her about what he saw when he visited the concentration camp and how it made him feel. I tell her about the article he read that made him want to make a difference. I tell her about how he didn't just interview Booker, but how he spent time with him. I tell her that Frank offered to delete Booker's scene from the film. I tell her that newspapers all over the country wrote articles not only about the film, but about what Booker said in it. I tell her that in all these years Frank De Felitta never forgot Booker Wright. I tell her that Ray's love for his dad is so strong that it's almost palpable. That Ray would never make a film that tears down Booker because of what it would do to his own father. I talk for so long that I'm actually out of breath.
"Okay, you can fly me to the conference."
She told me that she didn't need a call back, either. She trusts me. I can have David buy her a ticket, arrange a car service for her and she will be there on Sunday to sit down with me and my mom to remember Booker Wright. Praise God.