Friday, December 26, 2008

Dorothy Alberta


Oh my gosh, this is going to be a long, long blog

Dorothy Alberta was my mother. She grew up Dorothy Alberta Mivelaz. My mother was the oldest of 7 children and from what I hear had to virtually raise most of them. Mother had two sisters Margaret and Mary Jean. She had 4 brothers, Eddie, Buddy , Charles and Ray. I can remember her telling the story of dumping her brother Charles out of the taylor-tot and on to his head.

I cannot describe my mother in one word, as I will let this blog help you all decide what that word would be. My mother was caring, giving and loving. She would literally give you the shirt off of her back if you asked for it.

Mom was also funny and had an excellent sense of humor. I used to tease her a lot about the following, and I use this story a lot at work, when people aren’t aware of their voice inflections and what those inflections might really be saying. My mother was very pleasant and it came across in the way she answered the telephone – with one exception - her brother Charles. Charles was an alcoholic (the one she dumped on his head). My uncle was married to a lady named Edith, who was also a drunk and when on a drunken binge would “cheat.” I wasn’t sure what that meant when I was little, but I do now. I could always tell when it was Charles calling, Mom would answer in her cheerful, friendly tone, then her voice would literally drop in disgust and she would say “how are you?” (We all “knew” how Charles was - drunk). Charles drank especially heavy when Edith would leave him, and leave him Edith did. Mom would give Charles a lot of advice in his relationship with Edith. Charles dropped dead from a heart attack at work one day. I do not remember my mother’s reaction to his death, but I remember I could no longer chuckle when he called.

When I was little, mom took good care of us. We lived in a house that was pretty much indicative of our social status - poor. The house was a shambles, but it was always clean. The floors were always mopped. The beds were always made. The furniture was always dusted. Our clothes were always clean. Our meals were always fixed. When you think about caring for 5 daughters and a demanding husband, by today’s standards, my mom’s job seems so overwhelming to me.

My sister Sandy remembers a time where Mom came through for her. It does speak of what type of person my mom really was. Sandy writes:

Before you and the Carol came along and I was very young, I was sick with a sore throat and couldn't speak. Mother was going to this store across the street from Sherman's drug store. It was like a hardware store and they had toys. Since I was sick mother asked if I wanted anything. I was rather lethargic and couldn't think of anything. Mother was right out in front of the house and it was then I remembered a magic set they had at this store. The magic set had a hat and a rabbit popped out of it. I remember standing at the window in the front room trying to holler to mother. I was very hoarse and nothing came out of my mouth. There went my chance to get that hat with the rabbit. I didn't care about the other magic tricks. I was upset. But when mother came home she had that magic set for me. Somehow she knew or had noticed my looking at it at some time or other. At that time I was happy for the toy. Later, I appreciated the fact that she knew me and knew what to do to make me feel better...even without me telling her.

Mom raised us well and instilled in us a good moral sense of life. She taught us how to be respectful, how to laugh at ourselves, and how to love one another.

My niece Lisa, Dorothy Ann’s youngest, remembers,

I loved to go and stay with Mamaw. We could talk about church, soaps, or just funny things. Gum, she always had gum, and cokes in a glass bottle. I just remember thinking how much she reminded me of Mom. They were so much alike. I miss her so much.

Mother always had Pepsi in the refrigerator, and as Lisa pointed out, those Pepsis were in glass bottles. Sometimes mom would run low of Pepsi, and she would hide them from all of us. But, we would many times outsmart her and find them. She would relent and give us her last Pepsi - heck, she would give us her last anything.

I do believe that my mother is reason that almost all of my sisters and me have anxiety issues. Mother was very over-protective with us. She didn’t like us to run, wouldn’t let us cross the street without her walking us across, didn’t want us to have bicycles, and the list goes on. As an adult, if you got sick, Mom would call religiously to check up on you. For me, sometimes those calls would annoy me. Well, it was annoying at the time. That all being said, when I was older and single, and after Mom died, there were periods when I was sick and the phone remained silent. I longed for a call from her. Now when my kids are sick or going through traumas – I drive them nuts. I can’t help it, my mom taught me well and I know where she was coming from now. I long to tell her thanks for all the sick calls, you don’t realize how much you miss them until no one calls to check up on you. Thanks Mom !!!

In my younger years my Mom’s passion and pastime was Bingo. She would go every Saturday night to Nelligan Hall at 20th and Portland to play Bingo. Many times me or Carol would go with her. There were instances when I would elect to stay at home with my father and watch TV. I can’t remember mom ever winning at bingo, but she loved to play. My aunt Margaret would often go as well. My mother would bathe, wash and roll her hair, then wrap her curlers in a scarf and off she’d go to Nelligan Hall. Sometimes she would pin-curl her hair. She also wore some cherry-berry red lipstick too. You wouldn’t think that the scarf and lipstick would be attractive, but she always looked real nice. She had to roll her hair so it would be nice for church the next day.

I loved going to the bingo with my mom. I would get all kinds of snacks and play out front with some of the other kids. We would always walk to the bingo. Sometimes we would walk home, and sometimes we would take a cab. When my mom would go alone, I was always glad she would take a cab home, because I would worry about her walking home at 10 at night from such a distance.

My favorite bingo caller was a lady named Bratchie. She was very old, and would call games rather slowly. Mom was always kind of annoyed with Bratchie because she was so slow. “G-50 (five-oh)”. The bingo balls were in a little round cage that the caller would turn by hand. There were no bingo dabbers, electronic boards or floating balls. My how bingo has changed! Nelligan Hall is still there, and every time I see it, I think of Bratchie and my mom.

Sunday’s after bingo were always followed by a trip to mass. That is when the curlers would come out of mom’s hair, but the Cherry-Berry lipstick remained a staple. Mom and we girls went to church every Sunday, and after church we would sometimes frequent a bakery on the way home. It was nice to be free of church and have nice fresh baked goods to boot.

My mom, like my dad was somewhat of a character. She loved listening to the radio. I can remember one station that she listened to had a contest. When you heard the dogs bark you would call the radio station, and win records. Well, as the story goes, the Phelps, who lived next door, had hound dogs. Like all dogs - they would bark. My dear mom called the radio station one day, saying she heard the dog bark and was hoping to win something. She won all right - embarrassment. It wasn’t the radio dogs, but those darn hounds of the Phelps. Funny. They really were like the Bumpas’ dogs.

Growing up in the 50’s in the west end of Louisville was interesting. There not too many big supermarkets around, just local, neighborhood grocery stores. My mom shopped at Bloom’s. Bloom’s was at the corner of 21st and Market Streets, which was about 2 blocks from our house. Mom would take her pull along grocery cart there when she would walk to Blooms, however, many times, Blooms would deliver the groceries. Mom would call in a grocery order, and within an hour, the groceries would be delivered by a gentleman named Bunny. Bunny was a small, short black man. He would come into the side door, which would enter right into the room where we slept. Of course, when the groceries were delivered, my sisters and I would still be asleep. Bunny would always say, and I mean always. . . .”Lazy bones, sleepin’ in the noon-day sun.” I can still hear him in my head to this day. I’m not sure my mom did the politically correct thing and tipped Bunny, but Bunny was a small part of my childhood, and the life that my mother had made for us.

Mother and the Blooms (Francis and Milton) had a friendship of sorts. One year, Bloom’s was robbed and Milton was shot. Things seemed to change after that shooting. It wasn’t long before the Blooms closed their store.

On rare occasions (and I do mean rare) me and mom and one or two of my sisters would walk to the Kroger. Kroger was at the corner of 22nd and Jefferson Street. Jefferson Street was a block north of Market, and the street that you never ventured to. I’m not sure why we would go to Kroger sometime, we just did. I always felt as though we were cheating on the Blooms.

My mother had strange relationships with our neighbors. I think how she treated you was determined on which side of the street you lived on.

The Nicolas’ lived next door, and my mom was on a first name basis with that family. She called the parents Evelyn and Nick. However the Shaw family lived across the street, and my mom and Ms. Shaw called each other Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Shaw. . . Weird how that was. Mind you, not that either was right or wrong, it was just strange.

It seems like we always had company at our house, which consisted mostly of our aunts and uncles from both sides of the family. I remember one night mom had cooked for a bunch of people and, after eating everyone had retired to the living room, leaving my mom alone in the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and my mom was crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she was hurt because everyone left her there to eat all by herself. I felt bad for her. Not only did she cook, she had to eat alone AND clean up the mess. That was one of the first times I remember my mom crying.

In our house on Main Street, we had a coal burning fireplace. It was my mom’s duties to order the coal, and bring it into the house. I can still see her in the side yard, with her coal bucket, hauling coal into the living room. Sometimes we would help her - sometimes we would not. To me that coal was for throwing at Jimmy Nicolas.

For some strange reason, my father earned the money and my mom paid the bills. Once and awhile, my mom worked as a waitress and at one time she wrapped sandwiches for a lunch-truck service. Mom and dad would argue about money on Saturday mornings, and mom would end up with money to buy groceries and pay the bills. Somewhere along the line, my mom stopped paying the house payment. Mom and dad lost the house at 2108 Main Street. My father was livid as I remember, and mom passed it off as not being able to buy groceries, pay the bills with the money dad was giving her. The person who bought the house rented it to my parents, but they didn’t live there long.

When the bus service to Indiana was stopped, Mom and Dad moved to Indiana, and Mom never really did like it over there. She adapted though, and could walk to the store and had all the conveniences right at her fingertips. Dad could literally walk to work. To me, Mom always seemed out of place in Indiana.


One of the reasons I hesitated to write this part of the blog is for the reasons I state below. I wanted to say all good things about my Mom, but have to be honest with readers but mostly honest with myself.

Somewhere in my adult life my mom found religion. I mean she raised us Catholic and she went to mass regularly, but in my adult years she found another religion and was “saved.” In the beginning of her new-found faith, I would have to say that this bothered me a whole lot, because she seemed to want everyone to then be “saved” and seemed to “push” her new beliefs very strongly. I’m not sure anyone else felt this way, but I did. There were always invitations to attend this event at her church, or that event at her church, and I would not budge, nor would I attend her church. She would even send her preacher to see me. Mom and Dad had a lot of faith in Brother Baker, and loved him dearly. Brother Baker paid many a visit to my house, and would leave mad most of the time. I wanted no part of any of this new religion or Brother Baker. I think he was fired from preaching due to some financial “concerns” and now sells cars in another state. Still makes me happy!

For some strange reason, I had a change of heart one Mother’s day. Of course, mom’s church had a “promotion” where Mother’s got something if their kids attended. All my sisters were going (darn it), and there was a lot of pressure on me. I relented and went. It was a surprise to my mom when I showed up at her church. I can still see her mouth drop open when she saw me.

After that visit to her church, things were better. Mother enjoyed her religion and was no longer “pushy” with it, and that was OK by me. She remained very religious for the remainder of her life. When dad found the religion, I thought “Oh God”, but Dad never talked about it much, which was fine with me.

Since mom had become more settled with her church, I became happier for her, because it gave her a purpose in life. Mom was so very glad that her and my dad attended church together. It seems it had been a lifelong dream of hers.

I found that her religion and her church friends were very important to her, and that was good. She would never fail to attend church, and became very active in it. She was part of a prayer chain and prayed for those folks who were sick or down-trodden. She would also send money to Jimmy Faye and Tammy Baker. That made me growl, but my Mom’s intentions were good, and she gave with her heart. She did not apply any pressure for me to send money to Jimmy and Tammy, so I was happy.

When my dad died, mom seemed to plod right along. She moved back to Louisville in apartments that Sandy and Jerry owned. I was glad that they were close to her. Mom adjusted very well to life without my dad and became even more active in her church, which was a good thing. She mourned my father, but she was strong and bounced back rather quickly.

I was the only daughter who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, went through two husbands before my mom passed from this earth, and mom NEVER gave me any flack about it. Never! She accepted me for who I was and never preached at me for the decisions I had made in my life, and that is why I found the “religious intimidation” to be so baffling. Maybe she was indeed trying to save me from myself.

Whatever the reason, my mother’s new religion has left an indelible mark on me and how I deal with overly-zealous religious people. As you can probably tell by some of my “comments” in this section, I still have incredible religious issues.

Ok, all that is out, and I’m glad. I loved my mother with all my heart and soul, and at the end of her life, I was glad she had her church and her church friends and her faith. My mother’s faith was pure and very real. Somewhere along the line, I think we just came to terms with this whole religion thing.


My mother started having chest pains in December of 1989 and was taken to the hospital. She was having a series of heart attacks, and needed by-pass surgery. She didn’t make it out of the hospital.

I remember very vividly it being Christmas time. Mother was in a Cardiac Care unit on Christmas, and we were able to visit her. She was able to talk to us and all. We didn’t take her Christmas presents, because we were going to wait until she got home. After Christmas mom was moved to a regular room, and was having chest pains again. The Doctor’s decided to do a cardiac catherization. It was during the cath, that they decided to do emergency by-pass surgery. Mom never recovered from that surgery. The initial surgery was a success, but she had to go back into surgery due to some bleeding complications.

It was three weeks of hell for her. She died due to complications of the surgery. Somehow I think she knew she wasn’t going to make it. She told my sister Sandy on the way to the hospital, “I guess I’m going to be with your Daddy.” Mother was on a ventilator for much of the time she was hospitalized and couldn’t talk to us. She would try mimic words, and we would do our best to try and understand what she was trying to say. When she was near the end, she “mouthed” one word “Pepsi”. It was hard knowing she was thirsty and wanted just a simple Pepsi. We couldn’t give her anything to drink and it broke my heart. With Dad it has been Reeses’ and with Mom it was Pepsi.

On January 7, 1990 my mother passed from this earth and from us. We were all there with her, and it was a peaceful. I was glad she was no longer suffering with all of these medical ups and downs.

I miss my mom a lot. Time does ease the pain, but there are times when I think that mom would enjoy this, or mom would find this funny, or mom could tell me how she made her chili. The little things. . . .

My daughter Dianna says just about all of it in one of her recent blogs:

My grandma passed away awhile back. Some 17 years or more ago. As my adult years roll on I find myself missing her more and more. So much. She pops into my head a lot. She never yelled at me ever. Not once. That's the thing that I miss the most, her kindness and love to me. She never judged me, never did anything but love me. She used to always ask me to go to church with her, but I don't why I didn't. I don't think I was old enough to drive. I don't know. Whatever the case, I would give my eye teeth to just go to church with her once today. The time I remember the most about going to church with her, whoever was driving us, we were in the car and we laughed so hard, I don’t even know over what. But we were laughing and laughing. We had gone to McDonalds and I spilled hot chocolate all down my chest. I had this huge stain and figured we would have to go back home. Instead she took me into the bathroom, turned my shirt around backwards and gave me her good sweater. We walked in and we were joined elbow and elbow and she was taking me all around showing me to everyone under the sun. Her face was just beaming with pride. I remember after Sunday school she came got me and we went into the church for the sermon. During it, she picked my hand up and kissed it and then just continued to hold it through the service. She hugged me afterwards and she always smelled so good. It's now that I just want to go to her and have her kiss my hand and hug me. My heart is absolutely broken because I miss her so much. She was my safe spot. I just love her. Unconditionally without question love her and miss her every day. So today when things are so bad, I just wish to go see her. Just for a second see her and just smell her, feel her arms around me, kissing me on the cheek. Kissing my hand. The things we take for granted in daily life.... the thing I miss most.Her..

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dorothy Alberta Miller - Coming Soon

I am almost done with my blog part on my mother. Sorry it has taken me so long to get this done, but sometimes life gets in the way.

I would like some help from all of you. Instead of commenting on the blog after I've written it, I would like you all to share your stories of Mother before I put mine out there, so I can include your tid-bits in the blog. It may be fun.

Sooooooo any memories or stories you have - please put them out there. Also any pics would be nice if you care to email them to me.

After Mother's is done, I haven't decided where I want to take this. I'm thinking about doing one on the NIcolas' then maybe (MAYBE) the sisters. . . . .Slow process.

I'm going to post this request to my other blog as well.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Henry Clay Part I

Henry Clay was my father. Most people called him Clay. I remember him as a big man with a big voice. He was quite handsome and appeared younger than his years. I see pictures of Henry when he was in the Army and I am amazed at how thin and tiny he appeared, for that is not how I remember him.

If I had to describe my father in a word it would be two words actually - a character. There were so many sides to him that a chapter in a blog cannot capture.

My dad was born and raised in Horse Cave, KY. His parents were George and Hattie. Daddy had 2 brothers, Emery and George Jr., and two sisters Pat and Mary Elizabeth.

Henry Clay was a very smart man. I hear from the family elders that he had thought once on entering law school, which would explain the law books that were sprinkled throughout our house. He read a lot, watched the news religiously and we would often go to him for those tidbits of information we needed, whether it would be for a school project or just to settle a discussion. I didn’t need Google or the internet, my daddy always knew the answers. I am not sure, but I am inclined to believe that my father did not have a high school education.

My dad’s brother, Emery, owned a Television repair shop, and Emery wanted my dad to go into business with him. For some reason, daddy didn’t do it. My dad served in the US Army. After his stint in the Army he started working at the Quartermaster Depot in Indiana. Somehow or another his working career ended up at the Census Bureau, which was also in Indiana. I can’t remember my dad working at the old Quartermaster Depot, but he spoke of it often. I only remember him working at the Census Bureau. Daddy would go off to work everyday to the tune of “I’m off to gather statistics.” After his death, I was going through daddy’s desk, and found a quote that he had clipped from a magazine that said, “Old census takers never die, they just go to where they don’t count anymore.” I appreciated the cleverness of that quote as it related to daddy – he was a clever man.

My dad had five daughters much to his dismay. He wanted a son more than anything. I guess Carol was the last attempt at a boy. As we girls grew older and began having children, daddy would offer us $25.00 to name any sons we had after him. I considered naming my first born son Henry, but wasn’t real sure I wanted to name that cute little baby boy. . . Henry. Daddy did worry about the Miller family name being carried on. He was the only one of his male siblings that had any children. I had a cousin Vicky, but she was adopted, and later one of my aunts had a son (Kevin). When my father’s brother died last year, the Miller name legacy died with him.

I’m not sure how Henry did it. He had five daughters and sent them all to catholic schools. As I was growing up and in high school, I used to whine and complain because I had to clean after school to help pay my tuition. Now that I am an adult, I am amazed that he paid for that catholic education on his meager salary – and believe me – his salary was meager.

My dad’s nickname for me was “moon-face.” As I was growing up, I didn’t understand it, but I did later, because my face was indeed round. He also said I was the “sneaky” one. I wasn’t sure what he meant by the “sneaky” thing either, but I think he had me pegged. I just didn’t want to admit it. After all, I was the one who wanted to write on the bathroom wall, so I wrote Carol’s initials so “I” wouldn’t get in trouble. Only problem was Carol’s name was Georgia Carol Miller, and I wrote JCM on the bathroom wall. I didn’t know how to spell Georgia , so I wrote it phonetically. Caught! I guess “sneaky” applied there.

I don’t remember much (if any) affection from my father and most of my memories consisted of me being afraid of him. It’s funny sometimes what you think, and the acts of kindness which stick in your mind. After I graduated high school, I became pregnant “out of wedlock.” I was scared to death of my parents’ reaction to this news. I was scared of everything associated with my pregnancy. I remember one interaction with my father. He had the pregnancy news already, and I’m not sure who told him, but it wasn’t me. One day, daddy needed something from the kitchen and I brought it to him. He said “thank you hon.” He called me “hon!” He had never done that before. That one little word meant so much to me, and with the speaking of that word, I knew things with me and my father were OK. I took it to mean that he understood about my being pregnant and was not angry with me, and he really did accept me, and I wasn’t not going to be thrown out on the streets.. It’s really hard to explain, but for me, the utterance of the word hon was a “moment.”

My dad never drove a car that I can recall. Dad would go to work everyday on a bus. It was somewhat of an inconvenience not having a car. My dad knew the bus system like the back of his hand. I never understood why he did not drive, and often resented the fact that we didn’t have a chauffer. We would often times depend on others who had the luxury of a vehicle.

We were raised in the Catholic Church and went to catholic schools. Mom, my sisters and I would all go to church on Sunday, but my dad never went. Daddy would attend special occasions like first communions, but never went to church. I wasn’t sure he had a religion, but can vaguely remember him telling us he was of the Methodist faith.

When I was little, I would remember my dad sitting in his chair watching TV. His Monday through Friday routine was the same for years and years. He would come home from work, eat dinner, take a nap, wake up from that nap then watch TV until the 11 o’clock news was over. He would then go to bed to wake up the next day to begin the same routine.

My dad was paid on Fridays. I loved that day because sometimes my mom would walk to the corner (the neighborhood beer-joint) to get fish sandwiches for us all. That was a real treat back then.

Many of my Saturday nights were spent with him watching TV. My mom would be off to the bingo. Sometimes I remember Carol being there, and I know Sandy was there. I do not remember Sandy and Carol on Saturday nights, just me and daddy watching TV. I would be in the rocker in front of the fireplace watching Gun Smoke.

Saturday mornings today are a time for families to relax, but not at my house in my younger years. Saturday mornings was the time my mom and dad talked about . . . the bills!! I hated that time, because most times they would argue. This was done in the kitchen, and I always stayed in another part of the house during that time. I would listen intently though because, I would often times ask for 5 dollars to go downtown shopping. I had to wait until the Saturday morning arguments were over to see if my request would be granted. More times than not, I received my 5 dollars.

Weekends were always a special occasion too because it was time for my father’s Saturday night bath. My dad only bathed on Saturday nights. We used to tease him about it too. He would just laugh and say he was ready for his Saturday night bath.

It would be hard to describe my father without describing his relationship with my mother. Their relationship was considered traditional, meaning my mom waited on daddy hand and foot. He would often call her into the living room, from the kitchen just to turn the TV channel. The strange thing was, mom would do it. Sometimes she would complain about it, but many times, she did not say a word. She cooked all his meals, washed all his clothes and brought him a million cups of coffee. Mom ran the house, took care of us kids and daddy made the money. We tried once to try and talk daddy into buying our mom a new automatic dishwasher. His reply was, “I’ve had a dishwasher for over 30 years, and haven’t had to replace a part on it yet.” Daddy, of course, was referring to my mom.

Part of who I am today, I believe, can be attributed to my father. I am afraid to speak up sometimes, I avoid conflict and I do not like loud discussions. My dad was always someone that intimidated me. Sandy always stood up to my father and she paid for it. Daddy would whip her sometimes at night after she wouldn’t do what he said or she would argue with him. Those whippings, although probably not as bad as they seemed, scared me badly. In many ways I was afraid of him. My mother used to try and justify those whippings by telling us my father was so frustrated. My other sisters also said Daddy was the same way with Dorothy Ann, but I don’t remember that – just his interactions with Sandy. I remember the whippings stopped when Sandy was seriously hurt in an accident. That was the first time I can remember him being worried and remorseful. I remember Sandy needed pajamas for her stay in the hospital, and there was no argument over the money for those pajamas, daddy just gave mom the money to get what Sandy needed.

On Sundays my uncles would sometimes visit, or my sisters would be there with their husbands. Whoever the visitors were, they and my dad would sit at the kitchen table and argue. They would argue over just about everything; politics, religion and how wide Main Street was. One time, as I was told, they actually got out and measured the street to see who was right on the issue. I’m not sure who won that argument, but I’m sure there was a lot of discussion first. My dad would argue, just for the sake of argument sometimes. He may have been in total agreement with you, but for the sake of argument, he would take the opposite side. Daddy just plain liked to argue.

Despite the arguing, I can remember him mostly as a jovial man with a good sense of humor. With teenage girls in the house, many times we would ride him out about his lack of bathing, his “zoot suits” as he called them, and the way he dressed. He took the criticism in stride and would many times tease us right back. In our adulthood my sisters, mom and I bought him a real suit for Christmas one year. It was very nice, but it hung in the closet. He was grateful, but never wore the suit. There was something strangely odd about his resistance to that suit. I think we all felt that one day we would just bury him in the suit. . . .and, we did.

My dad was noted for his love of junk. He would often walk to Consolidated (K-Mart type store) on Saturday and would often take me and Carol with him. I loved those trips, but it seemed daddy was always buying stuff he did not need. On one occasion he had some sun glasses he wanted to wear. I remember him saying they were his “cool-cat” sun glasses. Carol, who was going with him, did not want to go if he wore those glasses. I remember him laughing about it and going on and on about the cool-cat sunglasses. He and Carol went on to Consolidated without the sun glasses. I guess he wanted the company more than he wanted to wear the sun glasses.

My dad’s love of junk was never so apparent than when we had yard sales. After mom and dad moved to Indiana, they lived on a corner of a busy street, and it was an excellent spot to sell our junk. We had several yard sales there. My mom had brought my father a watch for Christmas, and he never wore it. My mom placed the watch in the yard sale. My dad, being our best customer, brought the watch for 5 dollars. After purchasing the watch, my father placed the watch in a drawer and he never wore it. Mom took the watch and placed it in the next yard sale the following year. Again, my father brought the watch, not even being aware that it was the same watch he had received for Christmas, and had bought at the yard sale the year before. It still makes me chuckle when I think of that watch.

My father’s other famous pieces of junk were a Christmas ornament that chirped like birds. He bought that to take to work and play pranks on his co-workers, I can still see him chuckle when he would plug in that ornament to show us how it chirped. It absolutely drove my mom nuts. There were also tiny, magnetic dogs that when placed on a table would automatically move toward each other. The house was literally sprinkled with my father’s junk.

Somewhere along the line my father found religion. I think a preacher came to see him one night, and my father was saved. I was an adult by then, and I wasn’t real sure what “saved” meant. He was relatively quiet about his religious experience, but none-the-less my father started going to church. My mother was so pleased with daddy’s new found religion she started going to church with him – a Baptist church.

My mother and father became very active in their church activities. Daddy became the church treasurer and they would go to church religiously (no pun intended.) It was actually good to see them attend service together, but I had my own difficulties with the newfound religion.

My husband Jack and I would take them to church on Sunday mornings, pick them up and take them home, and would repeat the trip Sunday night. The trip was ok when they lived in Shively, but once they moved to Indiana, I really did resent my Sundays being taken with the chauffeuring we had to do. I did not do the driving, but would go along. My mom always said that Jack would receive a special place in heaven, and I agree. I divorced Jack, but will always remember the kindness he showed towards my parents. As selfishness dictates, once we didn’t have to drive them anymore, I missed the trips.
Mom would always prepare a dinner for us on Sundays. It was very nice when everyone would sit down to eat. My father had an enormous appetite and would always be the first at the table.

Eventually Mom and Dad started attending a church in Indiana, where a bus or another parishioner would drive them to church. They were very active still in their Indiana church. These were the day that were the beginning of the end to the life of Henry Clay Miller – my father.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Henry Clay - Part II

I start at the end because the beginning was long and laborious. Grant you, it is a labor of love, but there are a lot of aspects to Henry Clay that are to be addressed in Part I.

The end began on Mother’s day in 1979. Henry was given the diagnosis when he was all alone in a hospital room. Cancer.

At the time Daddy was handed the bad news, we were celebrating Mother’s Day with my mom. Daddy called mother from his hospital room. We dropped what we were doing and we all headed to the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital daddy was sitting there on the side of his hospital bed, both hands on the bed with his head hung. What do you say to someone you love when they have been given such devastating news? I chose to say nothing. From Mother’s day until October 16, 1979 was just barely six months, and it was somewhat of a long journey as I remember.

There was chemo therapy and all, but I don’t remember it being called “chemo.” The medicines they gave my father for his cancer took their toll on him. He suffered infection after infection; he lost a lot of weight and seemed to give up hope.

I can remember those six months, as if it were yesterday. We couldn’t get him to eat anything, except Reese’s Peanut butter cups. He loved them and would actually eat them too. I guess it was the only thing he felt like eating. Peanut butter cups weren’t much for a large man who had a passion for a good meal.

Daddy was diagnosed with cancer before he celebrated 40 years of service with the Census Bureau. While he was being treated, his 40 year anniversary date came. Daddy’s boss and some of his co-workers brought over his 40 years service pin and some certificates. He was quite proud of the service pin. His goal had always been to retire next year. Next year never came for my father. He did not get to enjoy the pleasures that retirement can bring.

My dad was very nosy. He loved to spy on the neighbors and keep an eye on the comings and goings of the neighborhood folks. When he would spot something, he would then send my mother to check it out. I guess, although nosy, Henry was somewhat of a chicken. While he was sick he would spend a lot of time staring out of the front door keeping an eye on the neighborhood, but he developed a different type of friendship. There were two redbirds that would sit on the telephone wire outside his front door, and daddy would talk to them. Daddy would whistle in “bird” talk, and the birds would answer. It was if they were carrying on a conversation that would continue each day. Some days my dad would perform his part of the conversation from his favorite chair. The redbirds would always correspond.

During his illness, my dad still kept his jovial mood. I can remember taking my son Johnny up to the hospital to see him. Daddy, who was still in pretty good shape, laid back on his bed and started to moan and groan like he was dying. Daddy did this just to scare Johnny, and scare Johnny it did. It was funny, but in a way it was a weird omen on what was to come.

As the days clicked, the illness took its toll. One day at the hospital my father was very sick with an infection. He asked me to put his watch on for him. As I was doing that daddy commented, “I’m dwindling down to nothing aren’t I.” I again chose not to comment, but in my heart, I agreed.

My dad died the same way he received the news of his cancer . . .alone. We were called in the middle of the night, but none of us made it there in time. When my sister Carol and I arrived, we were ushered into another room by a nurse, who had been crying. I knew then that dad had died, and I think Carol did too. When my mom arrived we were told we could go into his room, but I did not. I wanted no part of his death. I wanted to remember him alive. Carol only spoke of the Reese’s Cups that lay by his hospital bed.

Carol and I also spoke sometime later that we were never able to say the “I love you” words to our father. We both loved him dearly, but the words would not come to me. Carol indicated she did tell him, and I was glad for her. I always figured I had time, but time eluded me and time eluded my father. My daddy died without me having the privilege of telling him that I loved him. My silence – all of it - prompted changes in me. I am less likely today to be silent.

A few days after my father had passed; I was standing at the front door of his home. I saw those two redbirds on the telephone wire. The birds were staring down at the front door as if they were looking for him. I thought of attempting the whistle but I remained once again, silent. I just wondered if they missed him. . . I did.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


At 55 years of age, some of my dreams are still centered around 2108 W. Main Street. That is the house in which I grew up. That house, although not a person, holds a special place with me. I spent 18 years of my life in that house and did not leave it until I was married and moved away.

2108 was in the Portland neighborhood in the West End of Louisville. In the 50’s it was known that black people lived past Jefferson Street, which was two block to the south. I’m not being prejudiced here, but back in those days we were taught never to wander to, or past, Jefferson Street. Right or wrong – that is just the way it was and what we were taught.

For those of you who do not know us, we were a family of seven people. There was my mom and dad and five of us girls. In order by age are my sisters Mary Lee, Dorothy Ann, Sandy, me then Carol. We were also what I considered to be poor, and the house was not very nice and was in bad need of repair most of the time.

The house was a camelback shotgun house. A shotgun is a house where the rooms are all lined up one behind the other. There are no hallways. A camelback shotgun had a second story room built on one of the rear rooms. Shotguns were built that way a long time ago because, when homes were built then they were taxed on how wide they were in the front of the structure, so the structures were only one room wide.

The shotgun at 2108 W. Main Street was four rooms deep. When you walked into the front door at our house you were in the Living Room as well as my mom and dad’s bedroom. In that room was a couch, my dad’s chair, a TV and a double bed. Mom and dad’s bed was right in front of one of the living room windows.

There was also a fireplace in the living room that served to heat the room. My mom and dad burned coal in that fireplace. The fireplace was small, as coal-burning fireplaces were back then. I loved that fireplace because it was great to stand in front of to get warm and it added atmosphere to the room both at night with the glow, and while sitting and watching TV and relaxing. I can recall distinctly the smell of burning coal.

Walking back to the next room was the bedroom of all five of us girls. There were two double beds and, at one time, a baby-bed. There were also a couple of dressers in there too, as well as a space heater. Also at some point in my life, my dad built a closet in our room. The closet was big with a large storage area at the top.

We did a lot of bed shuffling in the early days, and Sandy made out like a bandit because of the order my two oldest sisters left the nest. The great bed shuffle went like this. Me and Dorothy Ann slept in one bed next to the wall. Sandy and Mary Lee slept in the other double bed next to the side door. Carol was in a baby bed next to the window. Blow a whistle and shuffle. Dorothy Ann leaves to get married and Carol moves in the bed with me. The baby bed comes out. Blow yet another whistle and Mary Lee gets married and Sandy gets a bed all to herself. This is the bed configuration I remember the most.

In my bed, I slept next to the wall and Carol slept on the outside. The house did not have air conditioning. During the summers there would be a floor-fan that sat at the foot of the two double beds. I was always hot, so I would stick my feet in a hole in the plaster in the wall because it would cool me down. The plaster hole was always cool, and I was often glad they did not repair that hole. Many times, when the fan or the plaster did not do the trick, I would often times join my family to sit out front in the middle of the night to watch the cars go by.

The winters were always cozy in that bedroom. You could see the glow from the fireplace in my mom’s room and could often times hear someone up and adding coal to the fire. The space heater did the trick in keeping us warm, and it was comforting to hear it come on and go off. A fond memory indeed.

The next room next to our bedroom was what we called the junk room. It was appropriately named. There was all kind of furniture in that room at one time or another. It served as a kitchen in my early years and in the later years, it became more of a sitting room with a couch in it. The telephone was there as was my mom’s alarm clock. The bathroom was off to the side of the junk room.

The reason I mention the alarm clock is because I never understood why it was two rooms away from my mom’s bedroom. She would set it every night, and it would go off in the morning playing music. Often times I would mess with my momma by turning it up all the way, so it would go off blaring music throughout the house. Mom would stumble out of bed, cursing as she went through our room at a rapid pace to get to that clock to shut it off. I would lay there and chuckle.

While in grade school, we were sometimes allowed to come home for lunch. I remember during the winter months mom would hang laundry in that junk room from clothes lines that were there. Coming home for lunch would include sitting with the wet laundry that hung over your head. Somehow that wet laundry would magically disappear by the time the school day ended. I was never clear on where it went or how it dried so fast. Disappearing laundry was a mystery to me.

The bathroom was a mess. For many years only a curtain served as a door. At some point an official door was added to the bathroom. In the bathroom was a bathtub that was old fashioned and had feet. It was great for relaxing in. There was no shower – just a tub. Behind the tub was a little shelf. The shelf was only about 3 or 4 feet high and behind that shelf was a great chasm of junk. If you looked back there you could probably gather a lot of history about our family. An example of what was back there was: For Christmas Mary Lee would often times buy us younger sisters fancy, perfumed dusting powder with nice little, fluffy powder puffs. These little canisters of powder would be set on the shelf behind the tub, and would one day be gone. Oops. I can probably say that every container of powder had fallen behind the shelf and into the chasm never to be retrieved or seen again. The chasm was not big enough for someone to get back there to get the goods, but they were there none-the-less.

The next room in succession was the kitchen. It was the most modern room in the house, and I think was added or remodeled sometime in the course of my life at 2108. It was big and had all the appliances that should be in a kitchen. It also had a door to the outside, except that door had no screen door and no steps. So, if you went out that door you had to literally jump out. Unless you could step really high, you could not enter by that door and would have to come to the door that entered into our bedroom through the side door.

My mother used to do the laundry from an old wringer washer. This was mostly manual labor. That machine was huge and most of the laundry was manually placed through the wringer to squeeze out excess water. When I was a teenager my mother got a new automatic washing machine. She was never so proud. That new automatic washer was placed in the junk room. Believe me you couldn’t lay down a sock, or a shirt without it being thrown into that washer. My mom was now a clothes washing maniac, and I can’t say as I blame her.

The upstairs room was a room full of junk and was not used. You could never get up there because of the junk that was stored in the stairwell. Once daddy was cleaning out the stairwell and we were allowed up to the room upstairs. On a few occasions I would take dolls up there and play, but I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was in that room. I t seemed like such a waste, and I always wanted that room to be my room.

The yard at 2108 was small. The front yard had virtually no vegetation except a rose bush, and what little grass we had would be cut by using a push “Leave It to Beaver” mower. There was a side yard that was long and narrow. You could literally stand in the side yard and touch our house and the house next door at the same time. The back yard was equally tiny. The coal pile was in the back yard. I can still see my mom in the winter carrying in coal for the fireplace. Many times she would have to get the snow off the pile first before carrying in the coal in her coal bucket.

Mom and dad were buying the house on 2108 W. Main Street, until my mother quit making the house payments. Daddy would give her money to pay the bills, and I think she opted to buy food rather than pay the house payment. They lost the house. The good part of that was the buyer of the house decided mom and dad could rent it. That didn’t last too long and mom and dad had to move. My mom and dad moved from the house at 2108 to an apartment on Algonquin Parkway. I had married and had children then and also lived in those apartments. It was nice to have them literally right next door.

We grew up without a car. It was sometimes a real hardship. My dad took a bus to and from work everyday. He worked at the Census Bureau in Jeffersonville, IN. The city of Louisville ran the bus system, and when the bus system went broke, they quit providing service to Indiana. Mom and Dad moved to Indiana at that point.

The house at 2108 W. Main Street burned down sometime during the 70’s. I remember going down to 2108 house after reading about the fire in the paper. I stood at the fence to that house and cried. Standing at that fence staring at the charred house, my life memories went rolling by in my head; Laundry hanging in the junk room, the sound of the space heaters, the fireplace – all of it. My husband took video of the burnt out structure. I couldn’t help but think of all the things that had gone on in that house, and all the fond memories I had there. It really did make me sad. I wondered if all that powder was still behind the bath tub. 2108 W. Main Street was, and will always be . . .home.


Thursday, February 16, 2006


Hattie. Oh boy, what I can say about Hattie? I could probably write a whole book on her, because there is a lot I remember. If you asked which set of grandparents I was closer to, I would have to say that I was closer to my mom’s side of the family, but in all reality, I think I saw more of my Dad’s family, in particularly my grandma Hattie.

She was my father’s mother. She, like my other grandma was quite attractive. It seemed she dressed very nice and always smelled good. She was a tall woman as I recollect and if I had to describe her in a word it would be cantankerous. The dictionary definition of cantankerous is “difficult or irritating to deal with.” Next to that definition should be the word Hattie.

In her earlier years, Hattie lived in an apartment at 24th and Main. In her later years, and before being moved to a nursing home, she lived in an apartment at 29th and Portland.

The main street apartment was small and I can still see the layout of the place. For some strange reason, I always wanted to live there. There was a much bigger apartment (house) in the back that was attached to the part that she lived in. Eventually my sister Dorothy Ann bought that house and lived in the back part with her husband and kids. I think when Dorothy Ann sold the house, grandma was forced to move. That move took her to the Portland Avenue address.

I loved to go visit grandma on Main Street, because she always had the Welch’s grape juice and lots of good snacks – mostly chocolate. It seemed there were always a lot of people there. I would love to run into my uncles at her house.

I can remember visiting there a lot and found it enjoyable because of the snack factor, but mostly because my sister lived in the back part of the house.

Dorothy Ann and Hattie did not see eye-to-eye on a lot of matters. (I also believe that this statement is putting it mildly.) My grandmother was mean to Dorothy’s kids. They could probably address that better than me. On more than one occasion, I can remember Dorothy Ann referring to grandma as a witch or something. I would have hated to be there when Dorothy Ann and Hattie had those heated discussions. I can remember it troubling me a lot because I loved both Dorothy Ann and my grandmother. Although, I wasn’t, I felt in the middle.

Often times, when visiting Dorothy Ann, Grandma would be home and would sometimes not answer her door, or the apartment would be locked up tight as to give the appearance that no one was home. This would, in some sort of strange way, hurt my feelings.

My grandmother raised my cousin Kevin. Kevin was a very strange character as a kid (and as an adult). He was highly intelligent, and would often quote my grandmother as a child. I can remember at the age of 3 he would go around saying “a sweeper sweeps, a washer washes, a buffer buffs and an agitator agitates.” He would also state many times “I am a sick woman.” Being a teenager I would often find that funny, and NEVER once attributed his weird characteristics as a direct result of being raised by grandma. I didn’t want to make that connection. Kevin is another chapter for another day, but deserved honorable mention in Hattie’s chapter.

The reason I call her cantankerous is because she was. My grandmother fought with a lot of people. I remember she would take me and my cousin Vicky shopping and out to lunch. The only shopping in those days was downtown. Of course we went downtown on the bus. She took Vicky shopping much more than she took me. I always felt Vicky was her favorite and I got to go along sometimes as an afterthought. When we would stop for lunch, Grandma was always so rude to the waitresses and would send back food. She was grumpy to bus drivers and other passengers. I would sometimes be very embarrassed in her behavior.

Many times family and friends would be gathered at our house to play cards. Someone would always agree to drive Grandma home (about 2 blocks) and it seemed she always had trouble finding her key. One night it was Frankie (a neighbor’s husband) who made the two block trip to take Hattie home. As they drove down Main Street, she started fumbling in her purse for her key. Frankie assumed Hattie was getting money out of her purse and was going to give him that money for taking her home. Frankie said “that’s ok Mrs. Miller, you don’t have to give me anything.” Hattie said (very rudely), “Don’t worry, I’m not giving you anything, I’m just looking for my key.” So much for gratitude – but that was Hattie.

After she moved to 29th and Portland, Grandma’s health seemed to falter. She suffered from facial myalgia. That disorder would send shooting pains in her face and suddenly, with no warning, she would scream in pain. I mean it was a loud scream that would often scare the living daylights out of me. Out of nowhere - SCREAM!!!!!!

Grandma did have some tragedies in her life. When she was on Portland Avenue, Hattie was once robbed by a bunch of thugs. They broke into her apartment, held a rifle to her head while they made away with her purse, money and some other things. This scared her, and it truly broke my heart. She was old and no matter how mean she appeared, I felt she did not deserve this. That is the first time I ever saw my grandmother as frail.

She was still living when my father died. He was 61 at the time of his death. I can remember her being devastated at his passing. She said to me (speaking of my father) “no matter how old they are, they are still your babies.” I will carry those words with me forever, because I feel the same way about my own grown children.

This brings me to grandma’s upstairs neighbor on Portland Avenue, Loodie. I’m not sure if that is how it is spelled or not, but that was her name. I never met or laid eyes on Loodie. Loodie was a drunk and would often times come home in the middle of the night inebriated out of her mind and making a lot of noise, as she fell over chairs and things. Grandma would call her up and scream at her for being so loud, and sometimes threatened to call the police. Grandma and Loodie went at it tooth and nail, all the time. Grandma and Loodie probably had more feuds than grandma and Dorothy Ann did. And believe me, that was a lot.

Grandma didn’t seem the same after the thugs broke in on her. Her health continued to deteriorate at a rapid pace. She was eventually put into a nursing facility on east Jefferson Street. As I often do, I had a sudden urge to visit her. I went into the nursing home to visit her but she did not know who I was. She was half naked. There was a bed sheet that did not cover her. I covered her up because I wanted to protect what little dignity she had left. The place smelled badly of urine. It took several days to get that smell out of my nose and even longer to get it out of my heart. I was crushed when I left the nursing home that day. How could a woman with so much spunk end up like this? It just didn’t seem fitting. She had made a mark on society, several waiters, bus drivers, bus passengers, Dorothy Ann, Dorothy Ann’s kids and Loodie. Now she was reduced to this. Several hours after that nursing home visit, Hattie passed from this world. I can honestly say that her death affected me greatly.

My niece Karen’s high school graduation was around the time of my grandmother’s funeral. I sobbed like a baby at Karen’s graduation for many reasons. Karen was growing up, and my grandmother was gone. I really, honestly did miss her. Despite her meanness, ingratitude and her great lack of tact - I missed her.

Maybe my feelings were not unique and can be explained, or can best be described through the actions of the lady at my grandmother’s funeral. I had not seen this lady before. The mysterious lady came into the funeral home and was at the casket crying like her heart was broken. I mean, this lady was sobbing immensely. I asked one of my uncles who that lady was and they told me it was Loodie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


George was my father’s father. I must admit that I no memory of him at all. Grandpa died of throat cancer when I was just three. I remember talk of his cancer as being caused from some heavy drinking. Did Hattie drive him to drinking?

I learned from my sisters that he painted houses as a profession. Yet his death announcement in the paper said he worked at a metals place in addition to painting.

There is some speculation that my grandfather had a glass eye – one sister tells me yes, and the other says no. But by any means, my grandfather lost an eye in some type of accident. I can’t imagine glass eyes to even be in existence back then. I wish I could remember. I could have had a lot to say and write about that eye.

My mother told me many times, that I spent a lot of time on his lap.

There was a great name debacle upon the passing of my grandfather George. My sister Carol was born around the time of his death. My mom named her Linda Carol officially. But my father had it wanted it changed to Georgia Carol. Her birth certificate was never changed from Linda. I think Carol grew up as Georgia Carol, and in later years it gave her some trouble. I think she eventually had it officially changed from Linda to Georgia. I guess that’s why we always called her Carol. I can’t imagine calling her Linda or Georgia. I’m glad they agreed on Carol as a middle name.

My dad’s family was from Horse Cave, KY. My oldest sister Mary said she and Dorothy Ann would spend summers in Horse Cave with my grandparents. Mary said she remembers my grandfather George meeting them at the train station. Wish I would have known him. I wonder if his shoes were speckled with paint colors.