In the little town near where I grew up. There was only 1 traffic light. To say I'm from a small town is a understatement. We were ridiculed
even at the mention of the town's name. I was never ashamed of the people or the town I called home, there were lessons I learned that I might have missed If I was anyone other than me.
On a dirt road, late at night a boy in the back seat of a car speaks .....
Daddy, I don't feel good, I'm tired, I'm wheezing again, I hurt bad and it's too hard to breathe ...
daddy are we close? Just hold on, .. son, the Dad replies, we're almost there,
just hold on, you're going to be alright, ok? You're going to be
alright. The car moves hurriedly on into the night. Making now what
has come to be a necessary weekly journey, and as usual, eventually
pulling in the yard of a familiar older house in the
country of rural Alabama. The Dad turns off the ignition, gets out of the
car and gets his son out of the back seat. He cradles the boy in a
blanket,and says take it easy son, hold on, hold on, I got you ... as
he carries the boy to the house and knocks on the door
then, as if expected the door opens, the older lady inside, looks at
the man as if annoyed by him, but immediately focuses on the boy
and ask the father how bad is he? He's running a fever, Lula the
father replies, equally annoyed at her, but it's clear he's easily more worried
about his son, he's not good Lula and he's wheezing bad ... Hmmm the
lady says, and motions inside, hurry bring him in, and put him on
the cot, I got rabbit tobacco tea brewing already. The house smells
of Vick's vapor rub and the dinner earlier prepared that evening. A
fire is burning in the fireplace.
She's already humming and moaning a gospel tune, already
knowing what she has to do and what she has done so many times
before. This is going to take all night, maybe days if there's
relapse as it somtimes happened if the boy recovered and wasn't
careful and played too hard before he was completely well as kids
sometimes do. This child was especially delicate it seemed, he
would sometimes get sick even if he became agitated by allergies
or cigarette smoke, dust, or if he ran or played too much, or if he
become too excited or just simply bumped his nose which always
seemed to cause a sneezing frenzy, the whole effort to have him
recover would have to start again. Sometimes his mother, her
daughter would be able to nurse him back to health, but when he
was this bad he had to go to his grandmother. So she knows she will
be up all night, nursing the boy back to health. Watching him sleep,
covering him up and covering him again as he kicks the covers off in
the midst of a fever. She will pray, read the bible at his bedside and
she will talk. Talk to the boy, but mostly to God and to herself
mostly as always was her habit to do but also she would talk
about the the boy's father, she even sometimes mocked, emulated the
way he spoke, and imitated his movements and persona as if this
was confirming the fact that things he said or did were somehow
the actions and decisions that led to the boy's ill health and her
daughter's unhappiness, and subsequently her own misery.
All these stories I would hear as I had heard so many times,
because I was that sick child and as I lay on the cot recovering, I
would wonder if the issues between the two had always been this
way. These were the sounds of my life as I had come to know it.
But so too were the sounds of prayer, and of a faith that never was
anything but a sure thing. Just as much as all the things the
recovery ritual had become, it also included the love and nurturing
of those moments, and the pure love and dedication she gave to the
effort of bring her grandson through yet another episode of asthma.
Seen even in hindsight, this was not a smooth, easy process, it was
a achieved by refusing to have any other outcome as a possibility.
She guided me to the door of recovery and insisted I TAKE it.
There were endless seconds and minutes and declarations by me of
"I can't .... I can't breathe,Grandlula, I can't breathe" but then she
would respond, and insist ... yes you can, ... Rome, ... breathe, ...
breathe Rome, you can do it breathe. If she was scared or doubted
or believed anything to the contrary, I never saw it or felt it at any
time or if I had it may have meant I never would have made it
through to recover or live, the faith, she maintained and
subsequently passed on to me, was ex amplified, and emphasized in
those moments, more so than any sermon could have, no story, told
to me ever , brought home the essence of what faith is and what
faith can do, I am living proof of that! It were became the
cornerstone of what made me know, true love never fails.
"Breathe Rome" she said, again and again as if she could WILL me to live.
I had no other choice, I did however protest every breath I was
coached to take, I hurt, my lungs weren't cooperating and surely
wouldn't manage he next effort. My chest hurt, my sides hurt, my
stomach hurt, the result from all the endless coughing. My throat
was sore, his eyes watered, I was miserable. One minute I was hot
and covered in sweat and the next I was cold and had to be covered
with quilts and blankets. It would have been so much easier to die,
but here I was once once again facing this nameless thing that
tried again and again to claim me and even though I was tierd and
wanted to stop trying to live, not to mention, find a second of free
breathing but she was lovingly dogged and .she insisted, don't you
give up! "Breathe Rome", breathe.
Rome... this was what she always called me. It was my middle
name, Tony Jerome, but she just had always said Rome, she was
one of only three people that called me that, the other to this day is
his brother ... and my father who has since passed away."breathe
Rome", I still hear her say it. She held my hands and wiped the
sweat off my body, she took off clothes when I was too hot and
covered me up when I was too cold. She changed my clothes when I
threw up, she never complained about any of it. There was also the
chicken soup, can after can of chicken soup, chicken noddle, chicken
and rice, soup,soup, soup and more soup. Soup and crackers, soup
and toast, soup and ritz, soup and grandma and prayer