As she sat in her rocking chair a far away look that has become all to common to me these days, covered her face. Her rocking intensified along with the lines in her face. “I don’t hate anyone, in fact I feel sorry for a soul so filled with hatred.” When she is like this I find us both transported back into another time. She is vessel that transports us. Fueled by her vivid memories of years gone by.
“He had been drinking, something I suspect he did to cover the pain he held for hating himself. In my day black folks lived together in certain areas away from the sight of those without color. He knew this, it made it easier to find us after he swallowed the last drop that fueled his hate. We all knew this man, and we had become accustomed to his pattern.”
Then her rocking slows, and her far away look comes in a littler closer, almost as if this man were present in the room with us. She lowers her voice as though she is attempting to speak without him hearing her words. I’m not sure if she is talking to me, or if in her mind I am now someone from her past. The rocking stops, and she tells me that today would be different from all the other days.
Today her father would not listen again to this man as he violently pounded on their door screaming for us to bring our lazy black asses outside where he could see us. She leans forward in her chair whispering that “This time daddy got his gun. Momma was crying you see, because back in those days if you talked back to a white man in Mississippi, they would hang you with the same ease as a woman who hung her clothes on the line to dry.”
“My father told him to leave our doorstep that he had his gun, and that he would hear no more of his drunken disrespect. This infuriated the old man so he told daddy that he had better think twice. Daddy told this man no sir this time you had better think twice.” She began to slowly rock again, and then she said ” I was filled with fear, and pride. I knew that things were beginning to change, even in Mississippi.”
Ms. Lee is an 82 year-old woman with Alzheimers. Twice a week I take her for breakfast at the “Cracker Barrel.” This is one of her stories that she has shared with me many times. The interesting thing is that each time she shares this story with me it is always with the exact same wording. I am always unnerved by her ability to transport us so vividly into the past. I am even more unnerved by the thought that all of this took place only 75 years ago.
There is two of us actually, G-uno and g2. We have been friends for a while, met through our own similarities in duality, openness and love of listening. Our differences as well as our similarities always border on the extreme.