In Other Words

My mom, I love her to the moon and back. But who doesn’t love their mom, right? She’s 88 years young, still sharp as a tack, and never let’s an opportunity to lecture pass her by. Small in stature, but erect in presence, her feisty Jamaican side can bite you in the ass if you don’t watch out. As kids growing up in the 60s and 70s, we could always count on mom for a good story about her childhood. She would start, “you kids don’t know what poor is…, but I got a story for ya” or “do you know what my daddy would do if I backed talked him like that…, no you don’t, but I got a story for ya”.

As she grew older her communications slowed a bit, and she began to question her own ability to get her point across. The phrase “in other words” began creeping into her daily lexicon. Unobtrusive initially, like using a walking cane from time to time for support. For example, she would say, “I really dislike that outfit you have on”, as her facial expression shared in disgust.

Then, before you can say “boo”, she would pile on with, “in other words, don’t you think that outfit is a bit wrong for the occasion?”. It works. It adds a bit more flavor to the conversation. You know you need to get your butt up-stairs and change, right? We’ll it was a pretty effective go-to phrase for mom at first. At first…

As the years went by, “in-other-words” became more and more of a frequent visitor to mom’s daily discourse. The phrase became predictable. You knew it was coming, you just didn’t know how long it was going to stay. Rather than a silent observer, the phrase, over time, became an unwelcome character weighing down the conversation flow. For instance, she would say “so I answer person, woman, man, camera, tv and, he asks me to answer again and I say person, woman, man, camera, tv. He tells me that’s very good and I get extra points for answering in the correct order. But that’s not easy, nobody gets it in order, but I found it easy. In other words, they give you five names and you have to repeat them in order, if you repeat them in order you get extra…” Ughhh, I get it already!

Now hate is a strong word, I must admit. But when the conversation starts and I see it coming a mile away, I find myself lurking in the bushes ready to pounce. My discomfort meter is moving to red. Tension is creeping into my back and my hunched shoulders are almost touching my ears. Do I cut her off at the pass? Do I bite my lip and nod with approval? Or do I let out a primal scream, because that would feel so damn good. No. No, I just smile because its mom and I may hate the phrase, but I love the player.

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