I come from a long line of know-it-alls. Honestly, on both sides of my family, we can pretty much tell you anything you need to know for we know it all. Or so we believe.
Mama was Queen Know-It-All when she was alive. She was so good that you could count on her for any kind of medical or legal advice you needed – her doctoring book was always nearby – and if you were adventurous enough, she’d be happy to tell you how the IRS felt about this or that.
“Okay, Dr. Granny,” I’d say to her. “It’s one thing to take your advice on spastic colons but if you don’t mind, I’d prefer to take my advice on matters of Uncle Sam from paid professionals.”
“Well, I could save you some money if you’d listen to me,” she’d retort. “But go ahead and throw away your money. I’m just trying to help.”
Once, my brother was foolish enough to take some legal advice from her. Let’s just say that it did not end well.
Mama was always self-diagnosing herself. “I’ve got a swimmy head,” she said. “It’s vertigo.”
I’d fold my arms and look askance at her. “And you know that how?”
“’Cause I looked it up in my doctor’s book. I got all the symptoms.”
Another time she diagnosed herself with pneumonia. “Oh, you do not have pneumonia,” I protested from the foot of her bed where she was lying with the blanket pulled up to her chin. “I was just here four hours ago and you were perfectly fine.”
She jutted her chin out stubbornly. “I don’t care if you believe it or not but I’m a sick woman. I’ve got pneumonia. I might die with it before night falls.”
“Okay, get up, we’re going to the emergency clinic.” Just in case, was what I was thinking to myself.
An hour later, a doctor listened to her chest as she heaved in and out then took a gander at the x-ray. “You’ve got pneumonia,” he announced plainly, unaware of the hammer he had just dropped on my head.
Miss-too-sick-to-live-until-the-sun-went-down pulled her shoulders back, cocked her head and grinned happily. She pointed an authoritative finger in my direction. “I told you. Don’t underestimate my doctoring skills.”
My Uncle Delbert, God rest his soul, gave us advice on everything from planting gardens to upset stomachs to surgery. He believed mightily in the restorative powers of Sea Breeze and the healing powers of ginger and red pepper.
“Red pepper is the best thing in the world for you,” he’d say time and time again. “Put it on everything you eat.”
Now, I have my own tussle with being a know-it-all. Like Mama, I give advice on things for which I have no expertise. Like raising children. Now, in reality, I know nothing about raising children but I have convinced myself that I know something so I share it liberally.
One of my friends says that whenever I begin with “Listen to me carefully,” he knows I’m dead serious about what I have to say. I give him advice regularly and, like a good sport, he plays along. He listens intently, asks probing questions and brags on me for knowing so much. Of all the people I advise – either invited or uninvited – he is my favorite. He understands that my lineage is key to the quality of advice I give.
“How do you know that?” he asked the other day when I was recounting the detailed importance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the legacy of the Disney Company.
“I read Walt Disney’s account of it.”
“You slay me,” he said, laughing. “You really are a know-it-all.”
“It runs in the family,” I replied. “I was born to carry on the tradition.”
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know About Flirting” and “The Town That Came A-Courtin’.” Her newest book is “What Southern Women Know about Faith.” She lives near Gainesville, Ga. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at www.rondarich.com.]