And Papa was sick, and somebody had to watch him. He wasn’t down in the bed, but his mind was kind of off. Now he’d listen to you, you’d talk to him, and anything he wanted, had to tell you about it. “Naw, you can’t go there. I got to go home. I got to go home.” Said he had to go home. I said, “We are home.” Said, “Naw, we’re not.” That’s the way his mind worked. Like that.
So after Mamie got married in Greensboro, I come on back to Wilson, and then, after I come back, I hated I’d come back ‘cause I had to – Papa’s mind was bad, and I had to stay home. To keep him. He’d go ‘way from the house and couldn’t find his way back. And he was ruptured from the time I can remember. And so at that time Mama was working in the factory, and school wasn’t open, but when school opened, I had to stay home and look out for him. And then, so finally, when he died. He was supposed to have an operation. He was ruptured, and Carrie, she claimed she didn’t know it. And I said, now, I was the youngest child was there, and I knowed that all that stuff that was down ‘tween his legs was something wrong with him. He went up to Mercy Hospital for something, probably his rupture – I know he had to go to the hospital for treatments or something. Anyway, the last time, Carrie came down and she was fussing about if she’d known Papa had to have an operation, she’d have come down and he’d have had it. Instead of waiting until it was too late. Now the last week they wasn’t expecting him to live. But, no bigger than I was, I knew he had it. And she was grown, old enough for my mother, and then she talking ‘bout she didn’t know he was ruptured? Well, all his tubes was, ah – And he always had to wear a truss to hold hisself up. And when he’d be down, I’d be down there sweeping at the school, and he’d be out there plowing a field he rented out there, and he’d come up, lay down on the floor and take a chair and he’d put his legs up over the chair like that, and I’d wet the cloths from the bowl where was in the hall, some of the old dust cloths, and hand them to him, and he’d put them down on his side, and you could hear it ‘bluckup’ and that thing would go back there. But see it had got, his intestines, that tissue between there had bursted, and the doctor told him he needed an operation. So he was gon get it, but he didn’t have money enough to get it. Didn’t save up money enough to have the operation. So none of the children – all of them know, as large as his – but leastways he couldn’t hide himself, ‘cause even from a little child, I could see that for years, and I wondered what it was. ‘Cause I know everybody didn’t have it, at least didn’t have all that in their britches …. And Carrie come down there, and she fuss Mama out about him not having the operation and this kind of stuff. And she said, “Well, we never had the money to get the operation.” We tried to go and get it, and we’d pay on it by time. But, naw, he wanted, he was gon make something off the crop, and he’d pay. Pay it and have it then. But he never got the chance. So when they put him in the hospital and operated on him, say when they cut him, he had over a quart of pus in him. I think it was on a Thursday, and he lived ‘til that Tuesday.
Oh, this breaks my heart. (And she was absolutely right. July 6, 1926, was a Tuesday.)
Excerpts from interviews of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.