Madison Smith Fall of 2016
St. Martin de Porres
Love through the Walls
Twelve birthdays, Halloweens, Christmases, Thanksgivings, and one hundred and forty-five basketball games. These are the events my grandfather, Larry Walker, missed in my life so far. It hasn’t been easy without a grandfather, and I know you are probably thinking,“How is it difficult without a grandfather?” Well, it isn’t so simple. My grandfather isn’t deceased. He isn’t sitting back comfortably on a couch with his family. Instead, he is incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. His case is well-known, and his story was featured in the November 18, 2016 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, in the Philadelphia Daily News two days later. Not only has he missed my life but also my mother’s life since she was three.
Since 1983, Larry Walker has been behind cold, horrific walls, not doing the things we do in our regular lives.He has served 33 years – a lifetime – and continues to serve behind metal bars. Every time we leave from visiting him, someone is always clutching on to his jumpsuit, not letting go. In holding him, we tug against the unjust forces that keep him confined. Those dark years in jail are memories gone in the wind, and neither he nor we can ever get them back. He wasn’t even able to attend either of his parents’ funerals because he was trapped behind those metal bars like a caged animal for something he didn’t do.
Some nights I hear my mother’s sobs. The sound of her whimpering hits me like thunder, but her crying hits me like lighting. Sometimes it feels like my heart is going to burst into a great wave of sorrow. Not only was justice not served for him, but it’s wasn’t served for a number of black men. My grandfather had a clean slate. His slate was so squeaky clean that he didn’t even have a parking ticket when he was arrested. My grandfather’s a strong, independent man of faith, and through all the years he has been in jail, he has kept his confidence in himself and in the Lord. Just think about it. As a black man who followed all the rules since day one, and at the end of it all, you’re incarcerated for a crime you didn’t commit. How would you feel?
I imagine a tornado of emotions swirls around him in the dark cell, with no outlet to release it, but he keeps it deep down. Every time I see him, he always has a huge smile smacked on his face, and at the end of our visit, we always say a prayer. My grandfather isn’t a killer. He is a man of dignity. He wouldn’t take one’s life when he knows it values the same as his. My grandfather would never put suffering on another family by pulling a trigger.
I miss my grandfather every day. My heart doesn’t ooze just blood but also sorrow. Some people don’t even have a grandfather, but I do, and mine is behind bars.
I love and miss my grandfather so much; I want him here with us, his family.