Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The tears of a clown.

Now if there's a smile on my face
It's only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that's quite a different subject
But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I'm sad, oh sadder than sad
You're gone and I'm hurting so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around

from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles


"Why Judge Joe Brown got to talk like he reading off one them teleprompters? The-verdict-is-for-the-plain-tiff."

I laughed out loud when my patient said that. Not because his Judge Joe Brown observation was the funniest thing ever, but just because he was funny. Effortlessly so. He was just one of those people with humor shut up in his bones that just had to get out. His intonation, his mischievous expression, and just the timing of how he said things always induced laughter from any and every person around. And real laughter, too. Not just those obligatory giggles you give pseudo-funny people. My patient was hilarious--even when he wasn't trying to be. Although most times, funny was his intention.

"Judge Joe always look like he don't even want to be there, don't he?" He shook his head and laughed at his own observation. "Just look at him sitting there all mad and constipated-looking. He act like it's court-ordered, don't he?"


And me, I chuckled again because it had never occurred to me that Judge Joe Brown's staccato voice could be likened to someone badly reading flashcards nor had I noticed how his surly smirk could be mistaken for reluctance. This was what made talking to my patient so much fun. He always managed to point out the funny quirks of every day things which made caring for his not-so-everyday diagnosis just a little bit easier.

"What do you think about Judge Judy? She's my mom's favorite."

He narrowed his eyes and jutted out his bottom lip. It was so animated that I knew something funny would be coming next. "Oh, see, I couldn't go on Judge Judy's show. Naaaaahhh, not me."

I was already smiling back at him in anticipation. "I don't even want to ask why." 

"Maaaaan! You heard the way that lady be cutting folks off and going off before they even get a word in edgewise? Shoot, talk about catching a case! I'd be done jumped over that podium like a wildcat at that lady!"


"Oh no! You'd assault Judge Judy?"

"Naaw, doc. It wouldn't even get to that. 'Cause you know that black dude that stand on the side woulda had to put down his magazine long enough to try to stop me. Then, you know, me and dude would be scuffling on the ground and instead of me getting a $500 judgement I'll end up with a $5000 bail. See? Ain't even worth it."

He loved making me laugh and I loved egging him on. All of it was great. "That's a funny image."


"Okay. Real talk, though, Miss Manning. Real talk." Now he feigned a serious face. I folded my arms and twisted my mouth, knowing what he'd say would be anything but. "I would never, ever try to hurt ol' Judy. You know that about me, right?"

"I do know that about you, sir."

"But I would grab that doily-looking thang from 'round her neck. Now that I would do!"

We both erupted into fluffy laughs all over again and it was all easy and light.

But. His issues weren't. They weren't easy or light at all.

I gently waded into the purpose of my visit. "Mr. Floyd? Did they already take you down for the test?"

"Yeah, they did. And some lady with a soft voice but some man hands was the one who helped me get on the table. You ever seen a lady with the man hands? All pretty in the face but then hands big and muscular like she been chopping wood?" He shuddered like he was terrified.

"Oh wow. I sure hope I don't have the man hands, Mr. Floyd." I couldn't help but pause to laugh at that term "man hands." He seemed glad that I did. "Did it go okay, though? Your procedure?"

"I thank so. They said they got what they needed. And ol' Man Hands seemed satisfied."

I pressed my lips together and then sat down next to his bed on the nearby chair. His room was unusually barren. Not a single flower, card or balloon was there, even though he'd been with us for at least four days. When I asked him earlier about family, he brushed the question off saying that he mostly does for himself.

"Everybody needs somebody," I recall saying.

"But not everybody want to be needed," he quickly countered.

And what could you say to that?

The test he had confirmed the worst. Disease far more advanced than our medicine could handle. And even though we explained that part and told him of the things that could be done to improve his symptoms, he continued to crack jokes and keep things light instead of wrestling with the unpleasant facts before him.

"What do they do with somebody that pass but don't have money for a funeral?"

"Pardon?" That question surprised me. Even though he was going home with hospice care, I still didn't expect him to say that.

"I'm gon' call Willie Watkins' Funeral Home and see what kind of hook up I can get. Y'all don't have no coupons at Grady?"

This time my chuckle was less genuine. His words were funny, but mostly I felt sad. Sad that he was dying. Sad that he was talking about it like this. And even sadder that after four more days, there still wasn't any evidence that a loved one would be coming to his side.

"Mr. Floyd? I will be thinking about you a lot, okay? And I promise to never forget you, sir." That's what I said instead. I needed him to know that part because it was true.

"I 'preciate that, Miss Manning."

"I wish you didn't have to go through this. I really do."

"I know. But man plans and God laughs, right? At least that's what my grandmama used to say."

The corner of my mouth turned upward in a half-hearted smile. That was all I had at the moment.

"But you know, Miss Manning? Laughing is how I get through. I hope I die with a big smile on my face, too. And that I die mid-breath telling a joke to somebody or playing the dozens."

And something about that image brought out inexplicable emotion in me. Tears rushed to my eyes and fell too fast for me to blink them away. I wiped my cheeks with the heels of my hand and shook my head feeling embarrassed. "Uggggh. I'm sorry, Mr. Floyd."

He reached for my hand and squeezed it. "Thanks, hear?"

I felt awful for making my patient feel like he had to console me. Wrapping my hand around his, I nodded and tried to smile. Mr. Floyd placed his other hand over mine and patted it gently. "You know what, Miss Manning?" He cast his eyes down at our hands and then looked up into mine. His eyes were glistening with tears, too.

"What's that, sir?"

"You don't have the man hands." The tears evaporated from his eyes just enough to leave his signature twinkle of mischief.

And that time?  I did laugh out loud. And so did he.

This? This is Grady.

Happy Tuesday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . . the song that always plays in my head when I think of him. They just don't make music like this anymore.


  1. At least you let him talk about it. Most people just shush you down.

  2. A Grady elder AND Judge Judy?! Now that's a great combination!❤️

  3. I cried reading this...lol I know a big ole cry baby but this story just really got to me.



"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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