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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Thursday, July 10, 2008
    Last Weekend

    I'm sitting here coping with telephone calls tonight, so I might as well take a few minutes to tell you about last weekend (Fourth of July holiday weekend) and how I spent it with the Southern Mafia. Let me enlarge on this.

    The daughter of old family friends - in fact, I went to school and to the prom with her elder brother - got married at my parents' house last weekend. They (my parents) have a lovely yard with a bricked patio and a gazebo, and she had asked years ago if she could get married there someday. They told her, "Of course!" Which only goes to show, never make a sentimental promise that you aren't willing to keep.

    But I kid, at least to a certain extent. My folks went to some trouble performing building and grounds upkeep and planting flowers prior to the wedding, but then my mother said optimistically, "I'm not in charge. We're just going to relax, enjoy and have a good time." Let me be the first to tell you that if you are hosting a wedding there is no way you are going to relax, enjoy or have a good time. For one thing the bride was two hours late, and for another, the caterers had been hired for a very specific amount of time. Which meant that they kept interrogating my mother, what should they do next? When should they start with the hors d'oeuvres? Should they serve the cake now? All of which drove Mom nuts.

    But in the end all went well, the ceremony was lovely and the catered dinner was really good; in fact, better than good (I've been living off leftovers all week). The best part for me was getting to spend the weekend with my mother, her sister (who came into town for the wedding) and their friends. You see, Mom and my aunt were born and raised in Tennessee. My mother met my dad at William and Mary (she was in college and he was in the Navy) and eventually they got married and moved to southern California, where my mother found herself marooned in Orange County in a 1960's suburb, raising three kids.

    In those days you met people playing bridge or if your kids went to the same school, which is how my mother knocked into two other women from the South. We will call them M and V. They are both from North Carolina originally, got married, moved to California, wound up meeting my mom in that very same suburb and they've been close friends for more than forty years. It was V's daughter who got married last weekend. The three of them have dealt with divorce, widowhood, illness, family dysfunction and God knows what else and have done all this with grace and humor. The whole clutch of us sat at one table during the reception, and one of M's sons referred to the three of them as "The Southern Mafia," which caused me to double over. He was right; you can call them Steel Magnolias, Southern Mafia or what you will, these are strong women who have kept families and traditions together in one of the most socially ephemeral parts of the US you can imagine. My sister and I still keep grits in the house (and we eat them!) Our families are still close. My mother and her friends still celebrate each other's birthdays and take trips together once a year or so.

    After the wedding my mother's friends stayed overnight and we celebrated with a big breakfast the next day (of course, grits were included). We reminisced, read the paper and drank way too much coffee. It was great.




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