True Colors

As this election season kicks into high gear it’s been interesting to see Miss Cathy engaging in the process.

It goes without saying that this lady is gaga for President Obama. She may not always remember what day it is but she remembers the date that the president was inaugurated.

Miss Cathy was the first person I called back on 2008 when our first African-American President was declared. I remember her sounding the happiest I’d heard in a long time, she was (almost) speechless, unusual for her l know, but her joy was that strong.

I can’t imagine how she felt, being someone that had grown up in the Jim Crow South, seeing what she never dared dream possible-at least not in her lifetime.

She was part of a generation of African-Americans who had migrated from the Deep South northward hoping for a better life for themselves and their families, most of whom were largely successful in their endeavors, living their ‘American Dream’ in shades of black and brown, free of the ‘whites only’ reality of their upbringing.

Miss Cathy wasn’t the first in her family to leave home but she was the only one to graduate high school, with no encouragement from her family. It’s not that they didn’t care-they just didn’t understand that education meant opportunity but she did, and she knew hers was somewhere outside of the city limits of Henderson, North Carolina.

She would go on to have a successful career as a correspondence clerk for the Veterans Administration in Washington DC, where she developed a lifelong love of the military and supporting veterans and their families for their sacrifice.

While I knew most of this about her, she told me alot more about her life experiences while we watched the DNC Convention together on TV.

What I didn’t know until I joined her life was how political she is, come to think of it, she hasn’t missed casting a ballot since her diagnosis.

She’s a pretty outspoken voting rights advocate; especially at the local level, she has little patience for people that complain about government but then don’t vote (guess the tree can fall near the apple, too).

She feels that voting is almost a sacred duty, keenly aware of all those that have passed so that she could exercise her constitutional right. And she rails against those (especially minorities) who do not vote; she has one word for them-‘stupid’.

Since the conventions we’ve been talking politics, past and present, sometime deep into the night. Talking with her is an interesting contrast to the shades of grey the candidates are drawing between the class distinctions in our country, redistribution of wealth, race and the role of government in helping people better themselves as well as those who have worked their entire lives helping themselves to their (in my opinion) well deserved social security…….Miss Cathy wasn’t drawn that way-it’s who she is.

The debates are just around the corner. I’m looking forward to watching them with her and hearing her take on the candidate’s views.

I’m sure her commentary will be funny, insightful and as unique as she is, running the gamut from blue to red-beyond just primary colors.


Funny Lady

I picked up Miss Cathy the other day from the beauty salon where I’d dropped her off earlier to get her ‘do did’. She started nattering on the minute the back door was opened for her (as usual) and was in the middle of a story before she had her seatbelt on.

She was telling me that the beautician who curled and styled her hair was giggling and laughing at practically everything she said and I could hear that it bothered her.

It didn’t bother her that not long after sitting in the chair the young woman asked if she could call her, ‘Mom’.

For some reason Miss Cathy seems to attract a lot of ‘children’. She’s like the Pied Piper with a cane, beguiling the young and the not so young (she actually had a neighbor-who is past sixty-ask if he could call her ‘mom’).

Somehow, the ‘mom’ moniker applied even before she became a little old, round, affectionate person whose large bosom would cradle many a head.

And when I say ‘mom’, I’m not talking about the way her neurologist addresses her during their meetings, he’s from another part of the world and I’m sure it’s used as a sign of respect like “sir’ or ‘madam’ (but, frankly I think it’s a sign of laziness and a way to avoid knowing his patient’s name….but I digress).

Even when I was young (which meant Miss Cathy’s bosom was that much younger) I can remember my friends calling her “Mom” or “Miss Cathy” (the affectionate nickname she became known by that stuck), which pretty much means the same thing (without taking anything away for the person’s birth parent).

But, back to the here and now…..

I looked at her face, framed by soft waves of salt and pepper hair, in the rear view mirror as I was driving, listening to her and I could see that she was perplexed by her new daughter’s laughter, and that she was wondering whether or not she was being laughed at.

She said she didn’t think she was being funny.

I didn’t need to know the specifics, not that that stopped her from telling me every-word-that-was-spoken (she’s not only ‘Miss’ Cathy, she’s a ‘Chatty’ Cathy, too). I knew from experience what had happened.

I told her it’s the way that she talks openly, honestly and colorfully about things that people find funny, that Miss Cathy’s candor is refreshing to most people.
I can see that they are charmed by her insights and surprised by the occasional vulgarity that is quite frankly-funny (her filter, which at best was minimal, is pretty much gone now after her diagnosis).

I told her that it’s her delivery about everyday observations and her opinions of the subject matter, not the content that people find amusing.

In another life (with her timing and flair for the dramatic) she would have been a damn good actress.

I told her that she should take the laugher as a compliment, that not everybody is funny, and that there’s a difference between being laughed with (which in my opinion is a sign of intelligence) and being laughed at which we all know (unfortunately) is a sign of the opposite.

She thought about I was said, seemed satisfied with the analysis and as she futzed with her hair (re-styling the styling) then replied, “Oh, I never thought about it like that, I like that much better. That’s good because with all that laughing I was about to get ticked off!”