Dead or Alive: James Delaney



"If you could meet anyone dead or alive who would it be?" People often ask me this question and there are too many to name; from musicians, to politicians, to members of my family. I think the conversations with these people would be enlightening to say the least.  I have played most of them over and over in my head. What would I ask? Would I be nervous? I get goose bumps thinking of what I might have learned.

Instead of just playing these moments over in my head, I've decided to dedicate my Fridays to describe these moments I have dreamt about for years now.

Dead or Alive: James Delaney

My maternal grandfather died in 1988.  He died one day before my 6th birthday and his funeral was on my dad's birthday.  There isn't much I can recall about the funeral.  I know it was daunting. My youngest aunt was the most emotional.  On the way to the repast my cousin April rode in our van with us, she cried the entire way there.  Did I understand what was going on? Probably not.  What I can gather from his funeral, he was loved.

Over the years one would assume I have heard tons of stories about my granddad but truth is I haven't.  I think I can vaguely remember being around him once, during one our huge family reunions in Chicago.  From what I can remember, he was quiet. But maybe that came with his age.

As a father of 7 girls and 5 boys, I am pretty sure there are thousands of storied he could tell me about each of his children.  I want to know how it was to work with a cotton gin.  He got his finger caught in one, I bet that hurt. I would ask my grandfather about having to quit school in the third grade to help take care of his blind mother. If he had not quit school what would he have become?

There is a story about my grandfather finding Jazz singer Bessie Smith's ear on the side of the road... gross I know.  I would have tons of questions about that.  How did he know it was her ear and what was he doing on the side of the road anyway?

In all the pictures I have seen of him he's never smiling. Did he have a hard life? Living in the south, Mississippi to be exact, I would want to know did he have any personal encounters with Jim Crow.

Out of all that I would like to know and learn about James Delaney, all I really want to do is see him, alive and well enough to hug him and be in his presence one last time.

Dead or Alive I want to meet you granddad!