I don’t like hospitals. In high school, my family had quite a number of family deaths, including my aunt Whitney, my grandparents’ eldest child. Walking through these white hallways now reminded me of visiting her. After her death—and the several that followed over the next seven years—the thought of returning to a hospital loomed over me like a shadow of what it ultimately led to: death. My nose wrinkled at the smell of sorrow, pain, and sterilization. Hope and somberness bounced off the walls like a game of Ping-Pong. Just as that warm, fleeting feeling leaves, anxiety comes back even harder.
316. I stood just inside Granny’s room door, looking at her through stinging eyes. Her face and hands were swollen, tubes and IVs everywhere. She was unrecognizable. A stark difference from the warmth she typically radiated, with her glistening eyes. She was always a tireless supporter. In the fourth grade, I loved the saxophone but was told my hands were too small to play it. Instead, I was given a flute. When it came time to buy it, Cat didn’t come through. So I did what any child would do in the situation: called my Granny. Not long after, my mother gave me the money. But she didn’t forget to berate me either.
“If you ever come between my mama and me again I’ma beat your ass,” she threatened before I left for school one morning.
I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. All I knew was that she was angry with me. The silver lining, however, was that Granny kept an exceptional track record of support following that event. Throughout my life she has been an unmovable force as well as a provider of gems that are always delivered on time. Once, in my midtwenties, I was home for someone’s birthday party. The party was winding down, yet the house was still filled with many in our large family. It was early morning, and the liquor was taking its toll on everyone. Keyshia Cole’s “I Remember” played on the stereo, and halfway through the song Granny started crying. I’d noticed for years now that she’d cry whenever she heard it. When I asked what brought her to tears, she pointed to the stereo on the other side of the room.
“You came home from school and wept with this album on repeat right there,” she said wiping at her eyes. “I ain’t know what to say to make you feel better. All I knew was you just had to get to the other side of that feeling. I sat on my bed and cried with you.”
That shit rocked me. And further solidified my loyalty to her.
By midmorning the hospital’s waiting room had turned into a family reunion. There were many people I hadn’t seen since my last visit. After graduating from college, I decided I would only come back when necessary. That’s how much drama ensued in my family growing up. My grandparents had five kids. Whitney, the oldest, had a vibrant personality with an even bigger smile. She passed when I was a sophomore in high school. Chase had a dramatic and irresistible aura. Women loved him for his charm despite his refusal to hear anyone else’s voice but his own. Randy was dark chocolate and only spoke when he had something to say. Terrell never took anything too seriously, not even his newly minted fiancée, according to some family. My mother, Catherine, or Cat as she was called, was the baby of the Moore family. She had a big heart and good intentions that just never seemed to come to fruition. Beyond that, everything and everyone was the same at home. Cousin Shanice, Whitney’s daughter, was still devoted to her babies’ father, Took, but Took was only devoted to himself. Great Auntie Shirley, one of two of Granny’s living siblings, and my favorite, was sweet until she wasn’t.
“Good to see you, baby,” she said, scooping me into her arms. “When my dancin’ buddy gettin’ here?
One thing for certain is that the Moore family had a sense of humor. We cracked jokes and could relate a song lyric or movie line to any conversation. Honestly, it was all good with my family—until it wasn’t.
“Girl, be nice.” I swear Pat could read my mind. Most people thought she was the big sister because she was taller than me. Pat was, however, the girly girl. From a very early age, she loved doing hair and makeup. So much so that she would terrorize my Barbie dolls by cutting their hair and making them new clothes. It all paid off as she opened her salon, Beauty Marks, a couple of years ago.
“What up, Faye.”
There was only one person who called me that. Eli, our sixteen-year-old little brother, who wasn’t so little anymore. He stood about 6 feet tall now, and was dressed like the rest of the boys wearing skinny jeans and too small T-shirts. He was damn near a man, but still had a boyish charm about him, and those gorgeous dimples. I stepped back to get a good look at him. He was handsome. He wrapped his arms around me.
“How long you gonna be here this time?”
Pat nudged him in the ribs. “Right. Cause we need to have a talk with him about school and his disappearing acts.”
I had known for some time now that Eli was having behavioral problems in school. I didn’t know, however, that the boy was ditching. He looked everywhere else but me. I started to ask if he had talked to his mother when my adorable and very spoiled five-year-old niece, Hope, grabbed ahold of my leg and wouldn’t let go. I hugged my brother-in-law, James, before scooping her up.
“Have you been good, pooh?” We hugged each other as tight as we could. Hope had the uncanny ability to make my heart feel as though it was bursting.
“Yes, Tee Tee.”
“Nice! We’re all gonna spend some time together before I leave, okay?”
“Books?” She asked with pleading eyes.
“I ain’t know people still read books,” a husky voice said.
The only person who had a voice like that in this family was Terrell. I turned to see he was still tall as hell, with a shiny, bald head. Trailing not too far behind him had to be his fiancé Brenda. Her brown weave flowed down her back like a horse’s tail; her walk signified that she was proud to be on the arm of her man.
“You’d be surprised at the things people do for enjoyment,” I said as my uncle and I half-hugged each other.
“You must be Faith. Your uncle told me all about you and your little job.” Brenda said.
I started to tell her that being a defense lawyer was a career, but Pat’s elbow stopped me. I swear she had telepathy.
“Still got that long, pretty hair everybody talk about,” Brenda said throwing her horse ponytail over her shoulder. “You sure that’s all you?”
“Every inch.” Brenda brushed my extended hand aside and bear-hugged me. My reflex wanted to push her off, but I thought of Granny and how she always told me to be nice. “And congrats on your engagement. I heard the party was something.”
“Thanks. We’ll take a nice gift though. You definitely look like you got it.”
I chuckled at her little comment. Before I could respond, Pat nudged me in the side again. And then the doctor walked in. He reminded me of Grey’s Anatomy’s McSteamy: dark wavy locks, bright blue eyes. The way the family stood at attention, you would’ve thought he was a sergeant.
“I’m Dr. Eric Porter. Frances has had a severe stroke that has paralyzed the left side of her body. She will need both speech and physical therapy.”
Stifled groans and sobs filled the waiting room.
“This won’t be an easy journey for her, but with the proper support and therapy she can recover,” he continued. “Also, her emergency contact is her late husband Charles, so we’ll need to update that.”
“Put me down.” Terrell approached Dr. Porter cooler than the other side of a pillow.
Aunt Shirley cleared her throat. “Now, hold on. How you just gonna do that? You not her only child. What about your siblings, honey? They might wanna help.”
Terrell looked amused. “Cat and Chase ain’t here. And Randy ain’t capable of making no decisions.”
Randy, a couple inches shorter than his brother, looked at him like he was crazy. “Yes, I am. But I don’t wanna do it.”
“Well, I think Faith should help.” Aunt Shirley interjected. “Y’all know that education she got help her understand what the people be talking about and stuff.”
“Faith a big-time lawyer, so she probably ain’t interested. “What you think, Faith?”
The room was so silent you could hear a pin drop.
“Terrell can be the contact. I’ll help out wherever else I’m asked.”
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