Monday, September 4, 2017

Twenty for Twenty: Number 2.

The Alley Oop.

I imagine what life is supposed to be like in the sixth and seventh decades. I see grandkids screaming through houses, knowing full well not to stomp too hard in certain areas because something precious to grandmama will fall and shatter. Those kids have it down to an art. They hop and leap in the other areas. And the grandmama is cool with it.

And if, by chance, grandmama is not well enough to sweep her own floors and make her own bed and scramble her own eggs due to some unfortunate health detours, I see the same family responsible for making those rambunctious grandchildren stepping in to see about her. Coming to get grandmama to her doctor's appointment or going to the store to pick something up for her if she needs it. Lightening her load because that's what family does.


But that isn't what is going on here. You are a sixty-something grandmama. Wait. I take that back. I am not fully sure if you are a grandmama but, still, in those far away eyes I see the love and tenderness of one. So, in my mind, that counts. And you are here in front of me in this hospital bed staring into far away places. Your body is sick. But it is sick with the kinds of things that could be managed with some support. I mean, mostly managed. With support, that is.

But you don't have that.

Mental illness is what robbed you in broad daylight. Held you up at gunpoint one day and then came back for more. And nobody jumped in the way to stop the crime so you eventually lost all the things that people need to just be. Especially as you get up in age.

"Where are your people?" I ask.

You don't fully get it. It's like I threw a basketball for you to catch and shoot and instead you grabbed a bat to swat it like a baseball. Our conversations don't align; they don't match. "We were eating peach cobbler. And I said, 'Do you think this cobbler need some ice cream on it? Or some heavy whipping cream on it?' But everybody just kept on eating it."

My brow furrowed. "Who made the cobbler?"

"I just eat it. But not without any kind of cream."

"Who gave you the cobbler?" I wanted to know. There is love in peach cobbler. And just maybe that meant there was someone somewhere loving you. "Who served you peach cobbler?"

"Somebody said it feel like the autumn coming. To me, it feel mostly like summer time still. The mosquitoes still here. But they don't like me."

This time she kicked the basketball like a soccer ball.

"Where do you live?"

"There was the bench where we had the cobbler but I had to move from there. I had a daughter. She died from sickle cell."

My breath hitched. You lost a child?

"Jesus." I covered my mouth because I didn't mean to say that out loud.

"They came and cleaned up out there so you can't lay on the bench over there."

I swallowed hard and just kept gazing at you. Your hair matted down to your head in one confluent dreadlock. Your teeth fractured and denuded down to tiny browning chiclets. Your eyes super wild and industrious, oblivious to all of this. And your hands, unusually soft-looking in their appearance with a tapestry of bulging veins that look just right for grandmothering.


Oh, and the other thing about those hands? No burns or callouses on them suggestive of holding glass pipes or flicking lighters. Your labs also told the same story--this was all just unruly mental illness with low resources and no support. This was something I've seen and I see.

I hate it. Perhaps more than or as much as the things I see that I hate the most in this work.

And so. I will treat your illness. At least, the medical one that I can handle. I will call the social worker and try as hard as I can to advocate for you just like the doctor did the last time you were here. I will attempt to grasp the names that fly out of your mouth into word clouds above you, hoping to attach them to phone numbers and peach cobbler. This is what I will do.

And, even when it feels futile, I will keep passing you ball after ball. Praying with all of my might that, just maybe, this will be the time that you lean your body back, press your palm to the back of it and shoot it straight into the air and into the basket.

And it that doesn't work? That someone, somewhere will run to your rescue to tip it in on the alley oop.


Happy Monday.

1 comment:

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

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