I believe I was 14 years old, soon to be 15 in just 2 or 3 short months. It was January 1989. I got word that I had a new baby cousin. I was so very surprised! My Aunt, this wonderful; beautiful woman who raised me, had been alone for so long. I went to visit. There on her lap was a beautiful baby boy. He had TONS of black curly hair; the biggest curls I had ever seen. When he smiled his eyes…disappeared… and his baby smile was endless. His father was Asian; my aunt, Black. His name was Ryan Scott Downey and he was a little chubberball of love. He would grab your face and suckle on your cheek. I was very endowed at that age. He would bury his face in my chest, shaking his head back and forth; squealing with delight. My aunt and cousin laughed, saying Baby Ryan had a thing for the ladies. As he got older, Ryan loved to make people smile. He was always telling jokes and coming up with funny names for the people he most cared about. He would call his mother, “Baby Llama Mamma”. He called me “Boo-Ba-Lumps”. (I was still very well endowed.) He was always dressed “to the Nines”. He never wore tennis shoes as an infant or little kid. He always wore dress shoes, slacks, suspenders, silk dress shirt. He attended Catholic school. It was the best education my aunt could afford for him; living in the inner city with a failing and ailing school district. He graduated with honors. By now his hair had become long and thick. He wore it in cornrolls down his back and over his shoulders. Now Ryan wore Jordans for shoes. Ryan was always willing to help another. He loved his mother and his sister fiercely. My cousin, Dana, his big sister, had a baby girl shortly after Ryan was born. Elizabeth and Ryan grew up more as siblings than uncle and niece. They even attended youth programs together. They were 3 years apart. Ryan was soon to be married. He has a beautiful daughter, Aliyah. She is 4 months old and looks exactly as Ryan did when he was a baby. She is just as loving; suckling on peoples’ faces and cooing with delight when you talk to her. I rubbed my nose with her, smelling her sweet baby breath.
On August, 22. 2011, at 2:02 pm, the world stopped for him. Gunshots were reported in a 911 call. He was found in his car with a gun in his lap. Someone had shot him 7 or 8 times in the chest. His last act was trying to get away; his car driven up onto the curb and into a tree. By 2:14 pm while the police were processing the scene and before they could remove him from the car; Channel 5 NEWS was there and broadcasting LIVE!, his car, and him, on TV. This is a poor economy. Not many people have jobs. One of Ryan’s friends was home, and watching the NEWS when she recognized his car. Immediately phone calls were made and questions were asked. “Where is Ryan?” “Does he have his cell phone?” “Someone call his mother.” Before the police even had a chance to notify the family, my aunt was already told. Ryan Scott Downey, aged 22, was shot and killed. His ID was on him. His cell phone and wallet was gone. They had shot him in broad daylight while he was still driving his car.
AND NO ONE SAW A THING!
Ryan’s funeral was Thursday. I was scheduled to have a job interview. I canceled. Life as I knew it stopped. Everyone wore his colors: black and red. His casket was beautiful. In life, Ryan was tall, 5’7”. He was muscular and strong, full of life. Laying there in the casket, he looked so small, fragile, and flat, his life force ripped from him. His hair was braided in cornrolls; down his back and over his shoulders. He wore his new Air Jordans. The pain and anger and anguish felt by the community and those that loved Ryan was, and still is, insurmountable. My brothers didn’t handle it well. Ryan was the baby; the Angel on earth. My youngest brother and Ryan grew up as brothers. Where J went so did Ryan. J leaned in to the casket, trying to pull Ryan close. He wrapped his arms around Ryan, kissing his head, over and over, one last time, stroking his chest; trying to give Ryan comfort. “Damn, Dawg, what happened? Tell me who did this to you? I should have been there. It should have been me!” My little brothers feel anger and pain. They see nothing but revenge. My oldest little brother holds everything in; exploding in words and actions but only around the people he feels the most safe with. Elizabeth had to be dragged to the casket. She wanted to see Ryan; but she didn’t want to see his death. Ryan’s fiancé was in shock. My aunt was so sad, and yet so strong. My mother was there. She was inappropriate and embarrassing. WyrdHubby stayed by my side the whole time. He and my brother’s wife were 2 of the only 4 white people out of the100 family members present. It was a Baptist service.We were hoodwinked, led astray, bamboozled. The pawnshops failed Ryan. The economy failed Ryan. The Mayor failed Ryan. The police department failed Ryan. The City failed Ryan. We failed Ryan.WH, the skeptic, took it very well.
So… now we have to find the strength to live and celebrate his life. For the past 2 weeks, without thought, I have been wearing Ryan's colors: black and red. I guess that if I wear his colors then he will always be with me. Because Life does go on. Aliyah is growing up strong. That Friday after the service was my Aunt’s birthday. And Ryan’s fiance has learned she is pregnant.
I’ll be seeing you….until we meet again.