(Second in a series.)
I met Doctor Miami for the first time on Friday. Mami had said he used to be ¡Tan flaquito! Being too skinny causes major concern for Latina mothers. She mentioned he’d gained weight, but Doctor Miami was not the doughy middle-ager I’d expected.
He was too tan, especially for New Jersey in early May. His shiny hair was trimmed and tousled precisely. His broad chest strained the buttons on his linen shirt, and the tribal tattoos on his pumped-up arms extended past the shirt’s too-short sleeves. The leather cord choker with a silver clasp, the wide, flat platinum wedding band, and the branded leather cuff were each modern, but lost their edge worn all at once.
Each of us in the room—Doctor Miami, Mami, and me—was “too” something. Isn’t that part of being Latino? Maybe I was projecting, as my husband B often tells me I do. Maybe Doctor Miami got pumped up to make up for having been a geeky flaquito who got his skinny ass kicked all the time. Maybe my too-ness was to cover up my own past. That Friday in Doctor Miami’s examination room, I presented super-competent Nancy, the responsible, assured mid-40s adult woman with the notepad in which I record Mami’s medical notes and history. I was also super-criticona Nancy, the smart-ass who did things like nickname Mami’s primary care physician Doctor Miami. Little Nancy is still hanging around after over four decades, the kid who used to be so silent people wondered if I spoke English, the girl who needed constant assurance that she was acceptable.
Super-competent Nancy still needs gold stars to prove I’ve moved beyond all the liabilities Mami had spent my life pointing out: my too-nappy hair (I knew more words in Spanish for bad hair than I knew in the entire language), my too short and chunky legs, my too-big ass (Mami had used it as a warning to women within the family, as in “It’s impossible to buy pants if you have too much ass like Nancy”), my too-pimply face, my arms and stomach too hairy to be bared, my too-nervous manner and too-volatile temper. Little Nancy’s continued presence makes it seem impossible I’m any other Nancy. How could I be La Nancy, the champion? Champion what? Champion imposter? Champion loser?
Why did any of this matter when the reason we were all in the examination room that Friday was Mami’s too-forgetfulness? She sat on the edge of the exam table and picked at the cuff of her windbreaker’s sleeve. She’s a small woman. Too small for her feet to reach the step at the base of the exam table. Her arm was too thin for the blood pressure cuff. Mami sat there, quietly focused on her sleeve, except when I told Doctor Miami she didn’t always take her medication as prescribed and asked if this could cause increased forgetfulness. She looked directly at me at that and other points in the visit. She didn’t say a word, but she didn’t have to for me to recognize the anger, betrayal, and fear on her face.
My degrees in English don’t help me make a lot of money, but they do allow me to engage in a lot of denial. This is essential when you’re Latino. My tremendous vocabulary and ability in English allow me to avoid using the words for things-that-shalt-not-be-named. In the examination room, I used the same words and phrases that I used in conversations with and about Mami: increased forgetfulness, distracted, unfocused. Doctor Miami was the first to say the unnamed.
“She is likely showing the signs of early dementia.”
¡Fuacata! The big wallop. Full-on, right in the face, the kind of punch that sends lesser beings staggering backward. Super-competent Nancy sat there with pad and pen, not taking notes, but not passed out on the floor either. What had I expected? I’d asked the questions. Three to be exact: 1. Could he repeat the instructions for taking Paxil and Xanax properly, and the side effects of not doing so (e.g., too many Xanax = great chance of passing out; changing Paxil dosage without doctor’s supervision = not a good idea)?; 2. Could the antidepressant or antianxiety medications contribute to Mami’s increased forgetfulness?; 3. What next steps or tests need to be taken to determine if the forgetfulness is something to address?
Doctor Miami was just giving it to us straight. Dementia. Mami hadn’t fallen to the floor either, just continued to sit on the edge of the exam table and picked at her sleeve. I was in the ring alone, but Mami had her own fight—and faced many more. If I was her, I’d be more than happy to let someone else step into the ring at any point.
Better you than me.
That would be my thought if I had to face her fight.
I didn’t ask for this. Let someone else fight this.
Subscribe to la bloga and receive notifications of new posts. (Click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button at the upper right-hand corner.)
“Like” my author page on Facebook to keep up with all my writerly activities.