Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Paradigm shifts.

When I stepped into the Grady coffee shop, there was a line. Three or four people long but still longer than what I was in the mood to manage. Usually I'm a very sound sleeper. But for some reason, I'd tossed and turned a lot the evening before and, as a result, overslept that morning. When I first woke up, I'd made a beeline to my Keurig to start a cup of coffee but with the chaos of kids and walking the dog, I didn't remember it until I was half way to Grady Hospital.


Clinic was already bustling when I got there but hallelujah for kind colleagues like Stacie S. who looked squarely into my sleep-deprived eyes and instinctively knew they were in acute need of a pick-me-up. "Hey Kim, I know you said you forgot your mug of coffee this morning. Why don't you pop down to Henry's to get you a cup?"

I didn't even bother with the obligatory first-pass refusal. She had me at "Hey Kim."

I walked down there so fast that it felt like I'd teleported myself. The two young women behind the coffee counter were hustling hard to manage the customers and seemed to mostly be on top of it all. But still. I'd hoped to meet a quiet mid-morning lull with no one there other than a peaceful Grady elder. No such luck.


I rubbed my eyes with the heels of my palms. Two seconds after that I remembered that this was the kind of gesture one does at home and not so much in public. I quickly dropped them back to my sides. Pressing my lips together, I drew in what I hoped was a subtle sigh to break up and also hide my impatience.

"Well, he said he might be coming but I don't know, boo. . . .say what? See, you asking questions that I can't even help you with. That's a grown man you talking 'bout. I ain't the boss of him."

That's what I heard verbatim from the woman ahead of me in the queue. She was balancing an oversized Samsung Galaxy phone on her shoulder while looking through her equally oversized purse. Her voice wasn't even remotely hushed. It was unapologetically loud enough for anyone in earshot to hear. By now, three more people had filed in behind us and a few others were milling around waiting for their orders. My groggy eyes narrowed at the back of her head. This was one of my pet peeves.

Blah blah blah. She kept on talking as if we weren't there. Zero shame in her game.

"Hell, if I know!" The yacking-phone lady threw her head back and laughed out loud at what was clearly some amusing exchange on that phone call. The curly ringlets of her synthetic hair braids shook rhythmically with every chuckle. She continued to rummage through her gigantic pocketbook as that phone still teetered treacherously next to her chin. Some piece of me wished it would fall to the ground and shatter into a million pieces.

Mean, I know.

"I can't find that paper with all that fancy mess you asked for! You getting a regular cup of coffee, chile." The person on her call obviously protested that suggestion. "Caramel Makey-Latte? What in the hell is that?" She laughed again. Her voice was raspy like a person who'd either smoked for a long time or who'd been screaming at the top of her lungs. The surly piece of me assumed it was the former. Or maybe even both.

Mean, I know.

Out came that gravelly laugh once more and, this time, a few heads turned in her direction. But she didn't seem to care. Like, at all.

I'm amazed that the searing stare I was giving to the back of head never created a full thickness burn. But I sure did try considering how she kept that uncomfortably loud phone conversation going strong well until it was her turn to order. And during her order, too.


"What can I get for you, ma'am?" the barista asked. The yacking phone lady pursed her lips and studied the menu on the wall. The same menu that had been there for the entire time she was gabbing on the phone about what sounded like a whole bunch of nothing.

My masseters bulged from my involuntary teeth gritting. I felt myself slowly veering out of my lane, easing dangerously close to tapping her on the shoulder and suggesting she get off the damn phone before ordering. But then I heard the BHE in my head telling me to calm down and stop worrying about stuff that doesn't need to be worried about. He's much better at managing such things so, thank goodness, I live with his little voice in my head to help me in times like this. That gave me enough pause to recognize that her full decibel chit chat was more annoying than criminal. Not to mention she kind of looked like someone who probably wasn't the best person to mess with.

Um, yeah.

"Now what you said you wanted? A caramel makka lacka?" She was still talking into her phone. While ordering. I tapped my foot softly, hoping she couldn't see the steam rolling from my ears. I fought the urge to snatch her phone mid sentence  and dunk it into a the biggest, hottest, most Venti-est cup of joe that they had. Extra hot, even.

"Do you mean a caramel macchiato?" The barista was still smiling. Far more patient than I would have been circa 1988 at the Foot Locker in the Hawthorne Mall.

"Hey you heard that? Is that what you wanted?" The yacking lady yawned and plopped her giant Coach bag on the counter in front of the cash register. A pack of Newports was poking from the top and also what appeared to be some clothing--including undergarments. It was visible to any and every person in that line. All of it was too much. Especially mixed with her being on the phone at the same time. She looked up at the barista. "Yeah, that sound good. That's what she want."

"What size can I get for you, ma'am?"

Her focus remained on the person she was speaking to on the phone and not the unbelievably pleasant person standing before her. "Now see, chile. You got me up in here taking a damn quiz! They asking me a million questions about size and all that. Caramel makky lakky don't come in just one size." She listened for another reply and laughed again. This time I could actually smell the cigarettes. Fortunately her back was to me because that time I grimaced in real life. Her attention went back to the lady behind the counter. "Just do whatever the big size is."

"Grande? Venti?" The barista held up two cups. And she was still smiling. God love her for being so patient.

"Why is Grande smaller than Venti? Hell if I know."

I wanted to scream. Right then and there, I truly wanted to do just that. For some reason, the look on the barista girl's face seemed to snap the yacking lady into a bit of reality. "I'm just gonna get you the middle size," she said into the phone while making fleeting eye contact with me. I offered back a tight lipped smile, representing my acquired southern hospitality more than anything else. "Hey, let me also get a grande size of the regular coffee, too." The sweet barista girl nodded and punched in that, too.

Finally I was able to order my simple cup of much needed coffee. "Room for cream?" the barista queried me.

"Please. Thanks." I kept my eyes trained directly on the barista, my hands inside of my white coat pockets. Straightening my spine, I forced the sappiest smile I could find to rage against the phone lady and her unruly behavior. I wanted to be the antithesis of her socially unacceptable uninterrupted coffee shop conference call. The barista lady placed the blonde roast on the counter in front of me as I offered her a nod of thanks. "'Preciate you," I added.

"My pleasure!" she responded. Her eyes lifted up to the person behind me. That barista girl was far less worried about that previous customer than I was. That's for sure.

On a scale of one to ten for being annoyed, the only reason I didn't feel a ten when I saw the yacking-phone lady still adding sugar and creamer to her coffee drink on the condiment cart was that she had finally gotten off the damn phone. My chest rose as I drew an exaggerated drag of air; I still felt the urge to internally protest although I was trying not to outwardly show my disapproval of her earlier behavior.

"Pardon my reach," I said while gripping the creamer carafe.

"No problem." She looked at me and smiled. Her face was pretty. Though her features were youngish, I could tell from the fine lines around her eyes that she was closer to my age than the twenty something baristas. She also looked tired, too. Tired like a person who has been living longer and harder than only two decades. Her clothes were also youngish. Junior cut sweats with the word "PINK" written across the bum in blinged out block letters. Regardless of her actual age, I decided that she was old enough to know better. Better than to yap on the phone in public like that. And better than to wear some Victoria's Secret velour sweat pants anywhere, ever.

Catty, I know.

She stirred her drinks slowly and seemed to be off in another world. That place was far more peaceful than the laughing, cackling one she'd just left. I decided that I liked this one better.

Snotty, I know.

But see, I hadn't slept well the night before. And I was tired. Furthermore, that coffee shop was filled with all sorts of people and most of them didn't look like me. But she did. So some piece of tired me was mad at her for being the other black woman in the room and choosing to represent us this way. Even when her far away gaze drifted over to my eyes, I felt myself rebel. Turning my eyes downward and folding into myself like origami to signal to the world that I wasn't with her. That I am not the person who'd continue a conversation on my cell phone while paying for a coffee because it was just downright rude and maybe even something that would feed a single story stereotype of who we both are.

Yes. I was judging her.

"I like your hair," she finally said.

"Thanks," I mumbled. One corner of my mouth went upward as a pseudo-olive branch. And I was conflicted about it since I'd already decided that I wasn't aligned with her nor was I her friend.

Then something happened. Out of the blue, she turned her whole body to face me and said, "I am so, so tired. I ain't slept in more than two straight days." She pulled one of the drinks up to her lips and sipped it carefully. After letting out a quick shudder from the hot liquid touching her mouth, she sighed. "That's good."

I felt my heart defrosting. Even though I really needed to get going back to the clinic and even though I'd made up my mind not to like her, I decided to bite. "Why haven't you slept?"

"Oh, 'cause my baby was in a car accident two days ago. I live in Baltimore and she down here going to college. They called me 'bout my baby girl and said she was gon' be in intensive care. They said she was knocked out cold when they got to her and they took her straight to Grady for emergency surgery in a helicopter. I hung that phone up, got my keys and walked out my door. I drove all night 'til I got here."

"Wow." I could feel the metaphorical icicles crashing to the floor around me. "Is she okay?"

"She got her pelvis shattered. And some organ damage that made them have to operate on her stomach and bowels a leave her with one of them bags 'til she get better. But they finally took the tube out her throat last night and let her eat today. First thing she said was that she wanted me to get her some Starbucks. I sholl was glad when the nurse told me they got all the Starbucks stuff down here in this shop."


"Yeah. It's 'bout to be a hard road. She real young and alive, you know? She a good student and be enjoying herself down here in college, know what I'm saying? And having that bag on her and not being able to walk round yet . . . " Her voice trailed off and her eyes quickly filled with tears. She patted the corners of her eyes with napkins, shook her head and sighed. "I thought my baby was gon' die. I did. I got up here and saw her laying there with all them tubes coming out her body. That ain't nothing I wish on nobody mama." A tear rolled down her cheek.

I placed my free hand onto my chest. "Oh my God. I'm so sorry to hear that."

"Yeah, we all we got. She my only. I had her by myself, too. Her daddy ain't never been too involved although I did try to call him to come up here. And since she got out that ICU she don't want me out her sight. Like, I couldn't even come down here without her talking my head off on the phone. But I just do what it take, you know?" I felt my face burning, thinking about her initial reference to a man. That was probably her daughter's father. "I had to get out that room 'cause just one day ago, I thought my baby was gone. And it's hard seeing my beautiful baby like this but it woulda been worse to lose her, you know? So I drove all night. Ain't really slept since."

"Man. She's lucky to have a mama like you." I felt the hot coffee on the palm of my hand, radiating through the cup. It was a welcomed distraction from the heat emanating from my face. I felt so ashamed of my feelings before.

"Yeah, I guess. Her mama was scared. Real, real scared. Shit, she still scared."

And when she said that? I could see that she was on the tippy tip edge of tears again. And since I didn't have any other words to offer, I just sort of stood there in this awkward silence. Finally I impulsively let my next thought slip out of my lips. "Um, do you need a hug?"

The look of surprise on her face made me immediately wish I hadn't asked. I mean, she was from Baltimore for crying out loud. Who asks a person from the place that inspired that television show "The Wire" if they need to hug it out? But then I saw her head nodding. And after that I heard her reply in a teeny-tiny voice.


I sat my coffee on the cart and, before I could overthink it, I wrapped my arms around her tight. Gave her a big, two armed hug. The kind that you give when you really mean it. Eyes closed, palms pressed tightly into the center of the back, heart to heart.

And, in this case, mama to mama.

I tried my best to imagine the pain she must have been feeling. The terror in her heart as she pressed that pedal to the metal, not knowing if her baby would live or die. I tightened my grip on her back at the thought.

I sure did.

And that? That was the lever that opened the flood gates. Her body shook rhythmically in my arms as she released a deep, tired cry. I just stood there and let her. For as long as she needed to cry.

Yeah, man.

It was so tender and transparent. I could feel her mama-bear emotion draining out of her and onto the shoulder of my white coat. And I kid you not, all of this happened right then and right there inside of that busy coffee shop in the downstairs lobby at Grady Memorial Hospital.

When she pulled back from me, her entire face was red and covered with tears and snot. I handed her a stack of napkins off of the coffee station and smiled. "Whew. Oh wow, girl. I'm so sorry," she murmured.

I glanced at my soaking wet shoulder and shrugged. "Looks like you needed that."

"I guess I did, huh?" We both laughed.

"You take care of yourself, okay? And try to get a little rest, too."

"Now that my baby is awake and able to talk to me, I'm hoping I can." She held up the two cups of coffee and looked down at her body. With a chuckle she added, "But not until I get me some clothes that ain't made for a teenager. I came down here so fast I didn't even pack nothing. I been wearing stuff out my daughter's dorm room." A wave of embarrassment washed over my face again.

"I'd say any mama who can fit into clothes out of her daughter's dorm room is winning." That time a few people in earshot laughed, too.

It felt like I'd been gone too long. I needed to go back to the clinic. "Listen. . . I pray your daughter has a full recovery. And that her mom gets some peace of mind."

"I 'preciate you, doctor." I could tell that she meant that. Then she added, "Hey, do you got any kids?"

"Yes, ma'am. I have two sons."

She curled her lips and nodded. "I could tell you was somebody mama." We both smiled at that statement.  "Do you work upstairs in the trauma part of the hospital?"

"No, ma'am. I work in the clinic and on the non-surgery hospital service. I was just down here getting some coffee."

"Well, thank you for being my angel doctor this morning. I'm for real. My heart feel better after meeting you. So I just want to say 'preciate you for taking a minute to care about somebody. People be going through it up in here. You don't never know what they dealing with."

Something about that made me immediately want to cry. I felt the tears coalescing in my eyes and making them sting. Twisting my mouth to break up the emotion, I nodded in agreement.

Those parting words played on a loop recorder in my head for the rest of the day. I'm not sure I ever even took a single sip of that coffee that I'd bought that morning. That paradigm shift was all the stimulant I needed. It sure was.

Sometimes we start off wrong. In our attitudes, our thinking, our perceptions. Especially when it comes to people. But everyday I am reminded that we are always more alike than we are different. I'm thankful for life's little autocorrections.


Happy Hump Day.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Images of This American Life: All is well.

Memorial Day at the lake with family. The grey from both sides of my family is coming in fast and furious. I've decided to embrace it. 

The only thing better than a big cousin is a big cousin who will take you out on the jet ski over and over and over again.

Can't believe my little flower girls are now a high school sophomore and a college freshman. Crazy.

I could watch this interaction all day. My nephew is so patient. 

It seems like just yesterday that my nephew in back was the size of Zachary in the front. The days are long but the years are short. This I know for sure.

Zachary is still the snuggly one. He always finds his mom and gets next to her. I always tell him, "Remember--whenever you want your mom, know that she wants you, too."

Family. We are good.

They kept encroaching upon my seat. 

I was trying to teach them how to blow bubbles. What is it with kids these days not knowing how to blow bubbles in bubble gum?

Tickle torture has become predictable. Little cousin is ready to run.

Stepping out to a Delta debutante ball. Was proud of this consignment deal dress.

The very day after that ball: Spring break day one with the boys. I was on fumes but still in a happy place.

With the son who doesn't care if you don't feel like running.

With my wise old man Isaiah. This was at the March of Dimes walk.

Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society visiting professorship at New York Medical College last month.  Pretty cool experience.

This was a big deal to me.

Jamba Juice moment. I love that place.

Jack and Jill of America Atlanta Chapter Mothers' Luncheon. My mom joined me which was super awesome. Especially because this year I was awarded the 2017 Mother of the Year Award. I love making my mom proud. She was beaming.

At commencement with a few of my newest colleagues.

For colored girls who considered being doctors when the rainbow wasn't enuf.

"No, this is not a dream!"

Last day with Small Group Delta. My how the time flies. 

Zachary's book parade. His class did "Harry Potter" as the theme. 

Look on my face when Zack informed me that he was down with Slytherin not Gryffindor because it's less predictable. 

On Mother's Day with the snuggly one.

Isaiah is almost taller than grandma. Yup.

With niece number 1 who is on her way to Georgia Tech next year. 

Uber ride with my BFF Lisa.

When your friends are fabulous it makes you feel the same way.

13 years strong with the BHE and never better. Look at that beard! Swoon.

Rounds last week. The night after that party. Can you say tired?

Finishing my final leg at the Ragnar Relay Tennessee. One of the best experiences of my life.

Look on your face when you and a few friends run a 200 mile relay together and finish.

With my big boy Isaiah. Always so much fun.

The snuggly one strikes again.

Big brother and a grande latte. What could be better?

Easter Sunday. Pretty fancy, right?

My kids in their Easter Sunday best. Bwah.

Co-chaired a charity race. This was me after it was over. We raised over $20,000. 

With my awesome co-chair. I am a goal junkie. Though my job is busy, I love setting non work related goals like this. It feel good.

I hope all is well on your end. I have so much to write about but have had a lot competing. I miss my friends here. Know that I am thinking of you, okay? 

Happy Monday.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Boy mama.

"Is that your first baby?"

That's what the elderly lady said to me who'd just stepped onto the crowded Grady elevator to slide in right next to me. Even though the small space was filled with passengers standing shoulder to shoulder, my very pregnant silhouette was pretty hard to miss--even under my white coat.  "No, ma'am," I responded cheerfully. "This is number two."

"Boy, ain't it?"

I chuckled at her accurate assessment--one I'd heard constantly throughout my pregnancy. "Yes, ma'am. Boy number two." The elder curled her lips downward and gave her head a smug nod.

The other people riding with us turned in my direction. I could feel everyone surveying the position of my belly to see if they agreed. Another woman looked me up and down and then chimed in. "Oh yeah. That's a boy all day and all night." A few others mumbled in agreement.

And you know? Nothing about this felt intrusive to me. All of it was Grady. So very Grady.

"It's because he's sitting high, right?" I patted the side of my stomach when I said that.

"Yeah. And 'cause your face ain't all splotched up and swoll up neither. Them girls rob your beauty every time." The crowd laughed at the Grady elder's unfiltered honesty even though she didn't mean it to be funny. "But you know you gon' have to turn right back around and try for that girl, don't you? Can't leave it at two boys."

I squinted one eye playfully in her direction. "Look at you already planning the next pregnancy! But no, ma'am. I don't think a girl is in my future. I'm pretty sure we might be done after this little boy joins us."

Her face became surprisingly serious. "Oh, now you need a girl. You got to have one."

"Uhhhh. . ." I let out a nervous laugh. Then I decided to break it up with a joke. "Can't you see I cut all my own hair off so I wouldn't have to comb any heads in the morning? God knew what He was doing. He knew I needed boys."

She still wasn't smiling. "Well. You gon' get old one day. It ain't got nothin' to do with buying baby dolls or combing hair. It's your girls that grow up to be the ones that see about you when you old. Even the boys that love they mama ain't no count when you get up in age and need 'em."


The rest of the passengers seemed to conveniently become silent. Even though I didn't want to do it, I started sifting through my head to see if her statement held any truth. Immediately, I imagined my brother, the one who lives only four houses away from his mother--and before that was only separated from her by two houses. "My brother sees about my mother. That's not always true."

"Yo' brother married?"

I swallowed hard and wished the elevator ride would end. Her sustained gaze over the top of her wire glasses was intimidating.  I couldn't think of any witty comeback so just answered her question. "He is."

"And I bet she be the one seeing 'bout your mama. I bet."

Just then I was relieved to hear the elevator ping on my floor and the doors fling open. "Well. I hope that's not true of my boys." I offered a tight-lipped smile and eased my protuberant tummy around the crowd. "Have a good day, everybody!"

That Grady elder touched my arm and looked into my eyes. Her entire hand was splayed over my the shoulder of my white coat in that way church folks do when laying hands. "God bless you and your baby, sugar. Speaking health and wellness over you and a easy delivery. In the name of Jesus!" Others in earshot joined in as an amen choir. Just when I started feel a sweet wave of emotion, she added a sucker punch. "And go on have you that girl after this one, hear? For when you get to be a old woman like me. You gon' be glad you listened to me."

I tried to respond with a polite nonverbal expression of gratitude. Mostly I felt this weird mixture of moved, awkward and lightweight offended. Even though I knew she didn't mean it as anything but endearing.


I always remembered what that Grady elder said on that elevator ride. Just as I'd predicted, we were done after Zachary and didn't attempt to have more children. And honestly, I've never really felt much regret about my two boy/no girl household. From the rough and tumble play to the stinky socks to the never-let-down toilet seats, I've loved it all. Truly I have. And sure. I can totally see what is special and amazing about having daughters--especially considering that I am one. But being a boy mama hasn't felt like a mistake or a regret to me. I guess it's just always felt sort of meant to be.


Something about that statement of boys growing into inattentive men who "don't see about their elders" would occasionally niggle at me.  Just occasionally. I'd find myself lying in bed cuddling one of the boys and saying things like, "Are you going to forget your mama when you grow up?" Only to feel my heart nearly explode when hearing the heartfelt elementary school declarations otherwise.

I'd still wonder though. In the back of my head, I would.

As silly as it sounds, subconsciously I've kept score ever since. Looking to find as many exceptions to that rule as possible in the family members accompanying in clinic or waiting at the bedsides of my patients. Eyes peeled back looking for those caring, doting, exemplary sons. And yes. There have been sons for sure. But a lot of times there were sisters and wives, too. In fact, nearly all of the times.

So me, the mom of boys, is always hoping, you know? Hoping this isn't how it is. Or, at least, hoping some wonderful women marry my manchildren by the time Harry and I get as old as that woman in the elevator.

Not even kidding.

But, see, that was before I met Mr. Moreland.

I met him in the emergency department one day when my team was on call. He was sitting in the corner with his feet crossed and resting on the edge of the stretcher like it was some kind of ottoman. He was holding on to a folded piece of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and had reading glasses on top of his head. Mr. Moreland stood up the minute I stepped over the threshold into the room. "Frank Moreland," he said shaking my hand. "I'm Mrs. Eloise Moreland's son."

"Nice to meet you, sir. I'm Dr. Manning and I'll be one of the senior doctors taking care of your mother while she's in the hospital, okay?"

"Yes, ma'am," he replied. The "ma'am" felt funny coming from him given that he was easily ten or fifteen years my senior.

Mrs. Eloise had a high fever and a urinary tract infection. Her nearly ninety year old body wasn't much of a match for it, either. She'd been brought to the emergency department confused and moaning. This was a huge change from how she'd been described at baseline.

"Does your mother live alone?"

"No, she live with me." I felt my heart leap a little and scolded myself internally for getting off focus. "She fully self sufficient, though. Real, real independent. She just prefer to not be alone, you know? So she been in my house for quite some time."

"I see. Who else is in the home?"

"It's just me and her. My wife passed a few years back and my kids all grown. But all our family all around so everybody be over there all the time. She got a lot of people looking in on her and coming to see about her."

"That's great."

"Yeah. I'm one of eight. And everybody still living 'cept my oldest sister who passed in '13. I'm the only boy, though." Again an internal pirouette for team boy-mamas.

"Did they used to call you 'brother?'"

"You know it. Still do." He took off his weathered cap and tucked it under his arm with the newspaper. Rubbing his balding head,  he yawned. "All them girls and just one boy. That sho' is something, ain't it?"

It was clear that he was exhausted. But interestingly he didn't seem the least bit bitter or bothered by it. And for that, I liked him immediately. I sure did.

For several days I watched Mr. Moreland come and go. One day he'd have a fluffy fleece blanket and another day would be a hot water bottle to put under her neck. And right along with him were those sisters and grandchildren and some great-grandchildren, too. All surrounding their Big Mama with the love and attention she needed to get better. They brought in balloons and cards and rubbed her feet with salve. And all of it was awesome. It was.

But let me be clear. That manchild of hers? He was the one in charge. And Brother was anything but "no count" as my elevator companion suggested. He was conscientious, devoted and there. And it was all so natural. I loved every second of it.

On the day that Mother was discharged from the hospital, I was sitting at the nurses' station writing a note. Mr. Moreland walked up and made some small talk then clarified a few disposition concerns. Just as he prepared to step away, I spoke his name. "Mr. Moreland?"

He turned around with the discharge folder in his hand and raised his eyebrows. "Ma'am?" He never stopped calling me that.

"Can I ask you something? Or rather tell you and ask you something?" He stepped back over to the counter and positioned himself to let me know I had his full attention. And so. I went ahead and told him what was on my mind. I shared with him what that lady said to me ten years before and how seeing him with his mother had given me hope. Then I asked, "What did your mother do? I need to know her secret." I chuckled when I said it although I was only partially joking.

Mr. Moreland narrowed his eyes and sighed. "Oh now it take a village, that's for sure. But my mama loved hard on all of us. Every last one. And I was just the one in the position to move her in with me, you know? I feel sure my sisters woulda done the same. But I had more room and mama got on well with my wife. I guess I ain't never thought about it as strange."

"That lady said I needed a daughter because boys grow up to be no count when it comes to seeing about their elders."

He laughed out loud at that. "I think folk that's no count when it come to their kinfolk is no count everywhere. You ain't got to wait 'til somebody grow old to see that."

"Good point."

"I say just love 'em. Sacrifice for 'em and show them they matter to you. Like they ain't never no afterthought. When they grow up? It won't even call for no arm twisting. It'll just feel like what they 'posed to do. Like it's in order. You mark my words."

"I hope you're right. Because I'm too old to have a daughter now."

"Daughters can be no count, too."

We both laughed. "I loved watching you love on your mama." I felt my eyes starting to sting a little and rolled them skyward. "Ugh. I'm such a mush ball."

Mr. Moreland grinned wide showing the metal dental work along the sides of his back teeth. His face washed over with warmth. "Something tell me those boys of yours gon' be just fine. Don't you worry."

"You think?"

"I'm a son. And I know what it look like when a mama got love in her eyes."

After that, he tipped his cap, turned around and headed back to his mother's room to retrieve the bouquets of flowers, cards and clusters of mylar balloons. I'm super glad he did, too, because I was on the tippy-tip edge of crying. One or two even slid out.


I hope to grow old with Harry and need only love from my children someday. I want them to have full lives of their own. It is also my wish to forge meaningful adult relationships with them and the people with whom they partner. And now, after listening to and watching Mr. Moreland, I recognize that it isn't so much that I want them to move me in with them or deny others for me. I think it's more that I want them to evolve into the kind of empathic human beings that nurture out of love instead of burdensome obligation. And no. Not just toward aging me. But to people in general.

Yeah. That.

Something in my heart tells me that they will.

I'm a mother of boys. And you know? I'm cool with that.


Happy Friday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .

*Names and details changed to protect anonymity. You know the deal.