A few weeks ago I visited my birth place of Dillon, South Carolina to attend my uncle James McCallum’s funeral. My family called him Uncle Pap. I traveled with with my mom, Ernestine, brother Johnny, and my girlfriend Valerie. I was sad that my uncle passed away, because like my dad (who passed away many years ago), I didn’t see or spend much time with my uncle. Because I don’t yet drive (and I’m working on that) my brother Johnny drove the entire way down there which amazed me because Dillon, South Carolina is about a 12 hours drive from New York City. When we arrived down south, I was happy to see my Aunt Shirley (who I had not seen in years) and the rest of my family. My Aunt Shirley thought this day would never happen because I had spent so much time in prison. Those sentiments got me to thinking, and eventually committing to more visits to Dillon. The fact that I now have a family of my own, helped make that decision easier. I have a wonderful girlfriend who looked forward to meeting other members of my family and paying her respects to my uncle. I enjoyed having her along for the trip.
I had not been to South Carolina since I was a child so I remembered absolutely nothing about the place. What I did remember was dirt roads, but that all looked very different. In some ways, it reminded me of New York. Because we arrived in darkness I didn’t really get a good a look at the town. I could not wait until morning to see the place. The different emotions I felt helped me deal with my uncle’s death in a different way, but that changed when I attended the viewing. At that time, I got very emotional when I saw photos of my dad with my uncle. It brought back memories, in addition to not being allowed to attend my dad’s funeral. I didn’t my family in over four decades. One thing about Dillon, South Carolina that did not change was the southern atmosphere, particularly where my family live. I was surprised by the how diversity in Dillon. For instance, there was a large Hispanic community across Dillon. I saw many black and white people but I was somewhat taken aback by how many Hispanic people I saw in Dillon. I guess living in New York City for so long surprised at all by the diversity, but Dillon, as I remembered it, did not have any Hispanic people. Another constant was how polite the people were. For example, I would walk into the diner near the hotel and would immediately be greeted with “good morning.” This decorum is taken for granted. Of course, respect happens in NY and other places, but I was reminded of the importance of politeness. Driving is necessary in Dillon. Every place transportation.
On the day of my uncle’s funeral, I visited my father’s grave. When I was told of the headstone that he had, I purchased a new one. My dad is buried near his dad David McCallum, his sister, and now, his brother. I was struck by was the kind of respect and courtesy shown by people in Dillon. During the funeral procession, many cars ca,e to a complete stop along the highway which was clearly a sign of respect for our family. I learned later from cousins that the McCallum family is large and well respected in Dillon. I have seen many funeral processions in NY and sometimes I saw so much cutting in and out of a funeral procession, that it was totally different in South Carolina. It was something that caught my attention almost immediately. I am in no way disparaging people from New York, but I could not ignore this glaring distinction between the two places when it comes to this particular aspect of social awareness.
I saw my mother’s new trailer for the first time. What a nice looking place. I wondered whether it is time for my mom to make that permanent move down south – something she has wanted to do for many years but my incarceration put a hold on that. I think part of her would like to make that happen ASAP, but she is sealing with something that I dealt with during my time in prison. My mom is very comfortable where she’s currently living because she has lived in Bushwick Brooklyn for a long time. But a part of her is longing to move back home. The most important reason in terms of deciding whether to permanently move down south is whether my sister Ella (who has cerebral Palsy) would continue to receive the good care that she is receiving. The care in Dillon is not as good or reliable as the kind of care she’s receiving in New York. That, under no uncertain terms, can’t be underestimated. My sister’s well being is very important to my family. Visiting my hometown is something that I’m going to definitely do more of.