• The Death of Cliff Huxtable / Chapter 1: Theo

    The house is quiet.

    The dimmer switch in the living room sets the lights to a brown glow as the sun sets on the Brooklyn brownstone numbered 10 Stigwood. The double doors seal in the comfort of family values and laughter...of kindness and grace.

    The house is quiet.

    At 4:35pm, one of the front doors open and in walks Theo. He manages to get away from the crowd and beats everyone home. He walks in the quiet house. He stands in the door way and takes a moment to breathe in the stillness. He had never done that before. His usual entrance was chaotic...urgent. His usual entrance was with tales of what next 'thing' he must have: a Gordon Gartrell shirt; a helicopter ride for prom; a way to make up with Justine. This was the first time he walked into a quiet house...alone. The only 'thing' he wanted this time: for his father to be home.

    The house is quiet.

    Theo steps in and gently shuts the door behind him. He takes a few steps into the living room and speaks out,


    He takes a long pause before continuing. Theo was never one for praying so this seems a little ridiculous to him.

         "Ummm...I don't know where you are. We rarely spoke of God...of Heaven...or Hell...so I'm taking a chance that you can hear me...that my voice is reaching you. There isn't much time before the rest get here, so...

         I didn't know what to say at the cemetery. I had nothing to say at the cemetery. You're not there. Your body is, but you...YOU...you're not there. I know that. I know...you're...here. You're here in this house...this home...you made for us. The home you made with us."

    Theo walks behind the couch, lightly grazing his fingers over the table where the house phone use to sit. He continues,

         "Ok...so...thank you. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for teaching us. Thank you for loving our mother and raising us. These are the easy things I can say...because they are true and real. Thank you for teaching us how to be the best citizens we can be in this awful, awful world. It's not really an awful world, but today, it feels...awful. It feels awful because it's too hard without love. You taught me that. This is a hard world without love. You taught me to be easy in the hard times, but I didn't know, until now, what the hard times really were. You taught me to dance and joke and to hug my wife and to protect my sisters...but there are things you didn't teach me.

         You didn't tell me about the ways of hate. You failed me there, Dad. I had to find out, in a world outside this haven, that I am a Black Man. I didn't learn the rules and responsibilities that may save my life...being a...Black...Man. There are lessons I must teach my son and my male students, I never learned from you. You taught me about the value of money but you didn't teach me about the value of my life. We were constantly reminded us how much 'things' cost...how much money we, the kids, didn't have and how much you and mom had or made. You taught us valuable lessons in a world of 'no worries'. I left this house a Huxtable and stepped out into that world, outside those doors, a Black Man, and I was not prepared. I needed you to teach me that too.

         One day, I finally decided to ask Walter how he came to be called Cockroach and why he stopped coming over. This was about a year ago, after your stroke...and he came by to see you...out of respect for you...for me...and we had a chance to talk after many years of not talking. He said he was surprised I asked because I never seemed to care before. I asked him why he would allow anyone to call him that...to call him "Cockroach"...low and dirty. He said, "It never sounded so poor until the Huxtables said it. In the hood, I was someONE everyone called "Cockroach". In the Huxtable house, I was someTHING everyone called "cockroach". There was a difference. Your mother made it a point to call me Walter but it always felt like it was because she was above calling me Cockroach. Your pops called me Cockroach but it dripped with disdain that I couldn't bare it any longer. I was the cockroach in the Huxtable house. I had to leave. You were a good friend but you lived by a standard I knew nothing about nor did I care to know it. But you should thank your dad for protecting you from a life that taught me how to be a Black man in America. It's often an ugly lesson...but I'm so grateful to have been taught." In that moment I realized a truth: I'm the Black man America loves and he's the Black man America fears.

         You see, Cockroach taught me how to dance. You taught me how to perform. No one ever accused me of being a Black Man when I was under your wing. Too many days I wanted to be more Cockroach and less Cliff...but the politics of respectability is a mighty teacher, Dad. It was important to have the right friends and for the girls to date the right men and for us to sit around and listen to the elders muse about the Civil Rights Movement but...WHERE ARE YOU??!!!!" Theo shouts out in an emotional breakdown.

    The tears and the sobbing are new and unstoppable. Through his attempts to catch a breath while weeping, "Father, where are you?! I need you now. I need you to show me how to survive the police and the bullets and noose of men who hate. I need you to help me find the words to explain to my son how women are not to be raped. I need you to help me be a man in this awful, awful world! I need you to help me be a Black person in this awful, awful world!"

    Theo continues to walk across the room to the chair nearest the kitchen door, facing the front door. He sits down in the chair, as if sliding into his father's shoes, in his father's house. He continues,

         "Dad...the girls...the women...are all grown and married...or not...and are mothers...or not...and aunts and they are good. They are leaders and they are educators and they are healers and they are so much like mom. Any moment, they will all walk through that door. They will be reminded of the great man you are through the tears and the hugs and the stories of "that time when Cliff". They will be comforted by the love so many had...have for you. They will reminisce the good times and romanticize the days of you being the great Dr. Cliff Huxtable.

         I will remember my Dad. I will mourn my father. I will honor the man who was gentle and kind. I will remember a man who so many got to know as the happy baby doctor with the most well adjusted seeming family in Brooklyn. I will remember a man who showed us the best the world could be and kept the truth of that awful, awful world locked outside those double doors. And when those opens...and the grieving enter...you will leave and be gone...forever.

         But before you go...thank you. Rest well, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable."

    Theo slowly stands from the chair, straightening his jacket. He wipes the tears from his eyes, giving the impression of his strength. He stands, watching the doors, waiting for them to swing open, marking the beginning of the repast and the end of an era.

    The house is quiet.

    NEXT: CHAPTER 2 - Denise

    Note from TDV: This is a work of fan fiction, in a non-fiction world. (Originally published July 21, 2015)

    1. The truth... this truth... this somehow tangible, painful, joyful, mournful truth in every single word you've placed on this page emanates through all of my senses and I... I am heavy and full and heavy and hardened and heavy and ready and and yea...I tearfully thank you

    2. This is amazing. I'm glad to have another person who hears me when I say there was also lots of harm done by The Cosby Show. I keep asking if anyone is ready to talk about it. Maybe I will write a thing too....

    3. People hate on the cossby show saying it wasn't real. I think people say that because it wasn't hood. It's interesting the author said that cliff didn't teach how to be a black man. But he did. He taught how to sustain a family, hold a career, cherish education, support blank institutions, be a leader across ethnicities, marry our women and raise educated girls. That is being black.

      Dodging police, escaping those flashing lights, avoiding getting killed by police, facing racism in politics and career. That isn't being black, that's living in a sick society as a black man. Being middle class lightens the burden and he taught him that. But he drove Hillman Pride where Whitley, Dwayne and Ron learned the lessons that Theo didn't get.

      He drove it so hard I wanted to go to Hillman!! So I went to Howard. As an enthusiast for ubiquity, black Greeks, and a child of the nation of Islam and the black panthers, as a solemn orthodox Muslim from the suburbs of Detroit I don't think I'm ignorant of what it means to be black. And what Theo didn't learn isn't how to be a black man, it's how to survive .. His father left him something more important than surviving, he taught him how to work with his people and others to thrive.

    4. Awesome perspective and response. Thank you. I do agree with you here. I attended James Madison University in VA ('90-'94) during the BEST days of "A Different World" and I promise you, that 7% African American student population at that PWI showed up in the student union DEEP every Thursday night at 8:30pm! For a half hour, we felt like a HBCU indeed. Again, thanks.

    5. I admire you so, Teresa! As much as I've watched this show and A Different World, didn't really pay a lot of attention to the imporant points you hit. You've taught me so much and are comtinuing to do so now! You're so bomb to me... You go girl!

    6. Brava. Amazing. Love this series.

    7. Waiting for more! Where is 7-12??

      1. Hey Octavia! Thank you for reading the series!! 7-9 are up. 10-12 arecoming this week. TDV

    8. Really? For some reason I can't see past Elvin (my favorite thus far)


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