a Women Writer's' Showcase

My Brother’s Other Mother
by Susan Parker

The day brother, John, graduated from the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine was quite possibly the proudest day of my parents' lives. His road to graduation had been a long, arduous and sometimes painful journey from junior high school through several two- and four-year colleges, but finally, at the age of 33, he was attaining his goal. I have to admit, there were times when our family doubted he would make it, except for one member -- Mrs. Scott.

Mrs. Scott is my neighbor in North Oakland and not really a blood relative, although she calls John her son, me her daughter, and my parents Moms and Pops. It was Mrs. Scott who maintained her faith in John when ours began to falter. ``We're goin' to Davis,'' Mrs. Scott would shout, pounding her fists on our dining-room table. ``And don't let anybody tell you no different, WE ARE GOIN' TO DAVIS.''

She chanted this phrase almost every day throughout John's four-year stint at California State University at Hayward. He was living with my husband, Ralph, and me at the time. Even after Ralph had a devastating accident that left him paralyzed below the shoulders, and John flunked all of his exams because he was taking care of me, Mrs. Scott was determined that her boy was going to Davis.

``It's all right,'' she whispered to me when I lay on the couch in a fetal position and expressed remorse for what was happening to all of us, including John. ``Your brother will get through. I just know it.''

And he did get through. John's graduation from Hayward State in 1996 was a glorious occasion for all of us, despite what he was wearing under his gown: plaid boxer shorts, a dirty T-shirt and a pair of scuffed hiking boots. Four years later he wore a suit and tie to his graduation from veterinary school. We couldn't have been more pleased.

But proudest of all was Mrs. Scott. She wore a black chiffon floor-length evening gown with a rhinestone bodice to graduation. She was all glitter, twinkles and stars, and she caused quite a sensation when she swished into the gymnasium at Davis. Of the hundreds of people there, all celebrating with the veterinary class of 2000, Mrs. Scott was by far the most dramatically dressed. By the end of graduation, everyone knew who she was: John Parker's other mother, the one who had got him through veterinary school.

At a post-graduation party, she spontaneously fronted a punk rock band and sang a gospel tune dedicated to John. Later in the evening, after dinner, she sang another, this one a cappella. You could hear a pin drop in the restaurant. People cried. When she finished, strangers came by our table to congratulate John and hug Mrs. Scott.

``Our son did it!'' Mrs. Scott boomed across the table at my mother. ``Our son did it! He's a doctor now, oh yeah!''

``Yes,'' said my mother, beaming with pride. ``And he couldn't have done it without you, Mrs. Scott. You prayed him through veterinary school, and I will always be grateful.''

``Thank the Lord above for that,'' corrected Mrs. Scott. ``I got nothin' to do with it.'' Then to John she turned and commanded, ``Come over here, sweet baby, and give both your mommas a kiss.''

And that's what my brother did, because he believed, as we all did, that in conjunction with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, long hours of study and years of hard work, it was Mrs. Scott's faith in him that had pushed him through veterinary school. There are all kinds of faith in this world. Some of it is religious, some of it is blind, but faith in another human being, faith in the potential and in the power of positive possibilities counts for plenty. I've seen it work. I've been a witness.

Susan Parker is the author of the memoir Tumbling After, Pedaling Like Crazy After Life Goes Downhill (Crown 2002/optioned for screen rights by HBO).  Contact Susan.