Kentucky Oops: Grandmama and the Senator

A tall tale to commemorate the first session of the 112th Congress -- especially the Senate.

The January sleet patted the living room window. Outside, the dilapidated neighborhood's potholes and abandoned cars collected winter's offering to the streets.

Inside, Jarrod's little brother Daunte fogged the glass with his breath as he pressed his nose to the pane. Watching for a sign of his mother, the young boy mashed his cheek on the cold window, trying to see up the street. He wasn't yet old enough to know that she wouldn't be coming.

Jarrod already knew. She hadn't come to a game of his in years, so she wouldn't be around for this. His attention settled on the two men seated on the couch in his living room: his Uncle Marcus and the recruiter from the University of Kentucky. In the corner of the room sat his elderly Grandmama, looking toward the ceiling as she quietly rocked in a weathered recliner.

On the couch, the men discussed Jarrod's bright future. The recruiter was pouring it on to Uncle Marcus. Spread on the coffee table before them was a glossy brochure filled with pictures of Kentucky's leafy campus.

"See, Kentucky's hoops program is where Jarrod really belongs. With the Wildcats, he'll get the playing time and attention that'll take him to the next level. We'll give him everything he needs."

Uncle Marcus noticed that all the college recruiters said the same things in the same way about his nephew. None of them talked about the pros -- not directly. Instead, they spoke of "the next level". Each recruiter -- from Florida, Kansas, Ohio State, Duke and Georgetown so far -- had different brochures and wore different colors. But they all had the same interest in Jarrod.

Jarrod was a blue-chipper, a diaper dandy. From the first time he scored thirty points as a high school freshman, he had been causing a stir. He dominated the defensive boards, could play with his back to the basket, had the speed to put the ball on the floor and finish. The points brought scouts, the scouts brought recruiters.

"We know family's important to a young man," the recruiter gestured to the group. "That means all of you can visit Jarrod any time, we'll make all the arrangements."

At that, Grandmama spoke up sweetly.

"Now, can we eat lunch wherever we want in Kentucky?"

The recruiter blinked, then glanced at Uncle Marcus. He cleared his throat.

"Ma'am, I ... I don't know what you mean. Eat lunch? Of course."

Gradmama rocked as she spoke.

"Well,. time was, colored folk couldn't eat at the lunch counter with the white folks. No, sir. I do remember that. Mmm hmmm."

The recruiter shook his head. "Well ma'am. It's not like that in our state. If Jarrod wants to sit down and have lunch somewhere, then he'll sit and have lunch anywhere in Kentucky that's serving it up."

Grandmama's recliner stopped rocking. The recruiter smiled and hoped the moment was over.

It wasn't. Grandmama's finger rose and jabbed the air, as if she was trying to remember something.

"Kentucky. Oh, now what was his name? The man from Kentucky. On the TV."

Uncle Marcus leaned in. "Whose name, Grandmama?"

"The name of that Kentucky man. The one who said something different."

Marcus and the recruiter glanced at each other in confusion.

Then Grandmama's hand came down on the chair's arm with a soft slap.

"Paul! That was his name. Paul Rand. He's the one from Kentucky who said it. Mmmm hmmm. Paul Rand."

Jarrod didn't know where this was going, but one look at Uncle Marcus's face told him he should ask.

"Said what, Grandmama?"

"Well, he said that if folks wanted to keep black folks out of their restaurant, it was okay with him. Yes, he did. That man from Kentucky said that."

The recruiter reached out helplessly with his finger to poke at the corner of his glossy, full-color brochure. In a dull voice, he corrected her.

"That's Rand Paul, ma'am. Kentucky's new Senator."

He said nothing more.

Uncle Marcus just stared. Jarrod just stared.

Grandmama just rocked.

And Ohio State picked up a new center.