Archive for August, 2012

Black Rapper Diagnosis

I have been hesitant to post this article, but after being unsuccessful at sharing it with Common, I thought I would at least share it on my blog.  🙂  Enjoy (I hope) and let me hear your feedback.  Thank you!  Namaste.

Black Rapper Diagnosis

Nancy Deming-May

December 2011

My mother-in-law is in her mid-eighties, with very little body fat, a keen interest in fashion and a passion for so called “news” and politics – the more sensational, the better.  She is also an avid cross-word puzzler with a healthy distrust of others, bordering on paranoia.  This distrust includes the medical profession.  She has maintained her robust health over the years through a sine wave of doctor visits and prescriptions balanced by a complete ignoring of the diagnoses and recommendations.  She also places complete trust and faith in her son, my husband, the former fighter pilot and current business executive, and his diagnostic prowess.  (She calls me first, before the vet, for cat problems so I don’t feel left out.)  She recently went to the doctor for an annoying group of spots on her leg that she was convinced were spider bites.  The doctor wasn’t quite sure what it was but assured her they weren’t spider bites.  She called us that night and gave a detailed description of her skin malady, maligned the doctor’s opinion, and anxiously awaited her son’s blind and remote, and dare I say uneducated, interpretation.  He expertly suggested poison ivy and she reveled in the anticipation of the probable steroidal prescription which always seems to boost her energy and spirits.  I’m not quite sure of the true origin or cure, but those annoying bumps eventually faded.

This past summer however, brought about more concerning symptoms of lethargy and shortness of breath.  These types of symptoms have historically been explained away by her as allergies, but this time had gotten so prevalent, that even a walk through a department store was cause to sit and rest.  For the matriarch who is known for her farewell jumping jacks as we back out of her driveway at the conclusion of our visits, this new symptom was quite troubling.  When we picked up her granddaughter, a medical doctor, at the airport, I quickly “tattled” as to her symptoms thinking perhaps she could help talk Grandma into going back to the doctor to get this latest malady diagnosed and treated.  In addition to these recent shortness of breath issues, there has long been a “phlegm problem”.  It starts in the mornings with the first cup of coffee, and often coats her voice to such an extent that we are all loudly clearing our throats in an attempt to help her find her voice. It seems to usually fade over the day, but causes no end of frustration for Grandma, as well as her conversation partners.   Well, reliable granddaughter and doctor that she is, our family doctor ended up sacrificing her first full day at the lake in order to accompany Grandma to the clinic and ensure she got a proper diagnosis.  Many hours and aggravations later, they both arrived home with the diagnosis of COPD and a handful of prescriptions.  We were all relieved to finally have a proper diagnosis, and though there is no real cure, there was hope for improvement in Grandma’s condition and just perhaps, an “end” to the “phlegm problem”.

Several months later when the sense of urgency lifted, Rosemary began her lower sine wave trend into disbelief in doctors, diagnoses and drugs, and reverted to her normal “drug-free” state.  Though disappointed, we could hardly complain as her shortness of breath seemed a thing of the past.  Her “phlegm problem” however, continued to plague us all with no relief in sight.  Little did I know that our “cure” was just a short interview and a book away.

Weekday mornings I set my alarm early like most working adults, and get up to walk the dogs and make my high schooler a hot breakfast and whole grain lunch that he assures me he eats.  We have a set routine where he helps me by emptying the dishwasher or doing other chores and sometimes I sit with him for a few minutes while he watches his latest DVR recordings.  Not prone to deep conversations at this hour, we bond through mutual amusement at his “shows”.  One we both enjoy is Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show and one morning I happened to catch a ten minute interview with a tall good looking black man who had just written a book called, “Someday It’ll All Make Sense.”  I was REALLY struck by this man’s openness, sincerity and warmth, and was so impressed with the gratitude he expressed to Jon Stewart and intrigued by this book about his life, that I decided I HAD to read it.  I had no idea who this was but I jotted down the title and ordered it later that day with my go-to on-line book source.  At my writers’ group meeting later that week, I showed off my new book and explained my sudden infatuation with this charismatic stranger who went by the name of “Common” of all things.  One of our members immediately thrilled at the mention of this man and confessed that she’d even told her husband that he was the one man she would leave him for.  In addition, she said, her husband would often do surgery while listening to this artist’s hip hop music.  I later mentioned the book to another friend and he informed me that this was the rapper who had attended a White House function several years ago and that some in the conservative media had tried to blow his lyrics out of proportion in order to reflect poorly on the President’s company by accusing Common of writing songs that advocated killing policemen.  I vaguely remembered that media debacle and chuckled at the irony of me, a more-than middle-aged white woman, reading a book by a black rapper whose music I’d never even heard.

Nevertheless, I read on, enjoying Common’s style of introducing each chapter with a letter to someone he loves.  I was also amazed how his mother, a PhD and educator, wrote her perspective throughout the book, and I laughed at the parts Jon Stewart had mentioned where Common was uncomfortably candid about some of his experiences with women – especially, shhhh, with Common’s mother on the next page!  I finished the book with a little better insight into the rap community and a new-found respect for Common’s dedication to his art.  I did not, however, recommend the book to my mother-in-law.

We took her with us recently to the west coast to visit our oldest son and his family and to greet our new granddaughter/great-granddaughter.  We had a wonderful visit and everyone got along fabulously – even at four in the morning when we east-coasters would meet in the kitchen and try to figure out the complicated coffee maker.  We were, however, still plagued with the “phlegm problem.”  It would sneak up unexpectedly and wrap itself around Grandma’s latest story or joke and completely ruin the flow, besides making us all wish we could clear our own throats for her.  At one point I recalled how Common mentioned that he stopped eating dairy in an attempt to keep his voice at its best.  This was, I assume, due to dairy products’ tendency to produce phlegm and plague an otherwise clear voice during singing performances.  Could this be the same for her?  I mentioned this avoidance of dairy to my mother-in-law and found some almond milk in the frig that she could use instead.  Never sure if she’ll trust my suggestions on anything other than cats, I watched, amazed, as she poured almond milk into her coffee cup, and proceeded with her morning routine.  She seemed a bit better that morning but we weren’t sure whether it was our imagination or a truly successfully diagnosis and treatment.

Our visit ended too soon, reluctantly prying the grandbaby out of our arms and taking us back to our home routines while dreaming of our next reunion.  Grandma made it all the way back to her comfortable upstate New York home of 53 years, complete with a 20 pound cat and an attic full of memories.  She transitions seamlessly from exercise classes to bridge games to church volunteering and political party support activities, keeping us breathless with her packed agenda.  Our last phone call with her was typical, save one tidbit of news.  Her days are full, her bridge game is mediocre, her bone builders is more social than strength building and most exciting of all, her almond milk solution to her morning coffee seems to have led to a cessation in the “phlegm problem.” 

My husband and I continue to marvel at the miracle we call her Black Rapper Diagnosis.

One day, I will listen to Common’s music.


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