Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Little girl lost

As you can imagine, I grew up listening to such artists as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn and local boy George Strait. I rarely get more than entertainment out of a song because I think of them as commercial art; something made to be sold. I recall a song released by George Strait back around, I don’t know, ’95 maybe. It was called Baby Blue. Loved it.

Today a prospect came into my office upon referral. She was a highly educated widow in her late 50’s, a full blood Cherokee, carrying two PhD’s and enrolled in medical school. Her name is Jenifer, odd I thought considering her heritage, but I shit you not. One “n” not two.

I asked Sarah to pick up some lunch and bring it back since Jenifer arrived just after noon. Over lunch I asked her why on Earth she decided to go back to college after 30 years to be a pediatrician. She reached into her purse and pulled out a sandwich bag with an assortment of nuts and bolts in it. She told me in early 1986 she was in a car accident that was so severe her spine was screwed back together. After the hardware was removed, she put it in a baggy to keep with her at all times to remind herself of how far she’s come.

I asked her, “So why a pediatrician and not a surgeon?” I’ll do my best to write down what she said by memory:

“When I was at Baylor Medical I shared a room with a 13 year old girl. Her name was Jenifer, too, and we both spelled it with one ‘n.’ I would sing whenever I was down and she used to tell me her daddy sang to her, too, and he was good so I’d sing whatever she wanted to hear. It made her feel better, listening to me, and made me feel better doing it.”

“Why was she in the hospital?”

“I can’t entirely remember, but I do remember it wasn’t anything serious.”

I asked her to continue.

“Well, she came and went and there were a few more people after her since I was there so long. But she was my favorite. I kept in touch with her parents and even went to visit her after I got out of the hospital. But not long after I got out, in June I think, Norma called me, that’s her mother by the way, and said there’d been a terrible accident.”

I swear to you I felt the ending before she said it. I just sat there, waiting for the bomb to drop.

“She said Jenifer was out the night before with a group of friends they knew pretty well when the boy lost control of his car.” She shook her head. “Jenifer didn’t make it.” I would have spoken but didn’t know what to say. She finished with, “She told me when we were in the hospital that she wanted to be a pediatrician. It’s just taken me this long to realize I could do that for her.”

I don’t know what set it off, but a light popped on in my head and I realized I knew who she was talking about. “Jenifer Strait?”

“Yes, sir. Oh, her daddy took it hard. Norma said they had some tough years after the accident. She said it didn’t get better until he wrote a song about her. It was called…uh…”

"Baby Blue."

She smiled and nodded. “Yes, sir. I think you’re right.”