His wise, story-telling chatter competed with his questions about mathematics(what equals mc2?) or the geological composition, similarities and differences of the stalactite and stalagmite rocks. You see, he was always thirsty for knowledge.
And talk about fitness conscious. He rode a red bicycle well into his sixties and always encouraged me to drink plenty of H20. “Good for the blood, good for the blood,” he´d say. Though the milky haze that often surrounds old folks´eyes threatened to turn his brown eyes gray, I could still decipher a twinkle.
His furrowed brow told me that he knew about bowing his head in submission to the white man. I could look at his hands and see that many a time they´d been clenched to ward off the bomb threatening explosion inside. Yet, there was a strength in his gentleness: in how he dared to laugh, the way he held the first chuckle and rested for a beat on the second, letting the air resonate and caress his eyes that became slits of joy. The way he loved his woman. I heard him say that he needed her and felt his passionate grieving whenever she was away. Bronze colored, with a mane of sprinkled red hair, and spry after having birthed eight children, she still knew how to keep him home all day on Wednesday. Only she could pour his coffee without spilling a single drop, only she knew the recipe for his favorite apple pie, only she knew the proper amount of vanilla ice cream to garnish his buttered toast, and only she knew to save her support pantyhose with runs for he wore them to combat the ache of arthritic knees.
When he received his high school diploma at the age of seventy-five, they, his wife, Mama Mill, and he, basked in each other´s happiness.
“Don´t pick no empty straws,“ Pappy Harry said to me. Which I took to mean, always let your cup overflow.
As a black performing artist living in Europe amidst curious stares and frequent racial innuendos, I think of my Pappy Harry, my grand-daddy, and my spine grows straighter, my head lifts a little higher, and my wooly afro becomes a giant tentacle that connects and absorbs these German, Italian, French, Turkish, and Yugoslavian rhythms.
So, when a Bulgarian psychic in 1988, approached me after my performance in the musical HAIR in Nurnberg, Germany, and asked if she could tell my future, I willingly offered her my hand. She ignored the gesture, and told me that my forehead held my story. “‘Du hast ein gute herz und du kommst aus ein guter familie. Erfolg und ruhm wird dich erreichen.“ –You have a good heart and you come from a good family. Success and fame will come to you—’’’
I guess she saw that I didn´t pick empty straws– that my cup runneth over.
I can still hear Pappy Harry laugh, holding the first chuckle, and resting a beat on the second.
Anna Greene Dell ´Era