Tuesday, March 29, 2011


 "Black don't crack."

~ Anonymous

On rounds this week. . . .

"Wait a minute. . . . I must be in the wrong room. I'm looking for somebody in their eighties. Pardon me for the interruption." Act like I'm leaving.

Flashes me a smile so sweet it gave me a cavity on the spot.  "You in the right room, baby.  You know I'm fixin' to make eighty-seb'm in a few more months." Sweetest little chuckle ever. Love it.

Playfully fold my arms and give her the hairy eyeball. "No way. Don't believe it." Reach over and check her wrist band. "Whaaat?" Chuckles even sweeter.

"Sho' is."

"You're in your eighties?"

Smoothing the covers over her legs. "Might even be in my nineties. . . . you know back then they ain't always keep track so good."

I smile and think of when my friend and fellow Grady doctor, Lesley M., told me last week that one of the Grady elders she saw wasn't sure of his age--"because they didn't count the barefoot years." Love the reference and wonder if her "barefoot years" were counted in that eighty-seb'm.  She looks skyward as if she's doing the math; then waves her hands and shrugs. "I says eighty-seb'm, but it may even be ninety. Who knows?"

This time we both chuckle. But hers is still sweeter. Especially the knee slap she added to this one.

I look at her and say exactly what I am thinking. "Amazing." Because it is. And she is.

"Tha's what I say every day. Amazing that the Lawd seen fit for me to be here this long. And you know, I do for myself, you know. Cooks, cleans, all that."

My mind wanders to my eighty-eight year old grandmother in rural Alabama who, like this patient, does for herself, too.  Again, I say exactly what I am thinking. "Amazing indeed."

"Is ain't it?"

Yes. Amazing that you were alive when there was a black Grady and white Grady and Martin Luther King, Sr. preaching around the corner at Ebenezer Baptist Church and when telegraphs were used instead of telephones. Amazing that somebody you know got sprayed with a fire hose and probably slapped across the face just for standing there. Even more amazing that despite that, you also turned on your cable TV in 2009 and saw a dapper young man of color sworn in as the president. Your president. President of the same country that houses this state that you were born and raised in--where a governor during your lifetime ran and won on the platform of "No, Not One!"--as in no, not one black child would integrate a school in the state of Georgia. Which, in the 1950's when all of that was going down, meant your kids.

Even if it is only eighty-seven counting the barefoot years, you've still seen a lot.

I shake my head and think, My, my, my. It bears repeating. "Amazing."

On to the business because I know I could do this part all day. And so, I get on with it. Ask my questions. Listen to her responses. Perform my examination. Review the plan. Laugh along the way. Grab all the wisdom and joy she spills all over the bed, the floor, and into my pockets. Loving every minute of her presence. Feeling her light shining. Decide to bask in it for a few more moments.

"So what's the key to being able to do for yourself at 'maybe-even-ninety?'"

"My mama always said keep your mind busy. And don't be lazy or idle. If you just set around and don't do no work, your mind go. I stays busy. I do stuff. Keep myself going. And mama also said don't be fred to work. Tha's what I mean by don't be lazy or idle."

Nod my head. Try to catch the wisdom between my fingers. Stuff that one in my sock for later.

Flash my penlight on her face. Squint my eyes. "So I have to ask an important medical question."

"What's that, baby?"  Face looks temporarily serious.

Inspect her face with the fluorescent light carefully. Raise one eyebrow. "There's a problem. I can't seem to find your wrinkles. Where are they?"

Gives me scolding but amused scowl. Then, looks around the bed playfully. Lifts the cover she just smoothed out. "Oh, dang! Musta left 'em at home!"

No--this time, really--sweetest chuckle ever.  Grab a little more of that joy to tuck in my top pocket for later.

Amazing, indeed.


Love it. Love her. Love this job.


Happy Tuesday.


  1. Oh, she sounds adorable!! I have two grandmothers who are both 86 this year (I'm really, really, really fortunate) and I went just yesterday to go see one to play Bridge with her, and the other I go to see every week, and I'm continually so just amazed and blessed by how well they've aged and how much they're able to do themselves. It's really such a gift to be around them. And how lucky that you get to see women like that at your work! (I work with high schoolers ... so a very different kind of energy!)

    This post made me smile. And made me think really happily of my lovely grandmothers. Thank you :)

  2. Oh and I am learning to love YOU!

  3. Loved this post. Old people are so my kryptonite. I'll bet you could have stayed in there all day. :)

  4. What I would give to follow you around for a day...

  5. k- this is the stuff we were talking about that night at my house- it is amazing- amazing world- amazing time to be 87

  6. This made me remember my lovely grandmother who lived until age 101, fully in her right mind although frail physically in the end. When my young son told her how pretty she looked on one visit, she told him, "well honey, it's only the first 100 years that are the hardest." She was a blessing to me.

  7. I was just thinking about this today--how even my *parents* saw things in their lives that I couldn't even fathom happening now. It really is truly astounding.

    And, I love this line, so much: "Grab all the wisdom and joy she spills all over the bed, the floor, and into my pockets"


  8. 'I can help you with the brand new technology
    Help me with the age old philosophy
    Together there's so much we can do when
    Young People, who talk to
    Old People, it would make us
    Better People, all around...'

  9. this post speaks to my heart...I'm 30 years old and hold the relationships I have with my grandmothers dear to my heart...I'm so blessed to have them in my life!
    You, Dr. Manning are one of the most inspiring people I've "met" in some time...i look forward to reading your posts everyday : )
    thank you!


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