In the Shadow of His Mother

Let’s go back to the clinic, back to the Accutane study, back to that sixteen-year-old standing in his mother’s shadow. Let’s call him Keith. (I do not remember his real name.)

At Keith’s first appointment, it was his mother, solidly built, who spoke on his behalf and tendered his clinic card. When it was time for check out, the process repeated in reverse.

I decided that wasn’t how I wanted to handle things.

The following Tuesday, when Keith’s mother walked to the check-in window with her son in tow, I spoke to the son.

Me: “Keith, good to see you. Do you have your clinic card?”

The Mom: “Here. I have it.”

I took the card without saying anything, keeping my eyes on the son.

Me: “Keith, you can have a seat, and someone will call your name shortly.”

The Mom: “I’m his mother. You can speak to me.”

I looked at her, lips pressed together in a downward slope.

Me: “Yes, and generally when the patient is old enough, if they’re able, we speak with the patient directly.”

As soon as I said it, I looked down at the clipboard, checking Keith’s name off the list. I didn’t want to see either of their expressions, didn’t want to intervene any further.

After his appointment, at the check-out window, I handed Keith his clinic card. He gave the card to his mother.

The following week, when the two of them came to the check-in window, Keith was the one who was slightly ahead of the other, and he was the one to hand over his card. I didn’t want to press my luck and quickly switched my gaze to the clipboard, smiling a smile I didn’t want either of them to see.

At check-out, I handed Keith his card, and he tucked it into his wallet. Again I tilted my head to hide my smile.

The following week, Keith approached the check-in window alone. I figured his mother was probably parking the car, since finding parking near the hospital was often difficult.

“Where’s your mom?” I asked.

A grin spread across his face.

“I took the bus,” he said, and I met his grin with one of my own.


Writing Update

Finally! The first draft of my novel is finished. Key success factors: taking Rachael Herron’s 90 Days to Done, and serious plot help from Dana Pittman. After having it printed and spiral bound, I took a seat in my big chair and started reading it, trying to read as if some other writer had written it.

The good news: Discovering that I’m good at writing dialogue.

The not-so-good news but good to know: Some parts are awkward, some are bleh, and the settings are thin.

Next steps: Finish reading it, then spreadsheet it. Then, on September 7th, head back into one of Rachael Herron’s classes, this time, 90 Day Revision.

I wish I could do this faster but I want to do it well. So, I might as well enjoy the process!


Chewing the Cud of Good

Closeup of three bright pink peonies with two small green leaves peeking through

Thankful for my pandemic Zoom writing buddies who are still here, even as restrictions are lifting.

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2 thoughts on “In the Shadow of His Mother”

  1. So happy to learn the first draft is done. Tremendous accomplishment.
    And 3 cheers for Keith, but kudos to his mom for being able to back off. You were the impetus for their growth, so you get a pat on the back.

    1. Chris, you’re right, I give both the son and the mother credit for changing their dance. I’ve often wondered how easy or difficult it is for moms to see their children growing up, and how to determine the right level of protection and freedom. Side note: Keith had the best result of all the study patients. After a few months, his skin was clear.

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