Column: Channeling Mrs. Scott Against Measure A

By Susan Parker
Tuesday January 22, 2008

Lately I’ve been channeling my old friend Mrs. Scott. She’s the neighbor who came to our rescue after Ralph had his bicycling accident 13 years ago. The day Ralph came home from the hospital, she marched through our back door and took over. She cooked and cleaned and introduced us to others in the neighborhood. She went with us to doctors’ appointments, watched over the people I hired to help with Ralph’s care, became my right (and left) arm, my best friend, my guardian angel.  

When she died, on Sept. 6, 2001, I lost the most colorful person in my life. She was big and stubborn and ornery, and when she said “Jump” I always asked, “How high?” 

I could use Mrs. Scott’s assistance right now to help me with this Children’s Hospital mess. If she were alive today, she’d walk with me to the office of Mary Dean, CHO’s senior vice president of external affairs, and give her a piece of her mind. She’d tell Ms. Dean in no uncertain terms that the hospital needs to come up with a plan we all can live with, not a colossal 12-story tower that will cast a shadow on her home, making it impossible for her to grow greens and tomatoes in the backyard. Mrs. Scott would have shook her cane and shouted a few curse words, reverently invoked the name of the lord and his son Jesus Christ, and then told Mary “to be sweet and have a blessed day.” She would have grabbed my arm and yanked me out of Ms. Dean’s fancy office and said “Go get the car, Suzy Parker. My feet are all swelled up and I need a ride home.” I would have run the three blocks to her house, jumped into the front seat of her old Ford Mustang, and driven back to the hospital in order to get her. That was the nature of our relationship. She did the talkin’ and I did the walkin’.  

Recently, when my neighbors and I attended a meeting of the Alameda County League of Women’s Voters in order to present our opposition to Measure A, I wore, for good luck, a sweater Mrs. Scott had given me. It’s big and black and it has huge round plastic buttons down the front, each one a different iridescent color: hot pink, lime green, bright blue, and glow-in-the-dark yellow. Sparkle-lee doodads and whatnots cover the front and back of the cardigan. It’s the kind of sweater Mrs. Scott would have worn, if she could have found one in size XXX.  

My neighbors and I aren’t politicians or professional community activists, and none of us has led a fight against a specific ballot measure before. But we did okay. We presented our arguments. We let the League women have a look at us. We showed them our most precious possessions, our children. I brought my niece and nephew with me. Yasmin brought her 3-year old son, Liam. Rainjita held her 2-year old daughter, Kianna, in her arms. Jenna rubbed her big belly, hoping she wouldn’t give birth until the end of the meeting.  

We told the League that it is because we have kids that we don’t want a 180-foot tower looming over us or helicopters whirling above our heads. And it is precisely because of our families that we support Children’s Hospital’s core mission. We have used its facilities and resources. We have sat in its emergency waiting room, visited its critical care unit, its neonatology nursery, its gift shop and cafeteria.  

Yesterday I received the following e-mail from Yasmin. 

“This fight against Children’s Hospital’s high rise has opened doors for all of us and unleashed powers we didn’t know we had. I would never have gotten to know Jean, Geoff, Jenna and all these neighborhood friends and characters if it weren’t for this. It must be a fraction of how you bonded with Mrs. Scott and other neighbors after Ralph’s accident.” 

She’s right, our crusade to get Measure A defeated and to make Children’s Hospital a responsible neighbor has opened many doors and given us a sense of pride and determination. And yes, it is a little like what happened after my husband’s accident. I met Mrs. Scott and she changed my life.