Remembering Angelo Henderson;
making sure his legacy lives

Whenever you talked to Angelo Henderson, on the phone or in person, you had to work to keep up.

He talked at 78 rpm; so if you were chatting at 33 1/3, you had to increase your speed. (For anyone younger than 30, those numbers refers to old records. For anyone younger than 20, records are big CDS.  For teenagers, CDs are something people used to put music on before iTunes.)

The funeral program from Angelo Henderson's Homegoing Celebration.
The funeral program from Angelo Henderson’s Homegoing Celebration.

Angelo, who lived life at a hundred miles an hour, just never stopped. He didn’t rest until his death on February 15. That’s because knew he had a lot to do. He, after all, had five jobs. And he was successful at all of them.

He was a journalist who rose to the top of the industry, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1999.

He was one of the most popular radio talk show hosts in Michigan.

He was an activist who co-founded a community group, the Detroit 300, that literally changed the way people lived in troubled Detroit neighborhoods.

He was a minister who heeded God’s calling and became a minister, while continuing all of his other work.

But his most important job was as husband and father.

Writing the words “Angelo died” out loud still doesn’t make it real. I needed it to be a false rumor – like the one Wikipedia afflicts on Sinbad every few years, not for his friends, but for his wife and son, Felecia and Grant.

I’ve never seen any couple more in love than Angelo and Felecia, a fellow journalist who was his perfect match, calm to his tornado, grace to his flurry.

And Grant? I’m so glad Angelo got to see his son become the young man they groomed him to be, a 20-year-old college student with real basketball skills.

There is a scene in the film Remember the Titans where Denzel Washington, as Coach Herman Boone, talks to the media about losing a player before the big state championship.

“You cannot replace a Gerry Bertier – as a player or person,” the coach tells gathered media.

Well, Detroit is our team. And you cannot replace an Angelo Henderson. All we can do now is to let him continue to serve as role model and inspiration.

Everything Angelo did, he did in the name of Jesus.

Everything we do should be the same, except, additionally, we should do it — for Angelo.

A group of Angelo’s friends from 14 different states across the country will be working to not just preserve Angelo’s legacy but to lift it up. to find ways to ensure that he is always remembered and to help others as he always did.

Stay tuned for details. But know this: We might, in his honor, be working at a hundred miles an hour.

To join the Angelo Henderson Legacy Project, send an email to Rochelle Riley at rochelleriley@aol.com.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley. You can find her Free Press page here on Facebook.

Blessings learned from a car accident

I was driving down Cadieux toward Mack.  The name of the streets don’t really matter. I had just left dinner with a good friend and was headed home.

As I approached the car in front of me, which was at a stop sign, my car surged forward. I smashed my foot on the break and for a second, just a second, I wondered where I was. You know how some people say they hear a Bang or a Crash, or a Thud at the point of impact between two cars I will never be able to tell you what it sounded like when the car hit mine. I just remember hearing nothing else for just a moment.

Not the car in front of me that continued through the stop sign.

Not the cars that swerved around our stopped cars to continue their journeys.

I thought about getting out of the car until I glanced around and saw only complete darkness, no other cars and a sign to the right that said “Welcome to Grosse Pointe.”

I was on the other side of that sign, outside of it.

And the driver behind me didn’t get out.

I dialed 911 and a rude woman answered and asked whether I was hurt, whether I could walk, whether the car was hurt. I told her I wasn’t sure but that I was reluctant to get out and check the car because the guy who had rear-ended me was still sitting in his car.

“Do you want EMS?” she said, impatient, bored, ready to move on.

“No,” I told her. “I’d like an officer.”

There was a pause, then she said she’d send someone. I could hear in her voice that it wasn’t true.

The driver got out and walked to the window, and I breathed a sign of relief. He appeared to be 16 years old.

“There’s no damage to the cars and you’re OK and I’m OK, so why don’t we just leave?”

I could imagine him having to tell his mother about the accident. He had been visiting his girlfriend and had to go through what he called “a bad neighborhood” to get home. She had called him. He reached to get the phone and ran into me.

It was his mother’s fault.

I asked for his registration, insurance card and driver’s license and took pictures of them with my Iphone. Then I turned the camera to the teenager. I need to get a picture of you, I told him. I don’t know why. Maybe I was in shock. Maybe I knew that no police officer was coming, that we’d be leaving and that I’d never see this kid again.

I said “Smile.”

And he did.

And I felt horrible. Poor kid.

I gave him back his information, made him promise to drive slowly and to stay off the phone.

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

I headed home to whatI’d learn later would be weeks of physical therapy for some weird thing with my neck and back.

I’m sure the police just arrived at the scene today – nearly two weeks later. My X-rays showed that my spine is in tact.

But one can find blessings in everything, even a car accident. So I knew three things to be true:

That young man will never talk on the phone while driving again.

I won’t be playing tennis for a while.

And I am really, really blessed because the thing I fear most – the car air bag – didn’t attack me, and I’m going to be just fine.

 

 

The veterinarian asked me to cook what?

I knew something was wrong when I walked in from a debate watch Monday night, and there was no pitter-patter of little feet at the door.  It has been years since my lovey, Desi, had not run to the door from whatever comfortable perch he had found to demand that I transition quickly from newsroom slave to his slave.

But I opened the door, and nothing happened. I called out. Nothing. My heart began to pound.

By the time I got to the stairs, he was coming down, quickly and quietly – not slow and tentatively. He was almost himself, except he didn’t bark. And he didn’t jump.

I kept an eye on him. I checked his food dish. I manipulated his four limbs and checked his stomach. Nothing bothered him. Well, except half-ass walks.

During a full week of fighting a virus that had me bed-ridden, his walks were more less walk and more stand. I could barely make it to the end of the block, so his beloved jaunts through the neighborhood had become bathroom breaks. It didn’t matter that we were doing them four times a day.  They were too short.

By Wednesday, he had decided he was sick of food. Even with a regular walks resumed, he still looked like he felt puny. He didn’t even wake me up in the mornings. He always would wake up before I did, eager to get out the door.

On Wednesday evening, he threw up while we were walking. He didn’t eat his dinner. Thursday, he ate only half his food. Early Friday morning, he threw up in the middle of the night.

So Friday morning, we walked down to the vet, where everyone, for just a minute, stopped working. They all love him art his vets. They know he’s the world’s best dog.

The vet checked his teeth, lymph nodes, chest, stomach. His temperature was normal. His reaction to being poked was normal. He was even bouncing around, tail wagging.

The doctor said it was probably something he ate. The doctor said that it might if, for two days, I cooked for him, something bland like boiled chicken and rice.

I just looked at her.

Then I said OK.

Then I picked up the phone, fully intending to call my late grandmother who as walked me through cooking anything my entire life. But she has been done now 12 years now.

And that is the last time I cooked rice.

Things turned out OK. I grabbed Success “rice in a bag” and some boneless chicken breasts and a Dutch oven from the supermarket. I followed the instructions and then promptly went online and forgot that anything was boiling on the stove.

Ten minutes later, the smell of burning plastic sent me racing to the kitchen.

I had left a plastic spatula on the stove – too close to the gas burner. It was melting exactly when I was supposed to stop cooking (Cue “Twilight Zone” music).

The rice was perfect. The chicken was, uh, chicken.

Desi devoured it. He’s better. He’s taking a nap now. And I know that I can, indeed, cook rice.

And I will do so for people one day real soon.

 

 

 

Moments in Home Repair #1

There are few greater feelings than buying a home. And I’ve felt those great feeling five times. But with great contentment and great pride and great personal privacy come great responsibilities. I’m reminded of that every time something goes wrong, and inevitably, it’s my fault.

Walter came over to paint the dining room table and chairs. For those of you who know me, you know who Walter is. Friend extraordinaire. Substitute husband. Stand-in brother. Builder of TV cabinets and bookcases. Explainer of how to use an electric drill.

Anyway, painting done, Walter went into the downstairs bathroom. Now, my house is such that I live most of my life on the top two floors and rarely go down to the den, guest rooms, bathroom – and that room, the one where the furnace and water heater are. I should have spent more time in that room.  So when Walter went down to that bathroom, it was the first time anyone had been in that bathroom in more than three weeks. I do occasionally go down to clean and flush the toilet, something about the pipes being lonely, but I had been out of the country. So there was no way for me to prepare him for what he found: an inch of water on the floor.

I figured a burst pipe or the toilet. Walter immediately went to the water heater, which was still leaking as we stood looking at it.

Ruh-roh.

Walter does many things. But he doesn’t do water heaters. I called my plumber, Karl, who came over the next morning and gave me the news within minutes.

New water heater.

But here’s the point of the story – and the small moment that makes a difference. Karl said, “It looks like a maintenance issue.”

Maintenance.

Maintenance?

“Uh, Karl? Was there something I was supposed to be doing to it?” And even as I asked, I recalled Karl telling me a while back, maybe a year, maybe more, that I needed to turn something and empty something. I didn’t write it down.

He promised to give me a maintenance lesson on the new water heater. And it’s something I only have to do four times a year – turn a screw and empty the built up sediment into a little bucket. If you do this regularly, the heater lasts a long time. If you don’t do it, ever, then you get years’ worth of sediment built up in a heater that might spring an irreparable leak.

I’ve written a note to tape to the wall with the dates to do sediment release.

I want to get them on Walter’s calendar.