My name is Edna Redo and I’m from Chicago. I went to Curie High School here in Chicago. Graduated in ‘86, 1986, rather. One year, my junior year of high school – my mother was an English teacher, so it was not for us to not pass English, not pass Literature, any of that. You know, all of our classes, but definitely those two classes. And that particular year, I just knew I was gonna pass. And I got five Fs. Five Fs and one C.
She got to school and got my grades and she seen the five Fs and one C and it was just… like she literally beat me in the car. From the school to my house, like, whooped me. Because she was that type, she would whoop you. But when we got home and after everything settled, you know, she always called me “Pookie.” I was her pookie.
And she was, she told me, she said, “I just want you to be able to make it in society. And I love you. You are always my pookie, you are going to always be my baby.”
Because I’m the oldest, so there was always a special bond between me and my mother. So I was always her pookie, but when it came to school, she did not play with me and my sister and my brother at all.
In 1993, my mother found out about my sexuality. My sister, my brother and I, we were all at home. She was in her bedroom and she came out of the room.She was getting calls from some of the members that belong to the church. They were calling her telling her things that they had heard.
And we were all sitting at a table just talking and she came out of the room and she looked at me and she said, “I don’t care what you do but you better not do that shit in my house.”
I never came out to her because I knew how she felt about it . She, we had talked about it before, it had came up in conversations with her best friend before. And the conversations that I heard were not pleasant. So I knew that I couldn’t talk to my mother about it.
But once it came out, it actually came out a couple weeks before my mom passed. We were in the process of taking her back and forth to the hospital. And my sister had just had my oldest niece and she wasn’t able to make it to the hospital for my sister’s delivery. We got to the hospital and my sister had my niece and came home and things were okay, were normal. And then she all of a sudden, she started getting worse. And she went into the hospital. When she went in the hospital the first week, they kept her for a week, kept her for a couple of days. And I would go back and forth everyday to see and make sure she was okay.
And she told me, she said, “Cherise, the doctors are going to tell you that I have a mass on my lung.” She said, “but it’s not a mass. I have lung cancer.”
And I said, “Okay.” You know, I was young I was only 25. So I didn’t quite, you know, I couldn’t grasp that at that moment. And then after that, it went down, it started going downhill. She started preparing us for the worse.
I was at the hospital at least two or three times in one day. And this particular Saturday, I went to the hospital and when I walked in the hospital, my mother was sitting up in the bed, like she was not herself. I knew then that something was going on. I kept trying to talk her through the process.
Like, “Mama, you have to wake up. You gotta come home because I can’t take care of the baby.”
I don’t have kids. This was her first grandchild, so I knew nothing about taking care of kids. I was holding her on my chest – holding her head, rather, on my chest. I leaned her over on my chest.
The words that she could get out I heard, she told me, she said, “Pookie, I love you and I’m okay.”
When she said, “I love you,” she took her last breath. And she was ticklish on her feet – we are all ticklish on her feet. And me still not realizing that she had took her last breath, I laid her head, removed her head from my chest and laid her head on the pillow. I went to the foot of the bed and I tickled her feet. She moved it one time and that was the last time I’d seen my mother alive.
In the midst of preparing for her funeral and everything, I was at the house with my aunt. She’s my mother’s younger sister.
She called me into the bedroom and she said, “Your mom and I, we talked about it. And your mother knew.”
I said, “I know. I can tell she knew.” And I told my aunt I knew when I was holding her that I knew that she was okay at that point when she said, “Pookie, I love you,” I knew that she was okay.
And she said, “Yeah. She told me the same thing. She’s going to always love you, and don’t you ever think anything different.”
And she said, “I don’t care what you do, or who you do it with. If you’re happy, I’m happy.” And it felt like God had lifted everything off my shoulders that day.
I’ve just been me since 1993. I’ve just been me. Don’t do closets. None of that. Closets are for clothes. Can’t do that.