Alright--here's the apology in advance for yet another non-medical post. But, y'all! I have to tell you about this!!
No. I did not win the lottery or some big award. All this excitement is over something I saw on television. Uhhh, sorry.
Anyways--I cannot stop talking about and watching this. Seriously? Cannot. Okay. So this image above is from the Bravo television show "It's a Brad, Brad World" -- which admittedly I don't watch other than on random weekend marathons -- but for whatever reason, I caught yesterday evening.
So glad I did!
Okay, so check it. Brad and his partner Gary were celebrating their tenth anniversary and they threw this big ol' swanky backyard shindig. All kinds of beautiful people there, but mostly good friends from different stages in their lives. Other than the fact that they have a bunch of money, it seemed a lot like a very nice dinner or cocktail party that any of you would plan for your own friends.
Well. Gary gets up to give a toast to Brad. Both of them are pretty chatty dudes so it didn't surprise me that he had a bunch of very sweet things to say which got Brad all verklempt. He talked about how they met and how within hours of meeting how they were singing songs from Les Miserables at the tops of their lungs. Then everyone quieted down when Gary talked about how he knew right away that this was the person he'd fall in love with.
Now me? I don't care who you are or how many X chromosomes you or your sweetheart have. I'm just a sucker for a good love story. And love at first sight in the Mykonos? Man. That's my kind of love story. (Also, I'm sort of rooting for Brad since Rachel Zoe that designer lady on the show he spun off from isn't always so nice to him.) Yeah. So I was happy to learn that Brad is happily boo-ed up.
So yep. Even though I was channel surfing last night, once I got to this mushy love story, I stayed on the channel and watched the whole thing.'Cause I'm all about hearing about some love.
Anywho. Gary is talking and everyone there is looking all doe-eyed and love-filled and happy for them. Including me from my couch. So THEN, Gary just abruptly stops talking--which does catch me by surprise because, like I said, these dudes love to talk. In fact, I have no idea how those two get a word in edgewise with one another.
But I digress.
So, yeah, the talking was over. Gary said something about how sometimes words don't suffice and then. . . . he just stopped talking.
And then this. Y'all!
A BROADWAY FLASH MOB!!
Best. Surprise. Ever. Loved it, loved it, LOVED IT. O. M. expletive. G.
Y'all. Y'all!! A Broadway Flash Mob? Seriously? Seriously. I am beside myself!
Okay, this is totally on my bucket list. To have someone put one on for me, or hell just to be in one. And no, I cannot sing. But neither could Gary and he was in this one!
If you plan a Broadway Flash Mob in your backyard--I'm your girl. For real.
Yes, Mom. For your sixty-fifth YOU wanted us all to have dinner with you. But me? I want folks to break out in song. And not just any ol' song either. . . .
BROADWAY song, baby. Woo hooooo!
Just in case you are wondering, any track from RENT will do. Ah hem.
That reminds me--have I ever told y'all about the day that Harry almost divorced me when I held him captive in the movie version of RENT?
Harry: "Is he. . . singing?"
Me: "Yeah, babe."
Harry: "Wait. . .why is he still singing? Wait. . . .aww hell no! Why is he singing, too?"
Me: "It's a musical,babe."
Harry: "Is that. . . TAYE DIGGS? Wait. . what the. . why in the HELL is TAYE DIGGS SINGING?!? AND THE DUDE FROM LAW AND ORDER, TOO?!? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS YOU GOT ME WATCHING?!?"
Um, yeah. (And I may or may not have censored that a bit.)
See? NOW you know that the likelihood of the BHE arranging or singing in a Broadway flash mob for me is about the same as him growing a big round afro and then perming it straight like James Brown. Yes. That means that this dream falls squarely on the shoulders of all of you.
So? So who's in? Who's down for being in my Broadway flash mob? Well?
*eyebrows raised, big goofy smile and feverish head-nodding*
Diamonds? Pearls? A snazzy pocketbook? A gadget of some sort? A necklace from Tiffany? A trip to some exotic place?
Nope. None of that.
"I just want us all to be together," she said. "Maybe we can all go to dinner or something?"
This is what she told my brother who then told me in a text message. My brother with the four children, the three veterinary practices, the equally-busy-veterinarian wife, and the crazy life. And also the brother with whom I'd allowed a series of petty misunderstandings create a subtle separation between us.
No, not the kind where you refuse to speak ever again. But the more pervasive kind that eventually makes more than just the two of you uncomfortable. Subtle. Where you are pleasant and cordial when you see each other because you know better than to be something other than that. Pervasive. Where you're there together, yes, but that undercurrent makes it slightly unpleasant for everyone. Like a well-behaved elephant in the room with a giant wrist watch on, counting down the minutes to when you can get back to whatever you both were doing.
"Mom wants us all to take her to dinner for her birthday," his text message read. "All of us."
And seeing as my brother lives less than a block from my mother, that "all of us" part meant "not just those of us who live right near her" but all of us. You. Me. Harry. Everyone.
I didn't mention my older sister's name because she, like my younger sister, has always been a little less . . .flaky than my brother and me.
"The flakes." Ha.
Oh, the story behind that? Well, once Dad had gotten very angry with my brother and me for the umpteenth time and in that lecture he knighted the two of us the "flaky" kids. But it never bothered us.
Flakes. To us, it meant that we were quirky in a cool way, marchers to our own drums, and, even if a bit difficult at times, it meant that we were quasi-masters of our own destinies. And for the most part, that proved to be true. From that point forward we affectionately referred to one another as "Flake #1" and "Flake #2."
But this time, that flakiness had crept in elsewhere. Carefully teasing apart two like-minded siblings who had once been indescribably close. Which also created this heaviness between our spouses as well and, though it hurts to admit it, what could and likely would eventually become a wayward drifting of our children. Subtle. Pervasive. Elusive, even. No lamps being thrown across rooms or f-bombs being dropped. Just the numbing indifference created by repetitive misunderstandings that get placed on back burners, and that eventually get replaced by some distorted version of the truth.
Such as: "we just are different people." Or: "it is what it is." Even though we both know that we've been different people all along and that "it is what it is" is never a suitable explanation for families being divided.
At least not ours.
"I just want us all to be together. My kids, my grandkids, everyone."
That was all she wanted for her birthday. That's it. That's all.
Sounds simple enough doesn't it?
And actually? It was. It truly was. Because no matter how "different" we claim to be, one thing that we all can agree upon is loving Mom. "Sugar." The woman that is so sweet that everyone calls her some version of that word. "Shug" for short. Or even "Shugsie."
And so. The Atlanta contingent of our family came together on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the day my mother was born. Packed up all of our pride and stuffed it down as tightly as we could to give Shug the birthday she deserved. At her favorite restaurant with the good music and the good people and the good food.
In we walked, and there everyone was. My brother, Will, and his entire family. My sister, Deanna, and of course, Shug. But something else was in that room, too. A spirit, an energy sprinkling goodness on that day like fairy dust. So as we entered, it somehow became like a receiving line--everyone hugging and kissing and feeling celebratory. And for good reason.
Then something happened.
First a big hug between Will and Harry. Tight and genuine. Unusually so. And you know? There's something about seeing two men hugging like that that seems to right the world. That gesture seemed to set the tone for the evening. . . reminding us why we were all there and how blessed we are to have this kind of family. And especially that the "stuff" that we had allowed to creep into our lives was stupid, really. And not worth it.
This was just a few days after Dad had lost his baby sister. His sister who he'd sometimes had a few misunderstandings with, too, but always pushed beyond. Watching him mourn her death reminded us all of how short life is and how careful we have to be as stewards of the time we've been given here.
Next came hugs between my brother and me. Knowing, telling, issue-squashing hugs. And just then, that blanket of heavy lifted up and floated away. We could feel it when it happened. Everything lightened and love took over. And I tell you, something in my heart believes it left for good.
And Mom. Oh, Mother. The look on her face, the joy in her laughter, the peace in her eyes--it was . . .indescribable. I felt so happy but so ashamed when I saw it, too. Because in that moment, I knew that this is all a parent really wants. For their kids to be happy and whole but also harmonious and at peace.
But that can't be forced, you know? After sixty-five years, Shug is wise enough to know that you can't tell forty-somethings to simply "kiss and make up."
But she's also wise enough to believe that love, with its perfect timing, can.
And this time it did.
"If I didn't wake up tomorrow, you all could know I died the happiest sixty-five year old woman in the world."
That's what Shug said as the night drew to a close. And she meant every word.
I watch people as they grow older because there is so much to learn. In this moment, I saw a sixty-five year old woman with children old enough and employed enough to get her pretty much whatever material thing she wanted. But all she wanted was something that couldn't be purchased in a store. Peace, love, fellowship, family and harmony. Oh and what a joy it was to give it to her--to give our mother exactly what she wanted.
This morning, I'm reflecting on that. On what is really important and what matters. I am thinking of how happy we all were that night and how happy we made our mother. But most of all, I'm holding on to the lesson in it all: that many times the very thing we have to give someone--especially a loved one--is the very gift they'd already given us long before.
Happy Birthday, Mom. From here forward, we promise to always love you more.
And now playing on my mental iPod. . . .the song that was playing from this moment between Flakes 1 and 2 from Shugsie's party:
. . .and of course, the original since now I know it's in your head. (*You're welcome.*)
"Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."
"Haiku, Dad. No, Daddy, you didn't miss anything on my last post. It's a form of, like, poetry. You know, haiku. I think it's Japanese. You break each line into syllables. Like this:
Five syllables first
Seven syllables second
Five syllables last.
Get it? No?! The point? It's poetry, Dad. Does poetry need a point? No, everything doesn't need a point. . . . . sigh."
So much for that.
But for the rest of you, I bring you a few moments from my life this week in haiku. ('Cause I'm all renaissance like that.) Wait. . .uh. . .haiku isn't exactly renaissance is it? Err. . .oh well.
TOP TEN RANDOMS FROM THIS WEEK
IN THE FORM OF HAIKU
(and what I learned or thought about after)
#10 Oh, de toilet.
One child vomiting
By midnight, one became two
and also two ends
Lessons learned: Regardless of what you think, it is possible for diarrhea--if explosive enough--to land on the wall several feet away from the commode. Particularly if you are five years old and sent into the loo unattended.
#9 It's a date.
I love the Oscars
Over Billy Crystal though
but not Scorsese
Two cents: My other favorite part is sending text messages back and forth during the show--especially with my partner in award show-watching crime, Nikki.
Still trying to run
Today was my best ever!
Wanna be Flo-Jo
Lesson learned: My friend Stacy H. told me that maybe I have been trying to run too fast. Today I set out and ran so slow that I am sure I looked totally ridiculous. But! I didn't have to walk as much! Yay! And no I didn't go very far but for me it was a milestone. Yay me!
#7 The Golden Girls.
Broke bread with girlfriends
All Grady doctor girlfriends
But all off the clock
Two cents: Every woman there had at least ten years under her belt at Grady. That means over a decade of friendship. In that time, we've celebrated each other as we've had babies, won awards, gotten married and even had more babies. But most of all we simply support and root for one another. That's something to toast to!
#6 I didn't read that in People!!
Seen on the Oscars!
Cameron and P. Diddy?!
Well, alrighty then.
Two cents: Whaaaaatt???? OMG!! Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez presented together!! Like both with P-Diddy pillow talk to share! Eeeww!! But they did both look a-mazing!! (Okay, clearly Nikki and I are the only ones who think this is OMG and newsworthy!)
#5 Excuse me, miss.
"I'm Dr. Manning."
"Nice to meet you, Miss Manning."
"Nice to meet you, too."
Two cents: "Miss" can be a term of endearment depending upon who says it.
#4 Sleep is for wimps.
All roads lead to Mommy's bed
Sick kids are sleep thieves
Lesson learned: Mommy + two vomit-prone boys plastered to her side on one fourth of the bed does not seem to be fair. All in love might be fair, but not in our bed when the kids are sick.
#3 Best. Job. Ever.
Small group Gamma
Fun with my small groups
Teaching, laughing, so much joy
Two cents: Having a longitudinal teaching experience with my small group medical students has been so unbelievably special. I genuinely love every last one of them.
Small group Beta
Some epic texting
With my dear profesora
that might change the world
Two cents: Oh, profesora. I cherish you so. I know you will read this. And then you will text me. And I will text you right back with many heart emoticons. Because you are a wonderful person and friend with so many qualities I aspire to have. I'm so proud of you.
#1 Virtual village.
Dark words hit like fists
But you all stood beside me
and showed me the truth
Lesson learned: Writing here has opened me to a new form of community. But the way you all came to my side last week? Your words, your comments, your emails, your text messages? It reminded me quickly that love wins. I wasn't soliciting those kumbayah messages and comments, but dammit they came at a time when I truly needed them. Thank you for being a part of my village.
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?