Although I’ve listened to it dozens of times, it never quite dawned on me how unique Kanye’s “Big Brother” is until hearing it the other day. The song itself isn’t very remarkable — it’s definitely not one of those tracks you go out of your way to listen to — but what makes it stand out is the concept behind it. Hip-hop is filled with tributes to women, mothers, children, and men who have already passed, but “Big Brother” is the only rap song I can think of where the entire song is devoted to a man who is still alive — a point Kanye makes in the song’s most memorable quote:
“If you admire somebody you should go on ‘head tell ‘em
People never get the flowers while they can still smell ‘em”
I thought of this line while leaving the hospital the other day, an act which has recently become a part of my daily routine. Wake up, edit stories for Ebony, feed the cat, write, call my mom, call my dad to see what time he wants to meet me at the hospital, check VSB, decide when I’m going to see my mom, eat, work some more, shower, drive to the hospital, watch TV with my mom, read Sports Illustrateds my dad stole from one of the hospital’s waiting rooms, give my mom a hug and do our secret handshake, leave the hospital, sit in my car, try not to cry, convince myself to stay upbeat and optimistic, drive home. Rinse, wash, and repeat.
It’s been almost a month since my mom first got sick. A week since the dozens of tests finally gave the doctors some indication of what could possibly be wrong, and, as of this writing, a few hours since that indication was confirmed — a confirmation that let us all know there’s a chance there may not be many more opportunities to give her flowers while she can still smell them.
With this in mind, I sit here at my laptop, staring at my monitor, deleting paragraphs as soon as I’m finished writing them, unable to decide what to say. I’m a writer, and writers are supposed to write I guess, but everything I think about saying feels inadequate, insignificant, unimportant. How can you blog about your best friend? What words could possibly convey how someone has meant everything to you?
And, even if I found the right words, what purpose would writing them possibly serve? They will not cure her. They will not allow me to rewind six weeks and remember that she asked me to let her know the next time I was going to church because she wanted to come with me, and they will not allow me to forgive myself for forgetting. They will not soothe her pain or make it so that she doesn’t have to look forward to chemotherapy. They will not remind me to savor the smell the last time I drove to my parent’s house on a Saturday morning when my mom was making French toast. They will not introduce her to the woman I want to marry, and they won’t make certain that she’ll be able to hold my first child in her arms and see if he has her eyes. They will not make it so that she can garden again, or go grocery shopping by herself, or go to an Earth, Wind & Fire concert with her girlfriends. They will not undevastate my dad, cheer up my sister, and assure my nieces that their grandmother will be around to watch them graduate from high school.
And, well, they will not assure her of the happy ending I haven’t been working hard enough to give her. They will not make it so that I can finally write a check and pay off my parent’s mortgage and car note and any other unnecessary headaches they may have. They will not rid me of this feeling that I haven’t done enough to take advantage of the advantages she gave me, that I haven’t always been the best friend to my best friend.
Fortunately, I do have time. I don’t know exactly how much, but I do know that I at least have some of it to somehow give my mom some flowers. But, time or no time, no flowers, no anything will ever be enough to fully express the depths and fullness of my love and appreciation for her, and there are no words to express how useless this makes me feel.