I drove over to my parents this morning. It is a usual occurrence with me. I get my daily allotment of Cokes and Diet Dr. Pepper. Helen was sitting under the portico when I drove down the driveway. I walked back around to say hello after I parked.
"How are you?" I asked as I sat down on the white bench she was sitting on.
"Rethinking my job," Helen said with a good natured smile. "My family is giving me a hard time because I am a black woman cooking and cleaning for a white man."
There was a pause in the conversation. I didn't know what to say.
"I shouldn't have told you that," Helen said. "I'm sorry."
"I can see where it would cause trouble," I finally replied.
We got on the subject of Black America and how hopeful we both were for Obama to do great things.
"You like him?" Helen asked looking excited.
"I think he is the best thing that has happened politically in a LONG time," I replied.
"You know there is still racism in America," Helen told me. "I see it all the time."
I told Helen the story of how dad's mom always kept separate dishes and glasses for black people when they visited and came to eat. If you knew my grandmother, then this was so out of character for her.
"See?" Helen said. "It happens when you least expect it."
I left Helen to her thoughts thinking I should have said more to reassure her that things are better. Times are changing. We have a partially black man in the White House. A beautiful black woman as first lady. Black people have more opportunities than ever. And most of all, I didn't want Helen to quit. I love her so and she has meant so much to me these past few years she has worked for dad.