Inaugural symbol #2 - the Wii game


I watched the inauguration from the livingroom of the North Philly house where Walk with Us takes place. Kaki rents it now to six New Jerusalem graduates in advanced recovery (meaning they are solid in their sobriety). There are four men and two women, all African-American.

When we’re in Philly we sleep on the sofas, wait on line for the bathroom (bring your own tp). We slept there Sunday night after the P-Flag reading and decided to stay to watch the inauguration. (We live North of Scranton now, in Biden country, but come down to Philly often.)

As Kaki and I watched the pre-inaugural coverage, one of the men in the house, call him Larry, turned on a small portable TV behind the big one and started playing Wii baseball. He plays under doctor’s orders: rehab for recent hip surgery.

So as Obama is placing his hand on the Bible of the president who proclaimed emancipation, Larry is twitching his arm in a simulated swing, the Wii crowd in the Wii stadium roaring. Larry peeks around between pitches to see Obama finish taking the oath, then goes back to the game.

Larry’s in his fifties, on SSI, with a deformed hand and two club feet - from a very premature birth. He hasn't the money or the coverage to buy the prosthetic shoes that would let him walk somewhat normally. Most of his family won’t have anything to do with him, from his years of using. When he talks I have a hard time understanding because of what seems a speech impediment. Kaki says it’s just dentures he hasn’t gotten used to yet. She also says she couldn't run the house without him. Honest as the day is long, and steady.

It strikes me - a crippled black man with so little going for him focusing on his healing instead of on the brilliant black man with so much going for him becoming the most powerful man in the world. I guess Larry knows what's best for himself, but I wonder - is he afraid to hope? Is he acclimated to the thin air of hopelessness? Am I?

Tahija bragged to me later that she didn't even turn her TV on (I sure hope the boys' school had one to turn on.) "He’s got to show me something first," she said. Not just afraid of hope but dead set against it. What made her that way? All those times her dad didn't show up when he'd promised to? Does Obama look to her like just another crushing disappointment? Or -- more troubling -- like a chance to prove fully and finally that the world really is hopeless?

I guess that's her choice. Larry's choice is to focus on his healing--with a little break for history. Mine is to hold hope in safe keeping. In this box of words, these plain or jewelled cases.