Leatha OHenry I can never forget you.

Even in an entire book I doubt I could fully explain Leatha OHenry.  Angelo Pardo D.O. asked me if I would consult on Ms OHenry and right now, I can’t remember even why.  Before I even saw her, a nurse came to me with another patients complaint about Leatha.  I was only a consultant but I went into the room to see if I could help.  There she was sitting up in bed, singing hymns at the top of her lungs.  She was a black lady with a lot of gold in her smile, about age 60 and loud.  I tried to shush her with some success when I explained it was scaring the other patients and they could hear her several rooms away.  She handed me her “business card”…a well made card of 5 by 7 inches and good paper.  On it was a photo of her, dressed like in a choir with a white robe and a hat on that was like a graduation cap or was it an envelope cap like a buck private and also white.  She was holding an open Bible in the picture and standing on the steps of a nice 2 story home like building.  Among the services offered were prayers, healing prayers, funeral services, marital consultations, and a bunch of others that I no longer remember, except for one…”pickin up on prophecies”.  (And as I have written it).  She then offered her services to me anytime I needed.  I can only recall that my services for her was a minor procedure and went home in a few days.  Months later she showed up in my office for something and I heard this singing in my waiting room.  I went out to see Leatha standing there in a blue gown (like graduation) with a matching blue envelope cap, and almost matching red, white and blue wig!  I said Leatha, so loud?  She said, Doc you want to hear loud? And she broke into Amazing Grace that would shake the rafters and laughed with a huge cackling laugh.  Before long Leatha was befriended by my then nurse Susan Redkey.  I had to clear this with Dr. Pardo as I didn’t want to be seen as taking patients from the referring docs.  Leatha would come for something esoteric or even arcane.  She would always come by taxi and when she left she would tell the girls to call her “main man” the specific taxi driver.  I was told she lived in the projects and was on welfare and medicare.  Yes, she was older than 65, but to have a personal taxi on these income restrictions was a bit odd.  Susan was hassling her to bring us some of that good down home southern cooking and one day, here she comes, by that private taxi, with enough food for a dozen people.  There were only 4 of us in the office.  It was good, but at the time, I had an ulcer or gastritis and hot food just didn’t agree with me.  I was only able to taste a little of it and this really upset Leatha as she told me about food stamps and what it was like to get a meal like that together.  I felt bad, but there was nothing I could do but apologize.  She would come in and be regretting how her food upset my stomach and I’d have to apologize frequently.  Some months later, a photographer friend of mine, Jim McQuerter called me and asked if I had any unusual people he might want to photograph.  I immediately thought of Leatha.  A couple weeks later, Jim called me and said he had accepted a dinner invitation for me, my wife, my 3 yr old and him and his wife, and that we could Not decline.  Leatha had invited us to dinner.  Now, my daughter January was only 3 and pretty rambunctious, but we took her and Jim and his wife to the projects.  Leatha was in one of the end buildings that was in such an architecture that if you walked in the front door, going straight thru, you would walk out the back door thru the end of the U.  She also had the U shaped garden around the tip so her garden was u shaped too going around the outside of her apartment.  I am only slightly knowledgable in botany, but I can say there was no small amount of money involved in that garden.  It was surrounded by a low white picket fence with a swinging gate to let us pass and a couple young black boys running about and asking if we were there to see Miss Leatha.  There were several signs in her garden facing the road where all could see.  The one I recall best is,  “God is here and I no’s it!”, with the red paint, trickling down and obviously off the sign when it was painted. And a couple related to her acknowledgment of a couple of the local TV channels.  ( I later found they had done interviews with her).  We went to the door and were graciously invited in by Leatha.  Again…it’s almost impossible to describe this apartment.  The room we entered was a sort of living room…sofa immediately next to the door on the left and a lamp table to the right.  Straight ahead of the couch about 8 ft, and side end against the wall was an upright piano with a lamp table to the right end of it, and a bass drum under the table.  At the piano was a microphone, and going away further from the front door beyond the lamp table was a microphone and a pedestal.  Next to the pedestal was another table with about 20 lit votive candles surrounding an open Bible with some coins on it.  Then a room that had just short low walls on it with a table in it like a dining room, except the table was loaded with lit candles.  Completely around the living room was a shelf like a plate shelf that stuck out a foot…all the way around this room.  On the plate shelf were….shells, toys, trinkets, snow globes, religious memorabilia, stones, crystals, and a few plants.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things.  In the lamp shades were inflated beach balls and floats.  On the floor was an old ragged carpet.  Leatha was dressed in an old almost dirty dingy house dress and had toe slippers on with those kind of hoserie old women wore that weren’t really see thru.  Now then…the hard part.  With about a 2-3 inch paintbrush were red, and yellow and blue and white and maybe orange?..daubs of paint…all over the ceiling, and the walls and the drapes and lampshades seemingly everywhere.  As we were shown thru the house, the paint daubs were on the stove and refrigerator and stove and sink and tub and toilet…Everywhere.  My rambunctious 3 yr old…sat down on the couch, didn’t ask for a thing besides the type of ice cream offered and didn’t move a muscle…the entire 3-4 hrs we were there!!  Leatha took us into her bedroom and there was a day-bed that was closed to look like a sofa but she said she opened it to sleep on.  Pulled open were drawers upon drawers of envelope caps…all of which matched the upwards of a hundred different gowns in her open closet.  And on the walls…dozens of wigs of every style and color one could imagine.  She had them all.  Then she sat us down and fed us at the sofa and warned me I had better be able to eat this food!  It was excellent.  We were maybe half way into our food when a knock came to the door and Leatha came to me and asked me to excuse her but that she had to take care of “her business”, “just like I would have to take care of mine”.  A young black couple in their 20s came in and Leatha stood them in front of the pedestal and prayed over them…loudly.  Then she talked to them in hushed tones that we could not hear and we tried to not pay attention.  Then she brought out of her pocket a clear white medicine bottle with clear purple liquid in it.  There was a store bought paper label on the front that said River of Jordan and she proceeded to sprinkle the “River of Jordan” water proclaiming it loudly over the couple in a manner of baptism. It smelled violently of a horrible cheap perfume.  Then another prayer as she held her hand tightly on the top of the guys head and shook it almost violently while praying, and she reached down, pulled up the side of her dress to retrieve a dirty rag from the lower edge of her then visible corset and wiped it across her sweating face pleading “and while you’re at it God, please bless these old fever racked bones of poor old Leatha”! and she shoved the rag back where it came from.  She then sat down to the piano and played a rousing hymn that I can’t recall and within this hymn, she jumped up, pulled out the bass drum and pounded it loudly enough to be heard 2 blocks away ending in a strange phrase of gutteral musical sounds.  She came over to me and said, “I bet you didn’t know I speak in tongues”…”That was tongues”. Shortly after, they left and we were given to understand that the guy had strayed in the marriage and she had fixed it up and they would be alright now.  We talked a short time and then on ready to leave Jim asked Leatha what happened to her car.   She said, it didn’t work good and she gave it back to the dealer.  When we got out in our car, I asked Jim about this car…I had never seen Leatha in a car and didn’t even know if she could drive.  He said the car was painted in daubs just like the house!  Like I said, January didn’t move for over 3 hours.  Over 20 yrs later and long after Leatha has passed, I’m still bewildered.  I would guess that my story can be corroborated by the newspapers in Tampa.  The Tampa Tribune etc.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *