My Inner Life
I draw you into my journey from the dynamics of an inner life strife with conflict and turmoil to the dynamics of an inner life of peace and contentment with myself and with God. Sometimes the words roar across the page like the sound of a mighty river; other times they flow like the sound of a babbling brook. Sometimes the words flow forward in time and sometimes backward. Hoping my words will touch your heart, I leave you with these words from a person who has influenced my life from afar, the late and great Maya Angelou: “The idea is to write so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”
“One night, when she turned the key in the lock and opened the door, there he was, lying right across the stairs, blocking her ascension. He was drunk, speaking inaudibly, and most peculiarly, there was a shiny penny sticking out of one ear. She stopped breathing, stood motionless, and initially could not speak, her heart racing in her chest. She did not want to go past him alone in that hallway and she couldn’t leave because it was late and she needed to be in the house. So the words starting in her mind, finally reached her mouth and she screamed out, “Mommy, Mommy”, so her mother would know she was at the bottom of the stairs. Her mother opened the apartment door and came out into the hallway to see what was going on. Seeing Scary Tenant lying on the stairs, her mom told her to hurry and get up the stairs. As she bolted up the stairs, she prayed again—Please do not let him touch me.”
Mr. Pie Man
And, of course, there was Mr. Pie Man. Mr. Pie Man, deemed the Oldest Man in Homestead, owned a small store right on Dixon Street. Mr Pie Man just may have been the one to teach sailors how to cuss because it didn’t matter if he was talking to an adult or a kid, they would eventually get cussed out. He was also known for having an uncanny ability to throw bricks around the corner—though admittedly, Nita never actually saw this feat. Mr. Pie Man was also an avid baseball fan, often talking about the days of the Homestead Grays and the Negro Baseball League whenever the kids gathered on his stoop. He once said he knew Nita’s grandfather, who played a stint with the Homestead Grays. Another time he swore he struck out Satchel Paige. That was the especially nice side of Mr. Pieman, when he talked about things back in his day.”
Being pregnant with an active baby proved to be a huge challenge—not to mention an out-of-nowhere bout with labyrinthitis, that hit like a ton of bricks at about six months. The primary symptom is extreme vertigo. It came on in the middle of the night with an urge to go to the bathroom. When she sat up in the bed, the entire room was violently spinning , like when Scotty climbed the bell tower in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Standing was nearly impossible.She made her way into the bathroom by crawling along the floor with her eyes closed, so she, at least, did not have to see the room spinning.She got one of her aunts on the phone and ended up in an ambulance headed to Magee Hospital.
Letter to My Father
When I got connected to Nanny and met her for the first time at the Greyhound bus station in Philadelphia, the first words she spoke to me seeped deeply into my soul and took root: You look just like your father. Getting to know Nanny and listening to her tell stories about you enabled me to get to know you, at least vicariously. It was then I learned that your nickname was Butch. I suppose I’ll never fully understand why you never contacted me, even before you left for good or after you knew I lived near Nanny. (I always knew when you were at that hotel.) But it’s okay; it was a long time ago, and I’m sure you had your reasons. An equally long time ago I wondered if there would come a day when I would forget all about you; that day never came.