Rose Post 2005: Life has thrown Henrietta Miller a few curves…
In memory of Rose Post, who died Oct. 20, the Salisbury Post is reprinting some of the stories from her 56-year career with the paper. This story originally appeared in the Post on Nov. 25, 2005.
’m Henrietta Miller,” the woman on the phone said.
“And I’m a special miracle.”
I’d heard that voice before, but for a moment I couldn’t quite place it.
Then she reminded me that she was the daughter-in-law of Bertha Miller who’d helped me raise my children years and years ago, and her words came clear, jostling my memory into focus.
“I got kidnapped when I was 8 years old,” she said, “but I’m a survivor. I escaped.
“And I had an aneurism and a stroke, and I’m paralyzed on the left side all the way down, and the doctor told my son to call the family in because I wasn’t going to live three days, and now it’s been 10 years.
“I can’t even stand up, but I’m in good spirits ….”
So what if she has to get around in a wheelchair?
She’s here, and that wheelchair takes her wherever she wants to go.
And she’s just grateful.
“I’m a special miracle,” she repeats. “I know I am. And to still be alive with all I’ve been through … “
So, during this Thanksgiving week, she wants “to tell people God is still in charge. I want to tell my story because that proves it.”
She was 8 when she felt like she was being kidnapped.
“I went to choir practice at Lilly’s Chapel Church, and I asked a friend to go in a store with me, and when we came out, a man was there in a car, and he said, ‘Come here, little girls,’ and we went over to the car.
“It was a white man in the car, and he asked, ‘Do you know anybody who wants a job?’ and I said, ‘What kind of a job?’ and he said, ‘Cleaning up and stuff,’ and I said, ‘My uncle may want a job.’
“And he said, ‘Now get in the car and show me where he lives.’
“My mama and grandma had told me not to talk to strangers, but I got in the car. My friend stayed there.”
But Henrietta got frightened because he didn’t go where she told him her uncle was.
“He was supposed to make a left on West Bank Street, but he kept straight to Innes Street, and when he did that, I knew I was in trouble, and I started crying and praying. I knew I was in trouble.
“And the man unzipped his pants and showed me his nakedness, and I kept crying and praying.
“And when we got to Mrs. Lash’s old store that used to be on Innes Street, he turned and made a right and said, ‘I’m tired of all this crying and praying,’ and pushed me out of the car.
“And I was right on Craig Street. I lived at 311 Craig St., and that’s why I say God was with me.
“I never did get in a car with nobody after that, and I didn’t talk to any strangers after that either.
“He could have killed me that day, or raped me, but when I was crying and praying, he knew I wouldn’t cooperate. He knew he had the wrong little girl.”
And then, years later, in 1996, she had a stroke.
“I was paralyzed and in a coma for two months.
“I was at Soldiers’ AMEZ Church, at the preacher’s house. His wife sold some dresses, and I went to buy an African outfit for Black History Month.
“I had the stroke right in their living room.
“I was looking at the clothes, and we went into the living room, and I went to pick up my pocketbook, and I fell on the floor — and I woke up two months later. It happened Feb. 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, and when I woke up it was Easter time.”
And she’d had that surgery.
“They cut me from ear to ear,” she says, and the doctor said he had no idea I would make it off the table.
“But I made it, and I was just a miracle. That’s what the doctor told me.”
She’s never forgotten that and has tried to do things to help others since then.
Things like get a West End Girls Club organized.
“Some of the girls in the club are 18, 19 years old now. Some of them are in college …. “
They’re too old for it now, but it did a lot of good when they were younger.
“God laid it on my heart to do it,” she says.
And when God lays something on Henrietta’s heart, said Betty Rufty, who was her supervisor when she worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital, “she’s one determined lady. She gets it done.”
She’s 55 years old now.
“And to have the mind I have after they cut me from one ear to the other ear and operated on my brain …. “
It’s hard for her to believe what she’s been through and how good life is anyway.
“I just can’t walk,” she says. “And I can’t use my left hand and arm because of the stroke, and I’ve been in a wheelchair ever since.”
But not walking doesn’t keep her from knowing what’s going on.
“I see in the paper and on TV,” she says, “about a lot of young people getting kidnapped. I continue to talk to children and tell them not to talk to strangers and tell them what to do if somebody tries to kidnap them.”
And she stays busy taking care of her house, cooking and, this week, preparing for Thanksgiving.
Her marriage didn’t last, but it gave her a son, Brian, who lives with her, and he’s her constant help — daily and on special days like yesterday.
She’d made her two sweet potato pies early and froze them.
And on Thanksgiving, she and Brian prepared turkey and dressing, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, string beans and corn and cranberry sauce and iced tea.
It was just a family dinner for family, she says, including Brian; her grandson, Jarmal Davis; her brother, Roosevelt Way; her sister, Rosa Bronson; a friend, Melvin Lentz; and maybe her cousin, Bobby Fisher.
“Me and my son fixed the dinner together.”
And all the time they were preparing, she was thankful.
“Every year when Thanksgiving comes, I’m extra thankful just to be alive, to still be here with my family and friends.
“I was just thinking about how thankful I was, and the idea just came to my head, so I called to tell you.
“I’m a living witness. If you trust to the Lord and pray, the Lord will see you through ….”